2011 Scion tC Review

2011 Scion tC

Webster's Dictionary defines "Scion" as a "descendant (of a notable family), a son or a daughter. It seems a strangely traditionalist moniker for a brand aimed directly at a young and hip demographic, but given that Scion is a new branch off the patriarchal giant Toyota, perhaps it's fitting.

Developed solely to attract twenty-something buyers into the fold, Scion's using non-traditional marketing methods such as test-drive events, social media and small venue concerts while offering a score of accessories for owners to personalize their rides. Funny that Toyota - once known for the potent Supra and MR2, has become so stuffily middle class that it's had to strategically lure young buyers back.

Although Scion has been available in the States since 2003, it wasn't launched in Canada until 2010, partially due to the loosening up of bumper restrictions, allowing US-spec models to be imported in Canada without expensive re-engineering. Canadians have a fondness for fuel-efficient small vehicles, and with our gas prices soaring to astronomic heights, the timing is right for Scion to do well in our market.

Given the Scion brand's appeal to the tuner crowd, I expected I'd feel a bit ludicrous behind the wheel of the Scion tC – a car clearly meant for a young, ricer-type guy.

What I didn't expect was that I'd be impressed by the Scion tC's suitability as a decent daily driver.

Appearance-wise, the tC has all the inherent design cues of a coupe, although it's technically a hatchback. There are no curves to be found here: the tC is a study in straight lines and sharp angles.

2011 Scion tC

My tester has defined creases, blacked-out A-pillars, kinky C-pillars reminiscent of the not-so-sporty Dodge Avenger and an aggressively gaping maw of a grille. It's attractive enough, if you overlook the putty-grey "deck paint" colour scheme. The split-spoke 18" wheels, however, notch up the sportiness with the upscale look of an autobahn-bred coupe.

Surprisingly, the pert little coupe-like deck opens up to reveal the wide opening of a hatch - we were easily able to load a couple of suitcases and several laptop bags into the generously spacious trunk. At 416 litres, the tC's cargo hold is considerably larger than nearest competitor Kia Forte Koup's 358 litres.

The cabin is dark, but saved from being sombre by the panoramic sunroof that lets in plenty of light. Straightforward and driver-centric, the cockpit is plain – yet not unattractive. It's surprisingly free of any of the anime-weirdness found in some youth-oriented Japanese car designs. Materials are definitely on the budget-minded side - cloth and hard plastics abound.

As expected, there's a decent sound system, although most self-respecting tuner guys will immediately swap it out for something that will rattle the windows and generally annoy every other driver in the vicinity. There are the requisite MP3, iPod and USB connections, as well as tach and engine temp gauges.

Best of all is the fat and grippy, flat-bottomed steering wheel. It feels wonderful in the hands and I coveted it madly and deeply. The cloth-covered seats are firm to the point of hardness, yet are well bolstered and offer tons of support.

My passengers are pleasantly surprised that the rear seats offer adequate legroom, and not only offer some thigh support but recline as well. These also split and fold down nearly flat, extending the generous hatch for more cargo space. That sloping roofline does limit headspace for rear passengers though, and they'll need to be fairly limber to extricate themselves.

Initially, I was rather disappointed that my test vehicle came equipped with an automatic transmission (a $1,050 option) instead of a far more sporty stick shift. But, since my week involved several commutes to the big city – enduring with clenched-teeth the inevitable snarl of stop-and-go traffic, it turned out to be a blessing. The six-speed shifts smoothly and helps the tC deliver a respectable 8.9/6.3 L/100km fuel consumption rating. The lack of paddle shifters is a serious oversight, however, in a brand aimed at young drivers – particularly when you consider that the majority of buyers will probably opt for the automatic.

The tC is powered by a DOHC, 2.5L 4-cylinder that delivers 180 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. While these are hardly spectacular numbers in sports car circles, the tC is nimble and moves quickly enough when asked to. But if Scion wants to push the tC as a bona fide tuner coupe, let's hope the TRD division endows it with a supercharger.

2011 Scion tC

Fortunately, my part of the world encompasses the wonderful hilly back roads behind Mosport International raceway – where you don't have to exceed the speed limit to enjoy a spectacular drive.

The tC's suspension setup – MacPherson struts up front, double wishbone out back and sway bars – result in a ride that's on the firm side. It does transmit a bit of crashing over rough pavement, but on the plus side, there's no loss of composure and the tC feels really solid. That fat wheel feels great in the hands, but there could be more feedback. The electric power steering does deliver a good, on-centre feel and isn't overly boosted, nor is it too heavy.

The tC is an interesting little car. It doesn't quite live up to its sporty aspirations, as there are several on the market that out-handle and out-perform it, but it's a surprisingly nice little daily driver with a decent base price of $20,850.