The redesigned 2011 Scion tC had me feeling like a curmudgeon at every drive around the block. But did I care? Not really, because the tC is fun to drive.
That's mainly because it had a six-speed manual transmission, which is new for 2011. I'm always excited to drive a car with a stick shift because I feel much more connected with the car and the road. The tC also has a new, more powerful four-cylinder engine that's fast enough, but not scary fast. That's good because this car is aimed at first-time and college-age drivers. Your hip teenager won't have to grow into anything in the tC. It would be a perfect fit for a teen looking to zip around in something cool.
The tC has a new look and its sort of squished on top and flattened out. Combine that with the Cement paint color of my test car, and the tC looked like an urban tank. I really loved the look, though. Like most of Scion's cars, it's distinctive and unique. You don't see that too often for $18,995, which was the price of my test car. The tC starts at $18,275.
The big question is whether it's a livable family car. For a smaller family? Yes, but you have to give up some things to make it work. That's no surprise, is it?
The 2011 tC's looks aren't for the faint of heart. It's sporty and makes no bones about it. Most people I encountered during my test drive really liked the redesigned look. As usual, there were some detractors. Those who dine early may not be as into the looks as your 20-something whippersnapper would be. The five-passenger coupe looks sharp and modern, with eye-catching wheels and angled headlights that are aggressive and sleek.
Getting in and out of the tC is tricky for families. On the plus side, the two doors were easy to open and close. My kids are old enough and big enough to figure out how to close them from the backseat. The main problem came with the release lever to move the front seats forward. It was just too difficult for them to do on their own. More practice would surely aid this situation for my 6- and 8-year-olds, but younger kids might struggle for a longer time.
The tC has a 180-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that uses regular gas. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and the six-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode is optional ($1,000). The tC gets an EPA-estimated 23/31 mpg city/highway.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really-Fair
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On
The tC's interior is pretty basic. Now, I don't mean boring. I just mean that there aren't 17 jillion buttons to figure out and remember. It takes me back to my days as a young driver when a knob turned the heat warmer or cooler and where a gearshift was commonplace.
I digress. While there are knobs to work the heater and a manual transmission to get you moving, there are still updated amenities in the tC like a USB port and MP3 jack for your listening device. There's also a special cupholder adapter for your iPod so it doesn't go knocking around unprotected. Cool idea. The stereo won me over mostly because it looked totally aftermarket like when I was a young pup. The stereo sounded awesome, and I'm pretty sure I'm the only old person who blared the Indigo Girls, Gary Numan and Cameo in the tC. I mean, in addition to my other, more current and hip music selections.
I remember in days of old, when you got into a coupe, the backseat felt like a dark cave. Not so with the tC. There's a standard dual moonroof in the tC so rear passengers don't get claustrophobic. This was an excellent touch and made the car feel huge on the inside.
My kids never complained about the legroom in the backseat, and I found there was pretty decent headroom back there. The sub-6-foot crowd would probably fit best, but a taller person has a pretty good shot at comfort back there.
There was relatively decent storage in the tC, but it's still a smaller car so bear that in mind if you tend to bring lots of stuff with you in the car. There are two cupholders in the front row, and the backseat cupholders are in the armrests, just below the windows.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
The 2011 tC has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety award, a car must receive the top score of Good in front-, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests as well as have standard stability control.
The tC also has standard four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, active head restraint, front-wheel drive and eight airbags, including side curtains for both rows and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger.
Installing child-safety seats in the tC's backseat is tricky because there's not much room to maneuver. Once you get past that hurdle, there is room for car seats back there. Two booster seats fit in the backseat, but the seat bolsters caused the boosters to lean a little. However, a forward-facing convertible car seat fit without any problems. Even a rear-facing infant-safety seat had room to spare with the driver's seat set to accommodate my height of 5 feet 5 inches. The main issue with installing an infant seat is getting it into the backseat without killing your back over time. Granted, it's a short time that the baby will be in the car seat, but it won't feel like it when you're in the midst of it. Trust me.
The tC's two sets of lower Latch anchors are hidden behind upholstery envelopes, but they're easy to access. The three tether anchors are right on the seatbacks and simple to use. What's even better is the trunk wasn't too deep so I could easily climb in and reach the tethers.
Get more safety information about the 2011 Scion tC here.