2011 Acura TSX

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Sedans don't have to be boring, and the 2011 Acura TSX proves it with its sleek looks and powerful engine. I enjoyed the youthful feeling the TSX gave me when behind the wheel, but admittedly, that was only when it was just my daughter and I tooling around Los Angeles. When we added my husband into the mix, it became obvious that the TSX can be a tight fit for some families.

It was an unpleasant surprise that the TSX couldn't comfortably fit my family. It is a sedan after all, but with the TSX's sportiness comes tightness in both the front and back seats; it's kind of like a sweater that shrunk a little in the dryer. To accommodate those rear-facing safety seats for the little ones, things in the front get pretty, ahem — squishy. Any space in the backseat suddenly vanishes and the glove box starts to appear as if it's protruding much farther into the cabin. Then you find your shorter-than-average adult passenger has their knees jammed into the dash. Needless to say, with more on board than me and my daughter in her infant seat in the back, things started getting claustrophobic. This car would work well once my daughter is in a forward-facing car seat, but that's a long way away for my family.

This is a great car to drive on errands, but if you've got a weekend of family fun planned, the TSX probably won't be the most comfortable for everyone or the most practical.

This sporty number felt nimble on the road, and it was fuel efficient enough to keep me away from the gas station. I drove the four-cylinder model (a more powerful V-6 engine is also available) and it always felt peppy and responsive. It could turn on a dime and hug corners with ease, but the car always felt controlled and comfortable. The driving experience proves that the TSX is definitely not your mom's sedan. Open the sunroof, turn on the satellite radio and you'll feel like taking the scenic route to Gymboree.

The TSX starts at $29,610. My test car had the optional Technology Package, which increased the as-tested price to $33,570.

EXTERIOR

The TSX is definitely stylish, and it looks good without trying too hard. It has a sculpted look, but it's not too bulky or bloated. This five-seater seems to walk a balanced line between feminine and masculine style; it's a car that either Mom or Dad would look good in when behind the wheel.

Being a sedan, it's easy to get in and out of because the doors aren't heavy and it has a low step-in height. The only trouble I had with the TSX was when I loaded my daughter's rear-facing infant seat into the backseat. The car sits low, which is noticeable while driving, and I almost knocked myself out once or twice when I didn't bend down enough to get the car seat inside. I suppose for those who don't mind a little suffering in the name of style, it won't matter a bit.

The TSX's sizable trunk is impressive. The number of things I need to bring with me on a daily basis since having a baby is staggering and knowing I would be test-driving a sedan had me a little concerned. But the TSX just kept taking everything I was putting into it, and I dare say I had more room back there than I do in my own crossover. Who knew this sporty little sedan could also act as pack mule, too?

The TSX has a 201-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but my car had the optional five-speed automatic. The sedan runs on premium gas and gets an EPA-estimated 21/29 mpg city/highway. This was right on par as I averaged about 24 mpg during the week of my test drive. The gas tank seemed bottomless with its 18.5-gallon capacity. I drove this car everywhere and never had to fill up.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times

INTERIOR

The TSX's interior is sophisticated without being stuffy. There's nothing too trendy or offensive about it; it's just a clean, classic look akin to a fabulous (and flattering) little black dress.

The black-colored perforated leather seats with contrast stitching add to the TSX's youthful feel, and front seats come standard with heaters. The metallic-looking trim is always a welcome alternative to faux wood trim. A prominent knob is located in the middle of the stack and controls many of the audio, phone and navigation functions. This helps to streamline the controls and keep things from appearing cluttered.

In the way of storage compartments, the TSX's front row has a run-of-the-mill center console, two cupholders and a glove box. There is a handy flocked compartment just under the dash to stash loose change, and there are small compartments built in on the sides of the center stack, though they went unnoticed for most of my test drive. If you've got kids in the back, they get their own air-conditioning vents, but their cupholders can only be accessed if the center armrest is down, which could be tight or pose a problem if you've got two child-safety seats back there. There are also teeny, awkwardly-shaped door pockets and shallow seatback pockets. Those are yet another reason why this car should be reserved for date night, as opposed to a prolonged trip with the munchkins.

Knowing this car came equipped with a Technology Package, I couldn't wait to start geeking out. This is where the TSX disappointed me. Yes, I could get Zagat ratings and find the nearest Starbucks, but trying to make a phone call was somewhat annoying. I expected to clearly dictate my command ("Call Hubby") and get on with my conversation. Unfortunately, the TSX doesn't have that kind of voice recognition. You must record "voice tags" before you can command away. What busy mom or dad has time to go out to the car and record voice tags? If I did find myself with a few treasured moments of alone time, they wouldn't be spent out in the garage recording voice tags.

After accepting that I couldn't dial by name, I decided to move on and place some calls by number. This was a great idea until I remembered that since the age of cellphones (with their incorporated address books) I haven't memorized any phone numbers. So, I dialed the only number I knew by heart — my mom's. For everyone else, I used the multimedia system's knob and the display screen to find their numbers. In the TSX's defense, it was easy to use.

I did appreciate how easy it was to plug in my iPhone and have all of my music and playlists integrated in to the audio system. A navigation system is always helpful for a directionally challenged mom like me, and even though the system graphics seemed slightly outdated, the TSX got me to many play dates and events around town without fail.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

SAFETY

The 2011 Acura TSX gets the top rating of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact and rear crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The roof-strength test hasn't been conducted yet. The TSX also scored five stars out of five in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's rollover test, but the other crash tests haven't been conducted.

The TSX has two sets of lower Latch anchors in the outboard seats. They're located in slits in the upholstery, taking the guesswork out of locating the anchors. To fit a rear-facing car seat in the backseat, the front passenger will need to move their seat forward. Forward-facing car seats fare much better in the TSX.

Standard safety features in the TSX include front-wheel drive, antilock brakes with brake assist, electronic stability control, traction control, active front head restraints, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. A backup camera is part of the optional Technology Package.

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