2015 Scion tC Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
May 29, 2015

The shadow cast by the FR-S is a long one, but the 2015 tC manages to have an interesting personality on its own.

Although the Scion tC sporty coupe has been upstaged at dealerships by the brand's rear-drive FR-S sports car—which isn't quite as practical as the tC but is far more entertaining to drive—the 2015 tC still adds up to a competent liftback coupe that may better meet needs as a sporty daily driver.

There's nothing significantly new under the hood for 2015, but the tC remains a solid performer. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, is paired with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic and can get to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds with the manual or 8.3 seconds with the automatic—this year adding downshift rev-blipping. The electric power steering feels good, as do the big all-disc brakes, and ride quality's obviously a priority, as the big 18-inch wheels and tires don't make things too harsh. Last year, Scion claimed to have increased body rigidity and made “modifications to stabilizer bar hardware.”

As we ponder why to purchase this car over the FR-S, there are still some reasons to choose the front-wheel-drive 2015 Scion tC—like ride quality, or features for the money. And as if in admission of the New Kid on the Block, Scion dialed the tC up last year with “more assertive styling.” With the current generation notchback coupe already buffed-up and chunkier in appearance over the previous, softer hatchback, this model was already far from subtle. But with LED accent lighting and taillamps, new upper- and lower grille treatments, new headlamps, and a blacked-out lower rear valance—plus new 18-inch dark-gray-finish alloy wheels—the tC does keep its look assertive, if a bit overwrought and high-shouldered.

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Inside, the design carries over, with enough design nuance where it counts, in the cut-tube gauges and M&M-shaped climate controls, but the big news is that Scion has upgraded all the materials, with lighter-colored fabrics.

Don't expect any packaging magic inside the 2015 tC; all the usual rules of sporty coupes apply here. Accommodations are snug in front and in back, with tight headroom all around (a sunroof is standard and makes things a bit worse than they could be). One unexpected twist is that the back seat reclines a bit. Cargo versatility is also somewhat better than you might expect, with the front seats tilting forward easily and a trunk large enough (with deep side bins) for several roll-on bags. One thing that has been improved recently: Scion has subbed in some “premium materials,” and we hope that means quelling the abundance of hard plastics from previous model years.

Value for money has been one of the major selling points for the tC; for less than $20k, it includes things like power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; and a sunroof. Last year the tC became the first model in the Scion family to get Display Audio systems, with a 6.1-inch touch screen, HD Radio, and built-in Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio-streaming capability. In addition, Scion now offers an upgrade BeSpoke Premium audio system with Aha smartphone connectivity for integrated Internet radio.

Shoppers considering the 2015 Scion tC, as before, have plenty of aftermarket appearance and performance upgrade possibilities available through the dealership. There's also a new Scion 10 Series model, in a special color, Silver Ignition, with details like silver seat belts, an LED-illuminated Scion badge, and sequential badging, plus LED running lamps, dual automatic climate control, and push-button start.

8

2015 Scion tC

Styling

Popped collars and creases are the style the Scion tC favors.

The Scion tC has matured into a different kind of car than it once was, and the 2015 model represents a much edgier, sportier take on the conservative, somewhat premium first-generation tC. Now more than ever, the tC has essentially become Toyota's replacement for the Celicas of yesteryear.

Following suit with the decidedly sporty Scion FR-S, the tC gained a few new aggressive edges last year to give the the notchback coupe a slightly more assertive stance. With its new looks and harder lines, the tC has become a far less subtle machine than it was even three years ago.

Inside, the design carries over, with enough design nuance where it counts, in the cut-tube gauges and M&M-shaped climate controls, but the big news is that Scion has upgraded all the materials, with lighter-colored fabrics. It's as if Scion has put a T-square to the tC's instruments and controls, which can be good or bad to some eyes. And on the down side, there are some glaring lapses in finishes.

A fat steering wheel has a flat bottom, and begs your attention as soon as you slide into the wide, sculptured front seat. It's not enough to distract us away from the trifecta of differently grained plastics that hook up in an unnatural way right over the glovebox, but the cockpit wears red-lit gauges well, and those small, intuitive controls inject some much-appreciated function-over-form simplicity.

But with LED accent lighting and taillamps, new upper- and lower grille treatments, new headlamps, and a blacked-out lower rear valance—plus new 18-inch dark-gray-finish alloy wheels—the tC does keep that promise of being more assertive, if a bit overwrought and high-shouldered.

Overall, the tC remains a more masculine plaything in appearance than what it actually is. Sharp angles, creased corners, and a brusque attitude make it recognizably Toyota from some angles but a little alien from others. From the Cylon-like helmet shaped into the rear roofline that's also a nod to the Nissan GT-R and Chevy Camaro, to the shoveled nose and tail that fall into line with an Eighties subtext, it's still a Celica at heart, we think, but less subtle.

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7

2015 Scion tC

Performance

Retuned last year, the pleasantly quick Scion tC earns "sporty," though it's no sportscar.

The Scion tC has grown in terms of performance in recent years, but it's still not quite as much fun to drive as most of its competitors. With contenders like the Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Mazda Miata, and even the Scion FR-S available for similar coin, it's easier to see the tC as a comfortable, sporty, everyday car with more chops than you might expect.

The electric power steering feels good, as do the big all-disc brakes, and ride quality's obviously a priority, as the big 18-inch wheels and tires don't make things too harsh. For 2014, Scion claimed to have increased body rigidity and made “modifications to stabilizer bar hardware.” It's also retuned the suspension and added additional welds for improved dynamics. Look for an update here on how those updates work.

There's nothing significantly new under the hood for 2015, but the tC remains a solid performer. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, making 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, is paired with a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic, and can get to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds with the manual or 8.3 seconds with the automatic—this year adding downshift rev-blipping.

Although we haven't driven the 2015 version with the revised automatic, we've found previous auto versions to nicely straddle the line between economy and performance, with smooth downshifts and respectable performance. Tuner-intending owners will opt for the nicely weighted manual--although we're always surprised by its crazy-light clutch uptake. Scion's skipping any kind of shift paddles for now, which we hate, but at this price point it's not much of a surprise.

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6

2015 Scion tC

Comfort & Quality

A plasticky dash dims the good packaging that gives Scion's tC habitable space for four.

The 2015 Scion tC is as small on the inside as you might expect from a two-door coupe, so you might not find much packaging magic inside.

Cargo versatility is also somewhat better than you might expect, with the front seats tilting forward easily and a trunk large enough (with deep side bins) for several roll-on bags.

The fine details were upgraded last year; the tC now has soft-touch material for the center armrest, as well as new lighter-color seat upholstery and some new “premium materials.” If that means replacing a few of the hard plastics, it's a step in the right direction. 

The tC is a bit behind the curve compared to other Toyota and Scion models in bins, cubbies, and general stowage space. Scion puts its USB jack in front of the shift lever, and the shallow bin that's just ahead of it doesn't allow a lot of usefulness. The console itself is a bit too skinny, too, and the glovebox is small.

Accommodations are snug in front and in back, with tight headroom all around (a sunroof is standard and makes things a bit worse than they could be). Those in front still fare much better than those in back, since the tC is merely a compact. But the front seats are great; they offer lots of grip and support, in the right places, and in the right amounts. There's a good driving position, thanks to their adjustability and strong side bolsters, and a tilt/telescopic driving position fine tunes it just right.

Headroom is far from extravagant, though. It has us wishing the standard sunroof could be an option instead--or for a 'sunroof delete' check box.

Back-seat space is tight, but adults can fit in a pinch. Entry and exit isn't bad, since the front seats have a memory function and flip and slide forward easily. The backrest reclines a few degrees, which almost guarantees a comfortable seating position, even if leg room is tight.

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9

2015 Scion tC

Safety

Crash-test scores have been very good--which makes the Scion tC a great choice for first-time drivers.

One of the Scion tC's greatest assets are its strong safety ratings with both the IIHS and NHTSA.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the Scion tC earns a 'good' rating in all its relevant crash tests, including rear impacts and roof-strength tests. It's also earned an 'acceptable' result in the new small overlap frontal test--enough to garner the IIHS Top Safety Pick accolade. Although there are no front crash prevention features available here.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts the tC in the small class of vehicles that get an overall rating of five stars. Although it receives four stars in the front-impact crash test, it earns five stars in side impact.

The number of airbags is now up to eight, including seat-mounted side bags along with side-curtain bags and a driver knee bag. Brake Assist and a brake-throttle override system are also included. But like many of its competitors, the tC doesn't offer advanced safety options such as blind-spot monitors.

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8

2015 Scion tC

Features

A base Scion tC is well-equipped, and the brand's custom-order options offer a wide variety of features.

The tC offers a whole slew of standard features for the money, and you can customize your car at the dealership to your heart's desire.

2015 Scion tC shoppers, as before, have plenty of aftermarket appearance and performance upgrade possibilities available through the dealership. There's also a new Scion 10 Series model, in a special color, Silver Ignition, with details like silver seat belts, an LED-illuminated Scion badge, and sequential badging, plus LED running lamps, dual automatic climate control, and push-button start.

For less than $20k, it includes things like power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; and a sunroof. Last year's tC became the first model in the Scion family to get Display Audio systems, with a 6.1-inch touch screen, HD Radio, and built-in Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio-streaming capability. In addition there will be an upgrade BeSpoke Premium audio system with Aha smartphone connectivity for integrated Internet radio.

Otherwise we don't expect the pricing or positioning to change much for the 2015 Scion tC. It's very well-equipped, even at its base price of about $20,000, and as usual the Scion experience lets owners tweak the list with all sorts of custom equipment, from mild aero add-ons to more exotic upgrades and trims.

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7

2015 Scion tC

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is good--even better, compared to more bulky, displacement-happy coupes.

The 2015 Scion tC isn't as efficient as the Toyota hybrids, but it's also not terrible on fuel, either.

Despite an automatic-transmission recalibration for this year, the 2014 tC earns the same ratings as it did for 2013: 23 miles per gallon on the city cycle, and 31 mpg highway, whether you get either the six-speed manual gearbox or five-speed automatic transmission.

Because of their rather sporty, low gearing, to keep revs up and the attitude perky, we've seen real-world figures that are quite low--even relative to those EPA numbers.

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June 25, 2017
2015 Scion tC 2-Door HB Manual Release Series (Natl)

Best car I haver ever owned!

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I have the release series version & it's eye catching. Lots of compliments. I track this car at lapping events & have caught some Porches. I know hard to believe but I have. Lots of space, reclining rear... + More »
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December 9, 2015
2015 Scion tC 2-Door HB Automatic (Natl)

very versatile and fun to drive

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Love it! Lots of space in the back with the seats folded down. Easy to drive .
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July 25, 2015
2015 Scion tC 2-Door HB Manual (Natl)

Great daily use sports car

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Met my expectations. Handling is very precise and the 30.5 mpg was a bonus. I have owned Mazda 5, Mini Cooper and other sports cars but this is better all round
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