2013 Scion FR-S Review – Video

A year later, how does the FR-S stack up?

2013 Scion FR-S Review – Video
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It’s hard to believe, but it has been a year since the Scion FR-S first went on sale. With years of hype and rumors, it felt like the “Toyobaru” would never arrive. Once it finally did hit showroom floors, the FR-S had to live up to an out-of-control legend the likes of which even Star Wars episode 7 may not encounter.

FAST FACTS

1. Power comes from a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine making 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque.

2. The FR-S manual weighs in at 2,758 lbs. while the automatic weighs 2,806 lbs.

3. Pricing starts at $25,255.

But like Public Enemy said when I was wee lad, ‘Don’t believe the hype’. Could this lightweight coupe really be a return to affordable rear-wheel drive fun, or would it just be another, mediocre sports coupe still missing that special something?

Wanting to find out for ourselves, we got behind the wheel as soon as we could. Safe to say we were more than impressed with the FR-S. It won AutoGuide’s first ever car of the year award and our own Features Editor Sami Haj-Assaad went out and bought one.

HONEYMOON’S OVER – NOW WHAT?

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But now, it is a year later, the honeymoon is over, and it is time to see this car for what it is. No more shiny-new-object beer-goggles. Is this car the real deal? Well, to find out, we got our hands on a FR-S, again, and evaluated as if we had never stepped foot in one before.

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava darkFirst let’s start with the more superficial aspects of the FR-S. The car isn’t much of a looker. The overall design is fairly ordinary and nothing really stands out. That said, the simple fact that it is a low-to-the-ground, rear-wheel drive sports coupe gives it a specific shape that just exudes road presence. The only issue I really have with the exterior looks has to do with the backend. The cut-outs for the dual exhaust are far too big for the muffler tips installed on the car. Hey Scion, either give us smaller cut-outs or larger exhaust tips. Also, while you’re at it, a little more noise from back there wouldn’t hurt either.

CHEAP INSIDE

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava steering wheel

Inside, there is a mix of good and bad as well. The front sports seats do their job in providing great support during spirited driving, but might not be the best choice for a long distance drive. Although general fit and finish amongst the interior components is good, the overall design is dated. The simple HVAC and radio controls are easy enough to use, but lack any sort of style. 

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava slideThe FR-S also has horrible blind-spots; three-quarter rearward visibility does not exist. And while we are ranting – it is a good thing the rear seats fold nice and flat as the actual seats back there are useless. Best to fold them down and think of the FR-S as a two seat car with a ton of storage space.

OH THAT DRIVE

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava drift

But one drive behind the wheel of the FR-S makes all of these faults disappear to the darkest regions of your memory. First and foremost, we need to mention the steering. No car anywhere near the FR-S’s price point comes close to offering the same level of feedback and control. It is so direct and perfectly weighted that it almost makes even the most boring rush hour drive fun; almost.

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava cornerThe chassis too is amazing. It loves to hang the tail out. Drifts are always willing and waiting to be engaged, and once commenced, completely controllable and way too much fun too.

The tires, those notorious Prius tires, deserve some praise as well. Yup, you read that right. These tires make the car so easy to slide around, that without them, the FR-S would be too planted and take away a lot of the low speed fun that can be extracted from this Scion. As well, they can take a lot of abuse before wearing out.

COULD USE A POWER BOOST

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava low

And that brings us to the 2.0-liter, 200 hp four-cylinder boxer engine. It sounds like it belongs in a tractor and with only 151 lb-ft of torque, the 2,758 lb. Scion feels underpowered at times.  The car could really use a bit more power. I’m not talking a ridiculous amount of power here, but maybe 40-50 more hp and torque. It would really make this car something exceptional. The upside to the current engine is fuel economy as our FR-S tester averaged 29 mpg; not bad for a sports car.

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava shifterThe six-speed manual is crisp and requires moderate effort to change gears. It is not the smoothest gearbox, but goes about its business in a very direct manner. If rowing-your-own is not your thing and you would prefer the automatic transmission you are in luck; the FR-S features one of the best non-dual clutch automatic transmissions on the market. In sport mode, it will rev match downshifts with great precision and hold gears at high rpms when driving with a purpose.

THE VERDICT

2013 Scion FRS orange hot lava above

The FR-S does have its faults, but that should be expected of a sports car costing a mere $25,000. It is not super sports car ready to trade paint at your local track with Corvettes and M3s. Rather, this is a budget fun machine. It’s not fast, but it is incredibly entertaining. An entire year after we first drove it, it’s safe to say the Scion FR-S does still live up to the hype.

LOVE IT
  • Steering feel
  • Chassis set-up
  • Price
  • Fuel economy
LEAVE IT
  • Interior material
  • Stereo
  • Engine power

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  • Honest Abe

    Meh… it was over-hyped. Has a lot of problems too from what I understand.

  • Troy

    Had Mine for a year. Tracked it several times. Haven’t had a single issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/richardjoash Richard Joash Tan

    AND YOU ARE A BULLSHIT!!!!!

  • Atticus

    I still don’t see why the FR-S couldn’t retain the exterior sheet metal style of the 2011 concept car. I also think when the 250 HP model becomes available that enthusiast concerns regarding the car’s performance and it’s need for speed will not be such an issue provided, of course, the FR-S has an equally healthy increase in torque. And yes, the interior of the car could be better and yes, the tires could be stickier, but the FR-S’ mid-twenty K price tag, will continue to make this car attractive to consumers. The real question for Toyota is will the FR-S be able to fend off competition from Nissan, Hyundai, Mazda and even Alfa Romeo as 2014 approaches and enthusiasts continue to search for the best, affordable sports car.

  • Tim444

    I have owned a BRZ Limited and the car just seems to get better with age. While I do agree that the car could use more power, specifically more torque to eliminate the torque dip, the car handles better than anything else out there I drove in the $30K range. The low COG really makes the car feel like a true sports car and the car is just do damn engaging and fun to drive. This car can only get better with age I suspect as they eventually address the output. And while I love the stock tires to do some power slides (they break traction easy with the nannies off), I think tires with slightly more grip will add more to the handling.

  • Atticus

    When the FR-S first came to market everyone was saying it was a great car. Some went so far as to call the new Scion an icon! But, as time marched on, other manufacturers (like Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Mazda) were getting ready to introduce their own light weight, RWD, affordable sports cars in 2015.

    It now seems the conversation among enthusiasts is changing. Most still agree the power to weight ratio of the current FR-S heralds what manufacturers will do in the future, but most also agree the car is far too under powered with only an anemic amount of torque.

    Does any of this mean the honeymoon is over ? Only time will tell……….

  • Glen

    I’ve had mine now for a couple of weeks and really have enjoyed it. But then I’m a Toyota/Scion fan and will remain so. I can’t wait until I have gotten through the Break in period and can really push it some.
    Happy Motoring All

  • Neptunerover

    “The only issue I really have with the exterior looks has to do with the backend. The cut-outs for the dual exhaust are far too big for the muffler tips installed on the car. Hey Scion, either give us smaller cut-outs or larger exhaust tips. Also, while you’re at it, a little more noise from back there wouldn’t hurt either.” -Mike Schlee

    You are in luck sir! It so happens a Toyota Racing exhaust, having larger chrome tips and a throatier growl, is available as an accessory through Scion. I imagine they kept it off the standard model to keep costs down for the average buyer, who is usually not interested in a noisier, pricier exhaust. The racing exhaust was designed for the car, you see, so those cutouts are large for a reason, just like the storage was designed large enough to carry a set of tires for the track, even though that doesn’t matter to most people.