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.
|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.
First 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.
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.
The 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
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.
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
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.
The 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 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.