At first glance, it appeared the 2010 Scion tC was the ideal car for me. Its compact packaging – I prefer a small car – and edgy styling definitely caught my interest. After spending a week test-driving this coupe with my two kids, I had to admit it belonged with the things I've outgrown, including size zero jeans and glitter dust. This is a car for a younger generation who will appreciate its spunk.
With its funky looks, the Scion brand was originally aimed at young car buyers. While the tC's looks don't standout as much as some of its Scion siblings, it has plenty to appeal to both younger and older drivers, including its four-cylinder engine.
However, the tC's intentionally pepped-up engine noise got on my nerves and had me begging for a Sixth gear in my manual tester. For 2011, the tC gets a redesign that includes either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. The 2010 tC's clutch had me avoiding stoplights and traffic just to let my left leg relax a bit. I did appreciate its tight cornering ability as well as its responsive four-cylinder, but after a week in this car I was ready to say goodbye to it.
First-time car buyers will appreciate the tC's low starting price of $17,100. My test car, a base trim level, cost $23,468. However, parents of first-time drivers should think twice before getting this car for their inexperienced driver. It doesn't come with stability control or traction control, which are two essential safety features. The 2011 tC has both of these safety features standard.
The three-door tC looks a little aggressive compared to some of its competitors. Adding to that tough look were its graphite-colored rims on 17-inch wheels. The tC's dual-panel sunroof gave a touch of fun to the car.
Despite its small size, my two boys didn't have problems squeezing into the backseat. This was mainly because of the handy lever on the side of the driver's seat that easily moved the front seat forward for them.
Near the end of our test drive, it was time for a trip to the beach with my boys. I was able to load a few towels and some folding chairs into the tC's cargo area but adding a cooler and some floaty toys were out of the question. The cargo area was shallow – shockingly so – leaving room for the necessities and nothing more.
The tC has a 161-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that when paired with the five-speed manual transmission gets an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg city/highway. A four-speed automatic transmission is optional.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Not Really
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
In the front row, the tC had a rich interior with several impressive details such as the amber-colored LED under-dash lighting. The single bar of light under the dash filled the cabin with a subtle glow at night. The stainless-steel pedals and gearshift knob added to the sporty feel of the tC's interior. However, watch out for that shift knob on a hot day. After leaving the tC parked in a sunny lot for more than an hour, the gearshift knob was so hot I could hardly touch it.
In the second row, my boys had all sorts of problems. My youngest couldn't buckle up by himself in the tC because the seat belt buckle was nestled deeply into the seat cushion, which meant Mommy had to maneuver into the backseat or go for the elastic stretch from my perch in the front to buckle him in. The third option – asking big brother to help the little guy – only lead to more whining and arguments from the backseat, which made it a non-option.
Despite the buckling problems, the tC's backseat had a surprising amount of legroom for its size. The kids had plenty of space to stretch out. However, they didn't have any cupholders back there, which solidified that this car was built for young people, but not children. There is a difference.
Technically, the tC can hold five passengers if you put someone in the second row's middle seat and have them ride with their feet on the hump. We used this space a couple of times but only for brief trips that were measurable in blocks rather than miles.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
While the deep seats in the second row certainly looked cool, they were a nightmare with my boys' booster seats. No matter how much I maneuvered them around I couldn't get the boosters to rest flat against the seatbacks. I also ran into problems with the two sets of lower Latch anchors, which were located a few inches up from the base of the bottom cushion. This configuration didn't work with our backless boosters that have fixed Latch connectors, forcing me to go Latch-less during the test drive.
While a forward-facing convertible might fit in this car, you'll want to test any rear-facing car seat before buying this car.
The tC has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist and seven airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front row, side curtains for both rows and a knee airbag for the driver. The tC also comes with a standard first-aid kit, which is something I've only seen in higher-end vehicles or those specifically target at families. Nice touch, Scion.
Get more safety information about the 201 Scion tC here.