- Chances to upgrade at the dealership
- Good ride quality for a coupe
- Smooth, strong engine
- Interior materials are low-end
- Lacks sharp driving feel
- Tight head room
The 2016 Scion tC is a practical coupe with decent space and fuel economy, but power and performance are far from exciting.
Scion offers two coupes, the sporty and engaging rear-wheel drive FR-S, and the more practical front-drive tC. The FR-S may garner more excitement at dealership, but the tC is a competent liftback coupe that will better suit the needs of drivers who don't care about performance.
As we ponder why to purchase this car over the FR-S, there are still some reasons to choose the front-wheel-drive Scion tC, like ride quality or features for the money. The FR-S also offers far more useable space. Two adults can fit in the back, and the hatch area will accommodate far more luggage than that of the FR-S. And the tC is retiring after this year; Toyota is folding up the Scion brand and all but the tC will live on as Toyota cars.
Don't expect any packaging magic inside the tC, though, as 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 hatch area large enough (with deep side bins) for several roll-on bags.
Value for money has been one of the major selling points for the tC. For just over $20,000, it includes things like power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; and a sunroof. A new Display Audio system is standard. It comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio-streaming capability, and access to Aha internet radio via owners' smartphones.
While the FR-S is low and sleek, the tC sits more upright but has a little attitude of its own. Sharp angles, creased corners, and high shoulders 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 basically a Celica at heart, we think, but less subtle. Perhaps a bit overwrought, the tC is a more masculine plaything in appearance than what it actually is.
Inside, the design has enough design nuance where it counts, in the cut-tube gauges and M&M-shaped climate controls, but the look is drab and the materials are low end.
Performance is only adequate. The 2.5-liter inline-4 produces 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic, the latter with both downshift rev-blipping and steering wheel paddles. Zero to 60 mph arrives in 7.6 seconds with the manual or 8.3 seconds with the automatic, both modest numbers. 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.
One of the tC's strengths is the availability of plenty of aftermarket appearance and performance upgrade components through the local dealership. This might not be the best-performing coupe, but those parts will let you personalize it to your taste.
The tC is EPA rated at 23 mpg city, 31 highway, 26 overall, whether you get either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
2016 Scion tC
Angular and high-shouldered, the 2016 Scion tC looks like a hatchback that morphed into a coupe.
Following suit with the decidedly sporty Scion FR-S, the tC has some hard edges to give the the notchback coupe an assertive stance. The look is angular and almost aggressive, not the subtle machine that it was a few years ago.
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 1980s subtext, it's basically a Celica at heart, we think, but less subtle. Perhaps a bit overwrought and high-shouldered, the tC is a more masculine plaything in appearance than what it actually is.
Inside, the design has enough design nuance where it counts, in the cut-tube gauges and M&M-shaped climate controls. 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.
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 from the trifecta of differently grained plastics that hook up in an unnatural way right over the glove box, but the cockpit wears red-lit gauges well, and those small, intuitive controls inject some much-appreciated function-over-form simplicity.
2016 Scion tC
The tC is an everyday coupe with modest power and performance.
With contenders like the Ford Mustang, Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Mazda MX-5 Miata, and even the Scion FR-S available for similar money, it's easy to view the tC as a comfortable, everyday coupe rather than an engaging performance car.
That doesn't mean the tC isn't fun. The electric power steering feels good, as do the big four-wheel-disc brakes. Ride quality was obviously a priority for Scion engineers, as the large 18-inch wheels and tires don't make things too harsh. Unfortunately, we haven't piloted a tC since Scion updated the suspension and structure for the 2014 model year. At that time, Scion increased body rigidity with additional welds, made “modifications to stabilizer bar hardware,” and retuned the suspension settings. We suspect, however, that those changes made the car feel tighter and more confident on the road, though still far from the visceral experience of the FR-S.
In terms of power, the tC remains a solid performer. The 2.5-liter inline-4, which produces 179 horsepower and 173 pound-feet of torque, is paired with a 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic. It can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds with the manual or 8.3 seconds with the automatic. We like the fact that the automatic has downshift rev-blipping and steering wheel shift paddles.
Scion also revised the automatic transmission for the 2015 model year. While we haven't driven it yet, we've found that previous automatic models nicely straddled 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.
2016 Scion tC
Comfort & Quality
Smart packaging makes the cabin hospitable for four passengers, but hard plastics ruin the ambiance.
Despite efforts in recent years to upgrade the materials, the 2016 Scion tC's interior won't impress. Scion provides a soft-touch material for the center armrest and offers light upholstery colors, but the overall look is dull and plasticky.
The 2016 Scion tC is as small on the inside as you might expect from a two-door coupe, but cargo versatility is somewhat better than you might expect. The front seats tilt forward easily to allow access to the rear, and the hatch area is large enough (with deep side bins) for several roll-on bags.
Accommodations are snug in front and in back, with tight head room all around (a sunroof is standard and makes head room a bit worse than it could be). 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 the adjustable seats and strong side bolsters, and a tilt/telescopic driving position fine tunes it just right.
Backseat space is tight, but adults can fit in a pinch. Entry and exit aren't bad, since the front seats have a memory function and flip and slide forward easily. The backrest reclines a few degrees, which can aid comfort, even if leg room is tight.
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 isn't very useful. The console itself is a bit too skinny, too, and the glove box is small.
2016 Scion tC
With excellent crash-test scores, the Scion tC a smart choice for new drivers.
One of the Scion tC's greatest assets are its strong safety ratings with both the IIHS and NHTSA.
The NHTSA gets an overall rating of five stars. It earns five stars in the side impact test, but drops to four stars for both its rollover rating and in the front-impact crash test.
The 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 small overlap frontal test.
The tC comes standard with eight airbags, including seat-mounted side bags along with side-curtain bags and driver and front passenger knee bags. Brake Assist and a brake-throttle override system are also included. Like many of its competitors, the tC doesn't offer advanced safety options such as blind-spot monitors.
2016 Scion tC
The base model is well equipped, and Scion offers a variety of custom-order accessories that lets buyers personalize their cars.
The 2016 Scion tC offers a slew of standard features for the money, and you can customize your car at the dealership to your heart's desire.
For just over $20,000, the tC includes things such as power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; a sunroof; and 18-inch alloy wheels. Also newly standard is a Display Audio system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, HD Radio, Bluetooth hands-free calling and audio-streaming capability, and access to the Aha internet radio app. The tC is offered in only one model, with a choice between a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic.
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, all available as accessories through the dealership.
2016 Scion tC
One trade-off for the tC's uninspiring performance is thrifty fuel economy.
The 2016 Scion tC is more efficient than the V-6-powered rivals at the top of its price range, but it doesn't match the fuel economy ratings of some of its 4-cylinder competitors.
The tC is EPA rated at 23 mpg city, 31 highway, 26 combined, whether you get either the 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
We've seen real-world figures that are quite low, even relative to those EPA numbers.