When it debuted seven years ago, the Scion tC quickly became a runaway success with America's most youthful drivers. With its hip styling, standout stereo and plenty of customization possibilities, the first tC was a cool car to buy and be seen in. It was to 20-somethings what the Mercury Grand Marquis is to 80-somethings. But as with all cool things, the moment passed, and together with the poor economy hitting young folks especially hard, the tC's popularity has suffered.
That brings us to today, where the fully redesigned 2011 Scion tC is meant to recover the lost mojo. Though it is based on the same platform as the old car, the tC has been improved in a number of key areas. The punchy four-cylinder engine has been swapped out for an even punchier four-cylinder borrowed from the latest Camry and other Toyotas. It produces 19 more horsepower than before and, more important, boasts improved fuel economy whether you opt for the easy-to-row six-speed manual transmission or the new six-speed automatic transmission.
Scion says it has tuned the suspension for improved handling and then replaced the hydraulic power steering with an electric system for improved fuel economy, but neither is successful in transforming the tC into a truly sporty car. Despite its coupe body style, chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel and well-bolstered seats, the tC is very much all show and no go. Mind you, that's OK if you want the look of a sport coupe without the rough ride and general aggressive nature of one.
With that in mind, the latest tC could work out well for a lot of 20-somethings and college students. Its hatchback body style lets you carry bulky items that never fit into a 2011 Honda Civic or 2011 Kia Forte Koup, while the rear seat's reclining backrest and ample legroom give even your gangly friends the room to stretch out. The tC also takes into account the younger generation's proclivity for electronics with a standard audio system designed specifically for an iPod.
In sum, the 2011 Scion tC takes everything that worked for the old car and adds a variety of welcome enhancements. Even so, only time and the youth of America will determine if it's enough to make the tC cool again.