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2011 Scion tC
A "high-impact" sporty coupe with a low-impact hit to the wallet

By Malcolm Gunn

2011 Scion tCIt's a fact that the Scion tC is part of a very exclusive club. Canadians know this all too well, since Scion has been a U.S.-only brand . . . until now.

But the tC, a new-to-us and new-to-Scion 2011 model, is also an entry into the rare category of the compact coupe.

Amidst the myriad of new 2011 vehicles, from the highest of high-roller exotics to the humblest of econo-boxes, the one area where choice is at a premium is the affordable sport-coupe category. Among the few that qualify, the tC earns a spot near the top of the scope-it-out list.

Since first opening shop in the United States for the 2004 model year, Toyota's youth-centred Scion brand has presented an assortment of mainly boxy designs that have met with mixed success. However the one continuing bright light has been the tC hatchback coupe that arrived for 2005. As with all Scions, the tC was loaded with normally extra-cost content, but proved to be light on its feet as a driver's car and required only a light touch on the pocketbook.

For the 2011 model year, the brand-new tC, which joins the new-to-Canada (but not brand new) xB and xD small wagons, uses the same basic platform as the original, but nearly every other piece of the car has been updated, refreshed, replaced, or significantly improved. The nose has a more aggressive look and the reshaped roofline gives rear-seat passengers a bit more headroom. As well the new rear taillights that frame a generously sized hatch- opening are neatly integrated with the fenders. While not drop-dead spectacular, the tC appears more grown-up, perhaps in keeping with its aging fan base.

2011 Scion tCAlthough the car's original architecture carries over and most of the basic dimensions remain about the same, modifications were performed on the front and rear suspensions in an attempt to enhance nimbleness. The front and rear disc brakes have been upgraded and a new set of seven-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels have been installed.

The cabin area has come in for special scrutiny and features thicker seats with improved bolstering. The larger primary gauges display a three-dimensional effect that's designed to make them more visible to the driver. Additionally, a flat-bottom steering wheel has also been installed to provide more knee/thigh room for the driver, which is especially handy during ingress/egress. Carrying over is the 60:40 split-folding rear seat that reclines up to 10 degrees and a floor-console storage spot that will store up to 18 CDs (or more likely plenty of space for your cell phone, iPod and digital camera).

To achieve an elevated level of sportiness, the tC runs with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine that generates 180 horsepower, up 19 from the outgoing 161-horsepower 2.4-litre powerplant. Torque has also increased to 173 pound-feet, up 11 from the previous 162 rating. The tC's new engine sees service in other Toyota-branded products, but revisions to the intake and exhaust systems have been tuned for more power and growl.

2011 Scion tCTransmissions consist of a six-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic.

The new powertrain earns the tC a rating of 8.9 l/100 km in the city and 6.3 l/100 km on the highway when the manual transmission is selected. Those numbers rise only slightly with the optional automatic.

A major attraction for the tC, as it is for all Scion vehicles, is the impressive amount of standard content centred around air conditioning, keyless entry, cruise control and various powered accessories. You also get a panoramic moonroof, tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and an eight-speaker sound system. All this comes at a price that just nudges past the $23,000 threshold.

Scion dealers can install a variety of extra-cost add-ons, including 19-inch wheels, beefier suspension parts, cold-air intake, premium Alpine stereo and lower body graphics, just to name a few.

All that's left for you to do is pick a colour and drive away in one of the best sports car deals around.

Welcome to the club.

What you should know: 2011 Scion tC

Type: Two-door compact hatchback coupe
Engine (hp): 2.5-litre DOHC I4 (180)
Transmissions: Six-speed manual; six-speed automatic (opt.)
Market position: You can count number of affordable sport coupes available on one hand and still have some digits left over. In some ways, the tC is a throwback to the 1970s Toyota Celica in terms of style and content.
Points: New design has more creases, but is it significantly better?; Practical, versatile hatchback design betters the competition for stowage volume;  Engine upgrade delivers decent power, but why not offer turbo option?; Content is king and tC delivers with a full load of goodies; A low price with no fine print; no-brainer value.
Safety: Front airbags; front-knee airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
l/100 km (city/hwy): 8.9/6.3 (MT)
Base price (incl. destination): $23,300

By comparison:

Honda Civic coupe
Base price: $17,600
Fuel-sipping two-door is a bit cramped for four. Si version can really scoot.

Kia Forte Koup
Base price: $19,950
A well-priced newcomer with plenty of style and a choice of two engines.

Mitsubishi Eclipse
Base price: $25,850
Aggressive-looking hatch offers lots of punch with optional 265-horse V6.

Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!

Posted February 2, 2011. © CarTest.ca TM


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