2011 Scion tC: The sportiest Toyota

Strong points
  • Great style
  • Dynamic driving
  • High performance sound system
  • Pleasant manual gearbox
Weak points
  • Only one engine available
  • Limited cargo space
Full report

You may have noticed a new line of vehicles bearing the Scion logo rolling into Canada for 2011. This brand has been available in the U.S. since 2003 and is a division of Toyota. Scion is geared to a younger clientele, not just because of its models, but also because of the Scion experience. In fact, it’s supposed to be a lifestyle, complete with online communities and a plethora of customizable equipment.

Toyota always claimed that the Scion family would never come to Canada (lest it cut into Yaris and Corolla sales), but the automaker has made an about-face on this issue and is now offering Canadians the full line. As the saying goes: Only fools and dead men don’t change their minds. Not to mention the fact that Toyota’s circumstances have changed over the last few years, forcing them to reconsider their plans.

The first time I saw a Scion tC was a few years ago, when my American cousin came to visit. She proudly showed off her new car, which immediately piqued my curiosity, as it was not available on my side of the border. No sooner had I asked to borrow the keys that I concluded that the tC was "the sportiest Toyota."

A rare sport coupe

First off, the Scion tC is interesting because of its configuration, as there are very few affordable sport coupes left on the market. The tC therefore gives coupe fans the chance to get reacquainted with the pleasures of driving this type of vehicle. A few years back, this kind of coupe peppered Canadian roads in great numbers. The two-door-plus-a-hatch configuration gives the tC a sporty attitude, while the colour palette (much more vibrant than what Mercedes-Benz offers) also takes its exclusivity up a notch. A more aggressive fascia and sport wheels add to its style. Overall, the tC features a great design that shouldn’t go out of style over time (often the downfall of coupes).

Only one version of the 2011 Scion tC will be sold in Canada, for just over $20,000. Under the hood, you’ll find just one engine option, a 2.4-litre four cylinder that produces 180 horses and almost the same amount of torque. The engine comes straight from Toyota. Married to a manual six-speed gearbox (factory-standard), this engine doesn’t put the Scion tC in the same league as super-fast cars, but it’s enough for some pretty decent performances. But essentially, the tC is more about its unique style and character, and less about being a performance coupe. That said, Toyota could have come out with a spunkier version to compete against the Volkswagen GTI and MazdaSpeed3. It might not have sold in great numbers, but it would have done something for the Scion’s rep.

Nice interior

Inside the car, a lot of care has gone into the quality, from the choice of materials to the little details. In other words, it doesn’t look cheap. Front passengers enjoy plenty of space, and the driver benefits from a good driving position. The dashboard features clear instrumentation while several components, such as the steering wheel, offer a sporty look.  The central console, which is turned slightly toward the driver, will please youngsters with its Pioneer radio unit that looks like what you would find in a specialty shop. It obviously delivers good sound quality and includes the latest connectivity technology (as you’d expect given its target market). For an extra $500, you can get the Alpine Premium Audio System, which is well-known among automotive sound system geeks.

While the front passengers get plenty of space, rear passengers also get a comfy ride, though there is less head and leg room in back due to the plunging roof and the hatch dipping into the passenger compartment. Basically, you can seat people in the back, but it’s a far cry from being the ideal family car.

On the road

Behind the wheel of the Scion tC, you will appreciate its dynamic personality. The vehicle feels light and easy to manoeuvre. The six-speed manual transmission is pleasant and makes the most of the available power. The automatic, which also has six speeds and is available on option, reduces driving pleasure by a few notches. Offering torque at high speeds, the four-cylinder engine delivers power to the front wheels without much torque effect. When you drive the vehicle a little harder, it remains predictable and hugs the road nicely. Generally speaking, the tC is very pleasant to drive. Much more so than some other Toyotas. 

Of the three Scion models, the tC is probably the most interesting. It’s affordable and is much more inspiring to drive that other Toyotas. The tC is reminiscent of a long-lost past, when coupes ruled the road. If you’re nostalgic for this type of vehicle, the tC is worth trying. Will it suffer the same fate as other coupes and fade away due to lack of demand? That remains to be seen...

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