Fast, Fun Affordable Sports Coupe
If you are of a certain age, rear-wheel drive cars were the norm and was all you ever drove. The enjoyment of driving a rear-wheel drive car grew with more and more hours behind the wheel, especially if you were driving a sporty car. The auto market is now dominated by front-wheel drive cars, with only trucks and a few cars being pushed rather than pulled.
Clean Fleet Report recently reviewed the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata noting it is the lowest priced two-seat rear-wheel drive convertible sports car on the market. Well, let me introduce you to the 2016 Scion FR-S, which is the lowest priced rear-wheel drive sports coupe on the market. You want performance and handling with a fixed roof? Then the Scion FR-S is the car for you. Oh, and you can still pull down 30 mpg on the highway (and 34 mpg in the automatic model)!
Driving Experience: On the Road
The 2016 Scion FR-S is powered by a 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder boxer engine, producing 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. The boxer design is a horizontally opposed engine invented by Karl Benz (he ultimately of Mercedes-Benz) in 1896. In recent automotive history it has been used by, among others, Porsche, Volkswagen and Subaru, the latter of which shares its BRZ platform with the Scion FR-S.
Clean Fleet Report’s FR-S was equipped with a six-speed manual (a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is optional) which was EPA rated at 22 city / 30 highway/ 25 combined mpg. Our week in the FR-S saw 294 miles of 75-percent highway and 25-percent city driving and an average of 26.6 mpg, meaning, even in a sporty car that loves to run high in the rev band, it is possible to get respectable fuel economy.
The FR-S, weighing-in at 2,758 lbs. is among the lightest cars we have tested. In comparison, the aforementioned MX-5 Miata weighed a comparatively lean 2,332 lbs. While this 400+ pound difference may seem to give the MX-5 a performance edge, especially when cornering, the FR-S (which also has a rear seat) makes-up for the weight disadvantage by pumping-out an additional 45 hp. Scion also offers their tC sporty coupe that is fun to drive, but not quite in the same class as the MX-5 or the FR-S.
The six-speed manual in our FR-S was designed for aggressive shifting and loves being high in the rev band. The torque is meh at low rpms in each gear, but becomes much better when taking the FR-S up to the 7,500 redline, where this boxer engine likes to hang-out—and also where the fun and spirited driving lives.
The FR-S has good road manners at freeway speeds with little wind noise, probably in part due to the low 0.27 coefficient of drag. But where the FR-S really shines is cornering. The electric power steering did not reduce the road feel as much as others we have tested. When combined with the MacPherson strut front, double wishbone rear and stabilizer bars at both ends, vehicle stability and traction control (and the Michelin high performance 215/45R17 tires), the handling was crisp, agile and very, very fun. Braking was as hoped for with ventilated front and rear discs, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist.
Driving Experience: Exterior
Scion says the FR-S “has fierce exterior looks and high-octane styling.” Exuberance aside, I think the FR-S is a sharp-looking car with a stance that welcomes/invites/urges/demands you to drive it
fast. The low-slung front end is highlighted by fog lights and angular projector-beam halogen headlights leading to a swept back windshield and a rapidly declining roofline, which is topped by a color-keyed shark fin antenna. The rear window drops down to a very short trunk lid, ending with a tasteful and attractive spoiler. The back-end has horizontal LED taillights and cool-looking chrome-tipped exhaust tips integrated into a wind-channeling lower bumper that also houses one of the most uniquely-designed CHMSL’s (third brake lamp—center-high mounted stop lamp) and back-up light set-up.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report was driving what Scion calls the Series 2.0 FR-S, of which only 1,000 units will be built. The subtle, but nice, changes for 2016, which Scion says creates an “experience (that) remains all about the driver,” have resulted in a clean and simple interior that grabs your eye with very attractive heated, black leather and Alcantara (aka Ultrasuede) seats with camel-color accents. This color combination was carried through to the door panels (which also had carbon-fiber look-and-feel inserts) and the heated, leather-trimmed steering wheel. The center armrest, seats and dash had accent topstitching (and even an embroidered FR-S logo on the dash) and very minimum, tasteful use of aluminum. The gauges were set at perfect eye level with the rev-programmable tachometer being the largest, right smack dab in the middle of the cluster.
At 4.9-inches off the ground, getting into the driver’s seat takes a combination of bending, squatting and leg swinging. Not that any of this is difficult, but, if you are used to hopping into and out of a SUV, you will be learning a few new skills with the FR-S. Once in the driver’s seat, which offers ample support, there are manual adjustments for the tilt and telescoping steering column to find a comfortable driving position. Scion classifies the FR-S as a 2+2, meaning that it is designed for two front passengers and, in a pinch, the seat could–if absolutely necessary–have rear passengers…the smaller, the better. The one-piece rear seatback folds flat, offering additional stowing space along with the small trunk.
The eight-speaker Pioneer audio system with built-in tweeters and a separate two-channel amplifier to drive the door-mounted woofers, was controlled through a seven-inch color touch screen
display along with the AM/FM/CD/MP3 HD radio featuring Aha and Pandora. The infotainment system was also equipped with navigation, USB ports, iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free telephone and voice recognition. There are no steering wheel-mounted controls, so all changes for the audio system are on the touch screen.
Safety and Convenience
The 2016 Scion FR-S comes standard with an extensive list of safety features starting with six airbags, rear-view backup camera, tire pressure monitoring system, cruise control, remote keyless entry, push button start/stop, power door locks, windows and outside rearview mirrors, carpeted floor mats and dual zone automatic climate control.
The 2016 FR-S has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the FR-S a “Good” safety rating.
Pricing and Warranties
Base pricing for the 2016 Scion FR-S with the six-speed manual is $25,305 and $26,405 for the six-speed automatic. Clean Fleet Report’s FR-S Release Series 2.0, with options, had a MSRP of $30,005. All listed pricing does not include the $795 delivery, processing and handling fee.
The 2016 Scion FR-S comes with these warranties:
Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
Roadside Assistance – Two-year/24,000-mile
Corrosion Perforation – Five-year/Unlimited mile
Factory Scheduled Maintenance – Two-year/25,000-mile
Observations: 2016 Scion FR-S Release Series 2.0 with the Six-speed Manual
Clean Fleet Report is a fan of rear-wheel drive sports cars. We gave the convertible Mazda MX-5 Miata high marks and now feel the 2016 Scion FR-S earns that accolade for a fixed-roof sports car. You can spend much, much more for sports cars than these two, but the fun-per-dollar equation will be significantly higher.
If you have not heard the news, 2016 is the last model year for the Scion brand. Toyota has decided to fold three of the Scion nameplates, iA, iM and FR-S under the Toyota name. Sometime in the fall of 2016, the FR-S becomes the 2017 Toyota 86, which is already the global name for this car. Toyota promises the 86 will have modest but noticeable changes over the current FR-S, which means that for the balance of 2016, Scion dealers might be motivated to deal on the FR-S. No promises, of course, but if you are looking for a fun, sporty, fuel-efficient sports coupe for under $30,000, then the Scion FR-S should be first on your shopping list.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
Related Stories You Might Enjoy:
Road Test: Mazda MX-5 Miata
Road Test: Scion iA
Road Test: Scion iM
Road Test: Scion tC
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.