Funny what a couple of years can do to a car, or at least what it can do to one’s perception of a car. When the 2013 Scion FR-S was launched, everyone was praising it like it was the second coming of the lord. But as time as progressed and the car has become more popular the praises have started to wane and sales started to die off as well.
I know at least two people personally that have bought and sold their FR-S in the past year — that’s fairly high turn over for a sporty car from enthusiasts, odd indeed. The question is why? For some the ride is just too firm for an everyday driver, others the power just isn’t what they hoped for.
Those things said, the FR-S is still a looker and the 2016 model has been given more content in the base model to entice those buyers that may be comparing it to the new-comer Ford Mustang. For 2016 a back-up camera is now standard, as is the upgraded stereo system with touchscreen. The interior has been revised slightly as well with some additional silver trim to spruce it up a little. The exterior colour of my tester is also new, Oceanic is the name.
Last time I drove one of these cars I was excited for a new sports car in a world where the affordable sports car was dying off, now that I get another shot at this car will I still love it?
Pricing: 2016 Scion FR-S
Base Price: $27,490
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $29,295
Ford Focus ST
Honda Civic Si
Hyundai Genesis Coupe
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mini Cooper S
The inside of the FRS is an array of mixed emotions for me. The simplicity of the interior is welcome in a driver focused sports car. Keep everything simple so that the driver concentrates on driving, in this regard the FRS does it perfectly.
On the other hand it is 2015 and this is a 2016 model that is selling for over $30,000 with taxes in and at that price it really seems to be missing some features, like steering wheel audio controls, manual seats that return to their original position after being flipped forward for rear passengers.
And if I want the car to be driver focused, eliminate that horrible aftermarket tossed in stereo system with ridiculous controls that I cannot even figure out how to tune the radio on.
There seems to be a lot of compromises here, the rear seats are completely useless, I tried sitting back there, nope not going to happen. I tried to flip the rear seat down (it is not 60/40), I unlocked it but for some reason it wouldn’t drop down. I asked a friend that owns an FRS how it folds down, he said to me that swearing at it seems to help otherwise it’s a huge pain in the you know what.
And for those of us with less than stellar flexibility, getting in and out of the FRS daily can be a chore. Heck even my, not even 30 yet, co-worker commented getting in and out of the car twice was enough for him in his lifetime.
That’s a lot of strikes against a car that seems to tick all the right check boxes on paper, maybe the drive will win me over?
Everyone expects me to come out on day three of my blog praising the drive of the FRS. But I’m not sure that needs to be covered, pretty much every review written about the FRS goes on about how it feels light and nimble and fun to drive — there I said it.
But what about the things that a lot people skirt around, for those that want to live with this car day in and day out? How about the firm ride, firm is a nice way to say it, but the FRS will jar your back and more even on some of the smoothest roads around — the ride is ultra stiff, can you live with that daily?
If you can live with that, great, but can you live with the noise on the highway? Forget talking to anyone in the passenger seat without yelling and having a phone conversation with the Bluetooth connection. You will also be yelling over the engine noise as it hums along on the highway in sixth gear at over 3,000rpm.
And that brings us to the elephant in the room, that 2.0-litre boxer engine, sourced from Subaru. Again on paper everything seems peachy, but the nature of the engine does not work out as perfect. The engine sounds harsh, like a tractor as a result revving the engine to the moon to get the power out of it is not appealing at all — at least not in the city.
Now taking the car onto the track is another story, with the revs boiling and a chassis that keeps on giving with quick turn in and a lot of grip despite the mediocre tires the car is a blast. And that is where I see a lot of FRS vehicles, but I do spend a lot of time at the track as well. But if you have no plans on taking it to the track, can you live with the downsides?
Maybe I was a little harsh on the FR-S the other day, I just came back from a trip to Laval and it performed well. It is small and nimble so easy to drive in tight traffic and for a low slung sports coupe it has good sight lines and huge side mirrors so you are never questioning if someone is in your blind spot.
But it’s still slow and loud, the constant tire noise on the return trip was starting to get to me, when you want peace and quiet it just isn’t there. But it handled the rough roads in Laval remarkably well. Where the FR-S does shine though is in fuel economy, we have a sports coupe that needs to have its neck wrung to go fast but I still averaged 7.1 L/100 km over the week and 6.8 L/100 km after the trip to Montreal.
The only downside to the good fuel economy is the premium fuel requirement for the engine, so add about 10 percent to your fuel costs, or base it on an average of 7.8 L/100 km instead of 7.1 L/100 km when comparing to a car that drinks regular fuel.
Overall the FR-S still appeals, it’s one of the best looking sports coupes on the market, I’d suggest a Mustang in this price range but it is a much larger car, if you like small cars the only true competitor is the Mazda MX-5 which I will drive in just over a month from now — stay tuned.