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While nearly every brand these days seems to be prepping a flagship exotic sports car, inexpensive sporty hatchback-coupes like the 2011 Scion tC are a fading lot. From the ranks of the old Mitsubishi Eclipse, Toyota MR2, Acura Integra and even the Ford Probe and Mazda MX-6, we're down to a precious few two-doors you can buy for less than $20,000, and still have a good time at the wheel.
The tC gets a strong dose of testosterone—at least in appearance—for 2011; its sheetmetal has been redesigned with more creases and bulbousness, and its interior is more performance-purposeful than pretty.
The mechanical underpinnings are very familiar and shared with a host of other Toyota models—2.5-liter four-cylinder, massaged up to 180 hp, with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. Overall, the tC doesn't show the testosterone it wears, and it isn't overly pulse-raising, but the experience is pleasant, with surprisingly good ride comfort.
The tC is a sporty coupe, so don't expect a roomy interior; while the back seat isn't so bad the front perches feel snug and headroom is tight. We're not huge fans of the collision of hard plastics on the dash, either, or the floppy vinyl that shades the sunroof—but we're sure you can get over them by choosing something from the big Scion accessories catalog, something like TRD stabilizer bars or Bluetooth or an Alpine navigation and audio system with a touchscreen interface and iPod controls.
It's no longer a great value though, compared to the Kia Forte Koup or even a heavily discounted, end-of-life Ford Focus two-door. The 2011 tC is priced from $18,995 including destination; with the automatic it's $19,995. Toss on all those add-on features and you could be looking at $24,000—same price as a much faster base 2011 Mustang V-6.
- Bolder new look
- Docile powertrain
- Ride comfort
- Accessorization potential
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- Very limited headroom
- Lack of edginess in the driving experience
- Plasticky interior