2011 Scion tC review:

2011 Scion tC

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Starting at $18,275
  • Engine 4 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • MPG 26 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Hatchbacks

Roadshow Editors' Rating

5.2 Overall
  • Cabin tech 4
  • Performance tech 6
  • Design 6

The Good The 2011 Scion tC presents a stylish exterior, and it is easy to upgrade the cabin electronics. iPod integration comes standard.

The Bad The Bluetooth phone system is nearly Stone Age in its features, and the audio system destroys mids and highs.

The Bottom Line The 2011 Scion tC's tech, both cabin and drive train, lags behind similarly priced competition, but the car is a solid platform to upgrade.

Toyota may be known for bland, dependable cars, but when it comes to the automaker's Scion brand, the designers really get to let their hair down. Witness the Scion tC, which in a single generation went from svelte to bulky. Where the original, launched in 2005, had a curved roofline that would have done any European designer proud, the 2011 Scion tC looks like a mini muscle car, with a little bit of Dodge Charger and Nissan GT-R mixed in its lines.

The flat roofline creates mean-looking side windows, narrow rectangles with the unfortunate side effect of hampering access, making bruised foreheads a common scenario. But the new roof design also makes the back seat more comfortable. In the previous tC, rear passengers had to keep their necks slightly off the vertical. And the tC benefits from typical hatchback practicality, with quite a bit of cargo room when the back seats are folded down.

Dual sunroofs are an unexpected feature in the tC.

Another new style cue for the 2011 tC is a glass roof, a nice touch making it possible to have a fixed sunroof over the rear seat in addition to the sunroof in front. Hard plastics used throughout the interior offset this upscale touch, although textures on these surfaces partially mitigate the cheap feel.


Staying true to Scion's original mission, iPod integration comes standard in the tC, and the cabin tech is as upgradable as ever. The double-DIN pioneer stereo in the dashboard uses up a little more space than necessary, but this standard equipment can be optioned up, as Scion gives buyers a choice of two different navigation head units. Our advice: go aftermarket for a navigation head unit--it will probably be cheaper and Scion makes installation very easy.

The base Pioneer stereo's display is impressively bright and distinct, making it easy to read under any lighting conditions. A big, multifunction knob controls volume with dial movement and also operates as a joystick to tune radio stations. The latter movement is tedious and the knob feels like it might snap off at any moment.

The Pioneer stereo has a nice display, but the multifunction knob, to the left, is a little tweaky.

The knob lets you browse through a connected iPod's music library, but its less-than-precise movement can lead to frustrating missteps when selecting music. With each turn of the knob, the music listings take a moment to refresh on the screen, which can be a little distracting. Other audio sources include a single CD slot and the usual radio bands, with an option for satellite radio.

With an array of three speakers molded into each door, plus two more speakers in back, this audio system looks like it should produce some fine sound. Bass comes through with gut-shaking power, but not so strongly as to rattle the door panels. Mids and highs, on the other hand, get crushed by this system, so that it is often difficult to distinguish lyrics in a track. The small tweeters get overwhelmed with the volume up, producing more pain than music.

The Pioneer head unit has three audio settings under the banner of Scion Sound Processing, labeled Hear, Natural, and Feel. Natural is the most balanced setting, while Feel emphasizes bass. The Hear setting was hobbled by the audio system, which could not bring out the highs and mids in any sort of pleasurable fashion.

The Bluetooth phone system, operated by these buttons, is sadly lacking in features.

The optional Bluetooth phone system in the tC is about as bare-bones as it gets. A button helpfully marked with a phone icon sits to the left of the steering wheel. Press it, and an unhelpful chime sounds. You will have to try the manual to find out what to do at this point. Once you figure out how to pair a phone with the system, it works fine for receiving calls, but offers little help dialing out.

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