Toyota announces changes for 2011 Scion tC

Even though the Scion vehicles were originally slated for one generation before complete replacements arrived, it looks like parent company Toyota has changed their mind.  Since they already diverged from the plan with the 2nd generation xB in 2008, Toyota has redesigned the tC for the 2011 model year.  The look is more polarizing, the featureset richer, but the price is still in line.  Click past the jump for details and pictures on the upcoming car.

When Toyota realized that its average customers were getting closer to Buick’s than they liked, they came up with the Scion brand.  Specifically marketed towards young drivers, males in particular, the brand has several inexpensively-priced, quirky-looking boxes, and the tC.  By far the most popular, the tC has led to a customer base whose median age is 26 years old.  But, while originally favored by young males, young females have been buying up tCs for the past few years, and this is one of the things Toyota wanted to correct.

To that end, they’ve created a “helmet visor” roof by blacking out the sides of the windshield frame and the separator between the front and rear side glass, also known as the A and B pillars.  The new tC’s profile now looks like a helmet, and is decidedly more masculine, although I find it to be a bit polarizing, as it’s taken some time to grow on me.

The front end of the new car is probably the least worked-over part of the exterior sheetmetal, and it looks handsome.  Meanwhile, out back, the only congruous line is the one sculpted at the bottom of the rear fascia, which is a carryover from the bottoms of both doors and rear fenders.  The rest of it just doesn’t work for me, but then again, that’s why it’s polarizing.

Inside the new tC it’s a much better situation.  There appear to be better materials, at least with better textures to them, and while the radio still looks like an aftermarket install, you at least get the option of satellite navigation and HD radio this time around.  The thick steering wheel with auxiliary radio controls looks good, and it’s interesting to see an “active 3-way front stage” (in audiophile speak) of speakers all on the doors, including the tweeter, mid-range speaker and woofer from top to bottom.  Toyota even mentions that the new tC shares some of its stereo components with the Lexus LX470.

The seats continue their funky look, but without having sat in one, I still say they look comfortable, and the patterns on them break up what could otherwise be a monotone interior.  Behind the rear seats, you’ll find the familiar hatchback setup, and apparently the rear seats split 60/40, to give even more cargo room.

The tC carries on with its glass roof design, which I always thought was a nice touch for a car in its class.  Usually you only see roofs like this one on luxury vehicles and 3-row crossovers.

Feature-wise, the “base” tC comes with ABS, Toyota’s brake-override system, airbags a-plenty, a 300-watt stereo (including iPod/USB hookup), satellite radio (capable), 18″ wheels (almost unheard of in the tC’s class), as well as just about any other amenity you’d expect for under $20k.

Options, on the other hand, are not so numerous: satellite navigation (either an add-on module and a built-in module), HD radio, BlueTooth hands-free phone capability, interior bits and baubles, and of course a bevy of TRD (Toyota Racing Development) add-ons to boost performance, handling or braking.

Fuel mileage is the same for both the 6-speed manual and 6-speed automatic transmissions, at 23/31/26 city/highway/combined.  Those are slight improvements from the previous model, with a modest bump in power due to direct injection, a now-mainstream technology which improves performance and fuel economy at the same time.

Overall, the new tC still presents itself as quite the value, although I’ll have to drive one before I can see if Toyota’s claims that it’s faster and handles better are true.  Starting at $18,275 ($19,275 with automatic transmission) and adding on a $720 destination charge brings you awfully close to the $20,000 mark, so it’s more costly than the cars it’s cross-shopped against; namely the Honda Civic (non EX-L models) and Toyota Corolla.  If you’re in the market for an inexpensive car with a lot of upmarket features, though, the Scion tC is definitely not a bad way to go.  The 2011 Scion tC should hit showrooms sometime this fall.

by John Suit

Source: Toyota

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