The 2011 tC marks the first redesign of Scion's sporty five-seat coupe since its 2004 introduction. Though it resembles the first generation enough to fool the casual observer, Scion says it's a new platform and a full redesign. The larger engine adds power, and new transmissions contribute to a slight mileage improvement. The tC competes with coupe versions of compacts like the Chevrolet Cobalt, Honda Civic, Mini Cooper and Volkswagen Golf.
The redesigned tC's front end looks more mature. The headlights recall the Kia Forte, which in turn recalls the Honda Civic, but a large lower grille helps distinguish the tC as a Scion and visually grounds the car. Blacked-out A-pillars change the side view dramatically. Though the tC is still a two-door hatchback, the shape of the rear side windows accentuates the dropoff in the roofline, hinting at a sedan profile. This comes at a time when automakers seem desperate to make their four-doors look like coupes.
The alloy wheels now measure 18 inches, up from 17 in the 2010, and are fitted with wider tires. The brake discs are also enlarged to 16 inches.
Scion says the cabin has been lengthened, but there are no dimensions as of this writing. As before, a front moonroof and a glass skylight over the backseat are standard. Between these and the fastback roofline, the cabin gets plenty of light, but shoppers will wish the rear window had a wiper.
A new steering wheel is slightly flattened at the bottom like that on the Volkswagen GTI, a nice racing cue that gives more leg clearance. Buttons on the spokes control a new stereo with eight speakers, a single-CD player and a USB jack for MP3 player control.
Under the Hood
Replacing last year's 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a 2.5-liter produces 19 more horsepower for a total of 180 hp. The six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are both new, replacing a five-speed stick and a four-speed automatic. The overdue transmission upgrade also adds a manual-shift mode. Despite the additional gears and the addition of gas-saving electric power steering, early estimates suggest only a 1 mpg improvement in city mileage. The tC is front-wheel drive.
The tC provides eight airbags, starting with a frontal pair and curtains that cover the door windows on both sides. The front occupants also get knee airbags and seat-mounted side-impact torso bags. Antilock brakes and an electronic stability system with traction control are also standard, as are active head restraints for the front seats.