Arriving in 2012 as a joint venture between Scion and Subaru, the Scion FR-S was an immediate hit — at least among drivers who prize a stylish, rear-wheel drive coupe that costs around $25,000. Buyers had two choices: the Scion FR-S and the Subaru BRZ. They’re built on the same platform, look nearly exactly the same inside and out, and drive similarly. If push comes to shove, you’ll find the Subaru offers a few options like heated leather seats that aren’t found on the FR-S. Otherwise, they’re essentially the same.
The 2016 model is now available and I eagerly took the keys for another week behind the wheel and found, yet again, it’s easy to find five good reasons to consider the latest FR-S.
Reason #1: 2015 Scion FR-S is Still Fun to Drive
I last drove the 2014 Scion FR-S and was smitten by how easy and fun this little car is to drive. Push it in the twisties and you’ll have no problem maintaining a consistent line. For fun, I placed the left front tire on the outside line on a weaving mountain road. I covered miles of twists and turns and found it natural and easy to make the Scion go exactly where I wanted it to go. I can’t make that same claim for many of the family sedans, let alone the lumbering crossover SUVs, I often drive on Utah’s mountain roads.
The car weighs under 2,800 pounds, so it doesn’t need a ton of power to move it along. I found the 200 horsepower engine offered more than enough power to make the coupe engaging. It’s not particularly fast, but it feels fast. Third-party publications clock 0 to 60 speeds at around 7 seconds, which is slower than you might expect from a sports car. It was even slower in Utah’s high altitude, but the car still conveyed a driving experience a good friend described as “punchy.”
Around town, the six-speed manual transmission is easy to manage and keeps you awake and involved during mind-numbing commutes. On the highway, you’ll spend most of the time driving in sixth gear, though you can downshift and quickly pass slower vehicles.
The EPA expects FR-S models with a manual transmission will average 22 mpg in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway for a combined 25-mpg average. I averaged 27 mpg this time around. You can improve fuel economy by choosing the six-speed automatic that averages 25 city/34 highway for a combined 28 mpg.
By comparison, the 2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 with either a manual or automatic six-speed transmission averages 30 mpg in combined driving conditions.
Reason #2: A Fun Ride for Just over $26,000
The Scion FR-S hits the sweet spot for drivers who want a sports car but don’t have the funds to spend much more than $26,000. Choose the FR-S with the six-speed manual and your starting price is only $26,100. Choose the six-speed automatic (with paddle shifters, of course), and the starting price bumps to $27,200.
I visited the Scion website and configured an automatic transmission-powered FR-S with virtually every option, including a rear spoiler, Bespoke navigation system, paint protection and more for a total of nearly $5,000 in upgrades plus a $795 delivery and handling fee and the total cost was just over $32,000.
Okay, that’s the ultra-luxury version. My test model offered no upgrades and with a manual transmission and delivery and handling fee, the Monroney sticker showed the total cost at $26,075. That’s a lot of fun and performance for a low price.
Reason #3: Interior Remains Basic But Functional
The 2015 Scion FR-S is more attractive from the outside looking in versus the inside looking out. Though there are minor flashes of silver trim here and there, it’s still primarily an all-black interior. My test model featured a black steering wheel with red stitching and sliver trim, carbon-fiber-styled accents on the dash and silver trim on the door handles and stick-shift. Otherwise, the only other non-black color is the red stitching on the front and rear seats.
The updated infotainment system is a bright spot, improving significantly on the basic unit in earlier models. One surprise is that the system doesn’t offer satellite radio, though that won’t matter much to many of today’s drivers who are happy to stream audio via Bluetooth through their phones. A-ha and HD radio are both available, too.
At 6.9 cubic feet, the trunk is small but functional. You can lay the rear seats flat to gain a little extra space for a few sets of golf clubs and that extra space will also help if you take the 2015 Scion FR-S on a weekend getaway. Of course, many of the Scion’s owners will use the trunk to fit racing gear for a trip to the track. You’ll have enough space for the essentials, but don’t be surprised if you also end up stowing some gear on the front passenger seat.
Basic and simple; that’s what you get inside the FR-S and that remains the case in the 2016 model.
Reason #4: Space for You and a Passenger (or Two)
The FR-S is best enjoyed as a two-passenger sports car. The front seats are heavily bolstered and that design conveys a race-car feel even if you’re simply driving to the grocery store to pick up a pint of milk. I’ve taken the FR-S on a four-hour road trip and found the firm seats remarkably comfortable for that longer ride. Around town, they’re everyday comfortable but adjustments are minor. You can manually move the seat forward and back, raise the seat up or down and lean the rear seat forward or backward. That’s it. You won’t find custom lumbar support or any other comfort features. The seats aren’t even heated, which is becoming a rarity these days in vehicles that cost more than $25,000.
If, and only if, you need to run a few extra passengers around town, there are two tiny rear seats that will work well enough for an office lunch run. I picked my youngest child and friend up from their hip-hop dance class and they were fine in the rear seats for the few miles we covered between the studio and home. But it was telling when the friend climbed out of the car and said, “That’s the smallest back seat I’ve ever seen!”
Drive the FR-S with one or two people in the coupe and you’ll love it. Add more people on a regular basis and I’ll encourage you to look at larger sports cars or even a family sports sedan.
Reason #5: Top Safety Scores
The FR-S has always earned top safety ratings and that doesn’t change with the 2016 model. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the FR-S a five-star overall safety rating while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the latest FR-S a “Top Safety Pick.” However, an “acceptable” score in the small overlap front crash test eliminated the FR-S from a “Top Safety Pick+” rating.
As in prior years, six airbags, vehicle stability control, traction control and a few different braking-assistance features are standard. New for 2016 is a standard backup camera, which is a valued enhancement since that back window is awfully small when you peer backward to check yourself in a crowded parking garage.
2015 Scion FR-S is Fun and Affordable
You won’t find many cars in this price range that deliver the same amount of style, performance, and fun. It’s also on Consumer Reports’ list of “Recommended” vehicles for 2016. So take that endorsement for what it’s worth. If the look of the FR-S, the drive of the FR-S and the price of the FR-S speaks to you, it’s absolutely the right car for your needs.