By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
Scion’s 2016 tC coupe isn’t meant to be fast and furious, but it is designed to deliver a lively driving experience wrapped in an attractive body and priced within reach of most first-time buyers. Scion knows its customers well, which is why the tC comes equipped with a high-end audio system, lots of visual upgrades and plenty of standard features. There are even some TRD performance upgrades. With a price starting around $20,000, the tC undercuts sportier models like the Civic Si and Hyundai Veloster Turbo. A large rear hatch and usable back seat further bolster the tC’s functionality as a daily driver, but it’s the tC’s stellar repair and resale history that we think helps to clinch the deal.
If you’re seeking an affordable coupe that is fun to drive yet economical and reliable, the 2016 Scion tC is the perfect choice. Features such as a large rear hatch and standard 8-speaker Pioneer audio system are a bonus, as are the numerous accessories that allow for almost unlimited personalization.
If you’re looking for Scion quality and price, but you want something that can back up its sporty good looks, we suggest moving up to the Scion FR-S sports coupe. You’ll find better performance and a longer warranty in the Hyundai Veloster, and a more colorful interior in a Mini Cooper.
KBB Expert Ratings
For 2016, the Scion tC coupe gains a new 7-inch touch-screen audio system with voice training, POI search and a phonebook that can hold up to 2,500 contacts. Also standard is a rear wiper/washer, Smart Key with push-button start, silver accent interior door handles and a revised center console.
Enthusiasts may debate whether Scion’s 2016 tC hatchback is a true sports car or just a sporty-looking 2-door, but for tC lovers the point is irrelevant. With a...
... 179-horsepower engine, the tC is no slug and its available manual transmission speaks to those who prefer to engage with their cars rather than just sitting and steering. Even the available automatic features steering-wheel paddle shifters and downshift rev-matching technology borrowed from the FR-S. Off-the-line performance isn’t as quick as with a Honda Civic Si or Hyundai Veloster Turbo, but the tC can certainly keep pace with a Mini Cooper or VW Golf. The tC’s tiny dimensions make it the ideal commuter car, as does its frugal fuel use. However, if you want something that is going to pin you to your seat as you’re carving up the curves, the tC isn’t that car.
BESPOKE PREMIUM AUDIO
Upgrading to the available navigation system brings the BeSpoke audio system that includes voice activation for the navigation and Bluetooth, the Aha smartphone app and access to location-based services like Yelp and TripAdvisor.
BUILD YOUR OWN
Back in the day, it was common to be able to customize a car so that no two were exactly the same. Scion revives this tradition in the tC, offering a plethora of interior and exterior enhancements, performance upgrades for brakes and suspension and numerous wheel and color-trim options.
The 2016 Scion tC 2-door offers up a comfortable and modern interior. The multi-adjustable driver's seat can accommodate just about any height, and the rear seat is roomier than you'd expect, considering the tC's small exterior dimensions. Alternatively, you can fold the 60/40 rear seatbacks for better cargo room under the hatch. Handsome seat materials and contrasting trim on the dash give the tC a more upscale look, and we like the straightforward simplicity of the gauges, center stack and controls. If there's a downside, it's the overly black-and-gray interior palate. A little color would help dress things up considerably.
Scion’s new tC coupe doesn't look any different from last year's model. That's okay though, as a recent update improved things significantly. We particularly like the wide-mouth lower grille, topped by a long hood and headlights with LED accent lighting. It's an aggressively playful look, and we like the fact that it isn't a 2-door version of a sedan, such as the Honda Civic, but its own car.
Even with its sub-$21,000 base price, the 2016 Scion tC comes nicely equipped. Its street cred includes 18-inch wheels and an impressive Pioneer sound system with a 7-inch LCD touch screen and HD Radio capability. Bluetooth is also standard, as are air conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio controls, a panoramic moonroof and automatic headlights. Toyota's Star Safety System is also standard and features eight airbags and traction and stability control along with active front headrests.
Unlike many cars, the Scion tC isn't a slave to various option packages, and the basic car is just about what you'll get, feature-wise. The exception is the BeSpoke audio/navigation upgrade, which we think is worth the extra $900 or so. However, there are numerous individual options, many of which are dealer-installed. For example, there are different wheels, a rear spoiler, sporty TRD springs and brakes, and so on. The 6-speed automatic transmission gets steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to improve ease of manual shifts.
There's only one engine available for the 2016 Scion tC: a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder with 179 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. It's connected to either a 6-speed manual or an automatic transmission. The automatic features rev-matching technology to allow smoother downshifts, changing gears twice as fast as a conventional transmission; it also comes with shifter paddles mounted to the steering wheel, meaning gear changes are just a click away. We like the manual transmission's positive feel, and while the somewhat soft clutch isn't the sportiest out there, it's certainly easy to use.
179 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
173 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 mpg
You can get behind the wheel of a 2016 Scion tC for a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $20,180 including the destination charge. If you must have the automatic, you'll add about $1,150 to that price, and the BeSpoke audio system adds another $900 to the bottom line. If you can restrain yourself from the various TRD aftermarket parts, the resulting automatic-equipped Scion tC's price of about $22,300 is a couple thousand less than a Civic Coupe with navigation, and pretty close to what the better equipped Hyundai Veloster runs. The Scion tC offers good resale values, better than the VW Beetle and Hyundai Veloster and on par with the Civic coupe. For the best picture of what 2016 Scion tC models are selling for in your area, check out the Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com.