2016 Scion tC

The Basics:

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.

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.

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