Forget Second Fiddle, Scion's Other Coupe Can Barely Play the Triangle
The introduction of the second-generation tC a few years ago was significant — until the FR-S arrived on the scene, the tC was the sole sporty offering in Scion‘s lineup. The front-drive coupe filled that role well enough, and only heightened its perception of sportiness with edgier body lines and a more potent engine for the second-gen model. But is that perception backed up by its performance? Based on the 2011 Scion tC we recently tested, we’d have to say no.
We should mention that the car we received for testing had already seen a hard life, with almost 7000 miles showing on the clock. That may be just a drop in the bucket for the average new car, but for a press car that lives much of its life above the 5000-rpm mark and gets passed around by scores of lead-footed auto journalists, 7000 miles is pretty close to retirement age. Not surprisingly, this particular tC didn’t impress.
We requested a stripped down six-speed manual model, so our tester was a relatively economical $19,005. Like all tC models, our car came equipped with a 2.5-liter I-4 producing 180 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque. A curb weight of 3069 lbs gives the tC a power-to-weight ratio of 17.1 lb/hp. On paper, the car looked to be a solid performer. But sadly, that’s not the way things turned out.
Stepping inside the tC, you notice that the interior is cleanly laid out, if not a little plain. The dash and gauge cluster have a modern feel, but not to the point where the cabin will become dated in a few years. The oblong, flat-bottomed steering wheel and driver-centric orientation of the center stack contribute to the sporty feel of the tC, and make the driver’s seat seem particularly inviting every time you enter the car. Our editors found the seats cushy, a feature which proved particularly useful on a long drive from our test area in Fontana to San Diego. The front seats are also supportive enough to handle anything the tC can dish out, providing cushioning where it counts to help counteract any lateral forces applied to the occupants. The rear seats were also surprising, supplying passengers in the back with ample legroom. But the one aspect of the car’s interior almost universally derided by our testers was the ancient-looking double-DIN factory radio. While this design likely makes stereo customization easier, as many aftermarket head units will fit in the stock radio’s place, it also makes the car look like it’s stuck in the ’90s, and brings down the quality of the interior.
As far as performance goes, the tC is a mixed bag filled mainly with average numbers. While the engine is definitely powerful, editors Nate Martinez and Carlos Lago reported a tendency to hang on to revs after each shift — defeating the fun factor of the tC’s decently smooth shifter. The engine note is unpleasant all the way up to the tC’s 6250-rpm redline, and is complemented by a cacophony of other noises from the powertrain that bleed through to the cabin. Steering feel is below average, and nearly every tester noted a lack of feedback from the wheels. But the number one complaint among the staff was the harsh ride and poor driving dynamics. The rear end seems to bounce needlessly over bumps, and the suspension crashes over any imperfection in the road surface. The tC also suffers from a healthy amount of body roll, though the 18-inch wheels and tires perform their job well by providing more than enough grip for the car’s modest capabilities.
The numbers don’t do much to help the tC’s case. As expected, the tC gets going well enough, clocking a 0-to-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds. That’s not as quick as its more powerful competitor, the Honda Civic Si Coupe (6.4 seconds), though it bests the performance of a closer rival, the Kia Forte Koup (7.1 seconds). The quarter-mile comes in 15.4 seconds at 90.6 mph for the tC, nearly identical to the result of the Forte Koup (15.4 seconds at 89.9 mph). The Civic Si, on the other hand, covers that distance in 15 seconds flat at 92.3 mph. During acceleration testing, associate road test editor Lago noted that the tC’s “front end was violently hopping.” Through our figure-eight, the tC recorded a time of 27.3 seconds at an average 0.63 g, beating the less powerful but lighter Hyundai Veloster (27.6 seconds at 0.60 g), but losing out to both the Forte Koup (27.1 at 0.63 g) and Civic Si (26.4 at 0.66 g). In our lateral acceleration tests, the tC recorded an average 0.82 g, a figure beaten by the Veloster (0.83 g), Forte Koup (0.86 g), and Civic Si (0.89 g). In braking, the tC matched the Veloster’s 60-to-0 mph performance of 125 feet, but again fell short of its closer competitors, with the Civic Si stopping in 121 feet, and the Forte Koup in 117 feet.
Had we been given a fresher car, the results may have been different. But based on what we experienced, the tC is a mid-pack performer at best. Sometimes you just get handed a dud, and we hope for Scion’s sake, that was the case with this car. If not, perhaps Scion should reevaluate the need for two coupes in its lineup.
|2011 Scion tC|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$19,005|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, FWD, 5-pass, 2-door hatchback|
|ENGINE||2.5L/180-hp/173-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3069 lb (63/37%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||174.0 x 70.7 x 55.7 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.4 sec @ 90.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||125 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.3 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||23/31 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||147/109 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.75 lb/mile|