Toyota conceived its Scion brand as trend setter, attracting young buyers with often controversial designs. Clearly models like the boxy xB have done just that. Still, Scion’s most popular car is the tC sport coupe, and it’s also its most conventional. Now, after six fruitful years, time has come for a redesign. So, let’s see if the tC can keep its winning streak intact.

Your first impression of the 2011 Scion tC might be “what redesign?”  Scion has chosen to give its biggest seller a purely evolutionary treatment. We thought the new tC would mimic the bold Fuse concept shown in 2006, but it didn’t go over well with prospective buyers. So, the familiar tC shape has been retained and refined.

That’s not to say that the new tC isn’t more aggressive. There’s added edge to the styling, the angular headlights, new mail-slot grille, and a trio of lower intakes that drops the tC’s jaw to the ground. The flattened chop-top greenhouse adds character, with blacked out A-pillars and kinked three-quarter glass. Its helmet-visor styling is definitely in keeping with the tC’s sport compact bravado. On the new tC, the devil is in the details.

Wheelbase is unchanged, but front and rear track are wider, resulting in more aggressive fender flares. The rear hatch glass is larger, flowing from the standard panoramic moonroof to a very short trunklid.  The optional rear spoiler takes up every last inch of horizontal real estate.

L-shaped taillights are sunk into the bodywork, further accentuating the tC’s wider stance. Standard wheel design is familiar, but they’re up an inch to 18’s. 19-inchers are available.

What has changed a bit more is power: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder shared with Toyota’s Camry and RAV-4, with 180 horsepower, a rise of 19, and 173 lb-ft of torque, up 11 over the outgoing 2.4. Transmissions are much more with it. Both are now six-speeds with the manual adding one ratio and the optional automatic, two. 

Most of our San Diego test drive was spent in an automatic tC. Once out of first, the six-speed held the gears long enough for the new tC’s loud, sport-tuned exhaust to sing deep into the big four’s rev-band. In fact, we prefer the surprisingly sporty auto to the manual with its softly-sprung clutch. Government Fuel Economy Ratings also benefit from the new gearing, with an estimated 23 city/31 highway for both manual and automatic on regular gas.

With a retuned strut front and double-wishbone rear suspension, and larger four-corner disc brakes, the 2011 tC’s handling is also sportier and better balanced, without being overly aggressive. Nothing, from small road imperfections to harsh bumps, seemed to faze the tC. Body roll is mild, and new electric power steering firms responses up nicely at speed. Electronic driving aids-stability, traction control, brake assist, and brake override-are all standard.

Now, for the biggest change, and we would say, improvement for the 2011 Scion tC: the interior. It is now far more driver-focused, with a flat-bottomed, heavily contoured tilt-and-tele steering wheel, thinner A-pillars for a better view ahead, and an angled stack of stereo and climate controls. Automatic tCs have an ECO indicator in the clear gauge cluster.

Materials feel slightly more upscale than before, but the tC is still built to an affordable price, and that’s a good thing. The tC’s audio fitment has always been above-par, but the 2011 model’s standard eight-speaker, 300-watt Pioneer system, shared in large part with the Lexus LX570, is awe-inspiring. Auxiliary and USB inputs are included while an Alpine system is optional.

A new standard knee airbag for the front passenger brings the tC’s total airbag count to eight. Rear-seat access is made easier by a revised slide-and-tilt mechanism. There’s room for two adults in the back, but the stylish roofline does limit headroom. Folding the 60/40 seats flat delivers generous cargo space of 34.5 cubic feet, all easily accessible by the large hatch.

Another good thing: the 2011 Scion tC sport coupe is still bargain priced, at $18,995 to start, and $19,995 with the automatic. Buyers can load up on dealer and aftermarket accessories from there.

The 2011 Scion tC is cast in much the same mold as the first generation was, just this time around with more power, more safety, and a hint more style. This is clearly not a controversial design. So, Toyota didn’t want to mess with success. Still, we think Scion designers have messed with the tC just enough to keep the competition light on their treads.


  • Engine: 2.5-Liter 4-Cylinder
  • Horsepower: 180
  • Torque: 173 Lb Feet
  • EPA: 23 MPG City/ 31 MPG Highway