Scion FR-S ›› 2016 Scion FR-S Overview
Overview (Final Score: B)
The 2016 Scion FR-S is affordable, a lot of fun, and very driver-focused. As an entry-level sports coupe whose purpose is to be back to basics and to give the fun back to the motorist, the FR-S is an awesome little car.
The FR-S is one of the trifecta of Toyobaru vehicles, the others being the Toyota FT-86 and the Subaru BRZ. The three were jointly designed and are now jointly built by Toyota and Subaru as a collaborative effort. We reviewed the Subaru BRZ earlier this year.
With the Scion being the back to basics car that it is, most who are shopping in the market will love the car's simplicity. The FR-S feels fast, returns a lot of input from the road, and hugs corners like a three year old hugs teddy bears. Superb chassis tuning is the strong point for the 2016 FR-S, but its overall value package and great exterior look are also worth noting.
No matter what you buy the Scion FR-S for, though, realize that it will make everyday driving become fun and exciting again.
What We Loved About the 2016 Scion FR-S
- Great entry-level sports coupe with lots of tuning potential.
- True back-to-basics driving focus.
- Beautiful car with many excellent color choices.
What We Didn't Love About the 2016 Scion FR-S
- Underpowered for serious performance driving.
- Impractical in many weather conditions thanks to rear-wheel drive.
- Clunky infotainment with few upgrade options.
Exterior View (9/10 relative to market)
The lines of the 2016 Scion FR-S are both muscular and fast-paced, making the FR-S a great-looking little sports coupe. The overall design is a combination of Japanese appeal and European finesse.
The FR-S begins with an understated front grille and scoop which allow the nose to be sharp. This is accented by peering headlights and hunched fenders, giving the front view a very low and fast look. This carries into the hood and sharply bulged front fenders, which flow into the fast coupe roof design.
All of the low, fast, and sharp look at the front end is then offset by the heavy, powerful rear. Big fenders and muscular haunches promise power to the rear wheels. The fastback rear roof finishes on a clipped deck lid that starts the wide rear end of the little car.
A few upgrades for the 2016 model year, as options, add things like a rear spoiler and better wheel options to go with this already excellent styling.
Interior Comfort, Quality, Ergonomics (7/10)
In the trio of Toyota and Subaru models in which the FR-S sits, the Scion has the lowest quality interior. This isn't to say that it's cheap or dead, only that when compared to the Subaru BRZ or Toyota FT-86, the Scion is a bit short in this department. The interior layout and materials are roughly the same in all three models, but the Scion has a little more hard plastic and less accommodating seating than the others. Other knocks come from the less-adaptive infotainment option and nearly useless back seating.
The base model Scion FR-S now has a 7-inch touchscreen and rearview camera, however, which adds a lot to this little car.
Where the 2016 FR-S' interior shines is in its driver-focused feel. Seating is comfortable, given the price point, and headroom is much better than many would expect from a car this small. The pedals, steering, and other basic controls are all well-placed and without distraction. The FR-S (and its twins) may be the only car on the road today that doesn't have steering-mounted buttons to distract from the driving experience.
Standard interior accoutrements include full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, and the aforementioned 7-inch touchscreen with a rearview camera. A large number of dealer-installed options are also available and the aftermarket for the FR-S is booming.
When driving, whether everyday or in a more spirited manner (there isn't much of a difference in this car), the FR-S has an interior that accentuates the drive and keeps the driver in place while it's happening. It's functional and provides all of the expected basics, but not much more. Exactly what a back-to-basics sports coupe should have.
There isn't much to get excited about in terms of technology offerings in the 2016 FR-S. As a driver-focused car, it offers little in the way of upper-grade tech options. Bluetooth and a stream-enabled 8-speaker stereo are standard equipment, but navigation and satellite radio are not even offered except as dealership upgrades.
Compared to the BRZ, which includes navigation as standard, this is a downer, but the larger touchscreen in the Scion helps make up for that. Like the BRZ, the menu system in the FR-S is slow and has a sharp learning curve. It's also difficult to use while driving, but voice activation and commands cover the basics to make things easier.
For those buying a 2016 Scion FR-S, though, outside of the stellar stereo system, it's doubtful that the other tech options are of high importance. Anything missing can be added easily.
Fuel Economy (8/10)
Fuel economy numbers in the 2016 FR-S are very good for a sports coupe. The overall rating is 28 mpg combined for the automatic transmission, with 25 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. The manual transmission offers 25 mpg combined, 22 in the city and 30 on the highway.
Out and about in the real world, our 2016 Scion FR-S achieved those EPA numbers when driven nicely. When driven like it feels it wants to be driven (fast and punchy), however, the city MPG numbers dropped significantly.
Predicted Reliability, Initial Quality Ratings (7/10)
There aren't many reports to go on regarding the reliability and quality ratings for the FR-S as of yet. The 2016 model year has not been on the market long enough for thorough testing. Being largely unchanged from 2015, however, we can use those numbers as a base line expectation.
The 2015 Scion FR-S model has an average J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Study rating. There have been no recalls for this or the previous year's car and historically, the FR-S and its twins have been at least average or better in their quality and reliability ratings. We expect that to carry forward for 2016.
Despite its diminutive size and low stance, the 2016 Scion FR-S does well in crash testing. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the FR-S a total score of five out of five stars; four stars for frontal impact and five stars for everything else. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also rates the FR-S well, giving it a top score of "Good" on most tests. The only lower score was for the small-overlap frontal offset test, which received a second-best "Acceptable." Most small cars fail to achieve a top rating on that test.
Standard safety equipment and a well-designed body frame are what give the FR-S its strength in crash testing. Add in strong braking dynamics and enough airbags to nearly fill the cabin on impact and the little FR-S is far safer than might be expected.
As a sports car, the focus in the 2016 Scion FR-S is on the driving experience rather than track numbers and speed ratings. The FR-S loves the road and handles extremely well. Motivation comes from a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed (boxer) four-cylinder engine that outputs 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. This is natural power without turbocharging or special equipment. This engine, designed and made by Subaru, is found in a few vehicles and is ripe for tuning from aftermarket kit makers.
A choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission are offered on the FR-S. The automatic includes paddle shifting while the manual has one of the shortest and most precise shift throws you'll find in any vehicle - whatever market you look within. This goes along with a very positive clutch that engages at a well-defined point, making shifting fast and precise in this car.
The little boxer engine propels the 2016 FR-S to sixty miles per hour in about seven seconds. The true joy of this car is found on the open road and in twisting corners, though, where the little Scion shines. It hugs corners tightly, flies out into the straights with glee, and imparts all of this directly to the driver in a beautiful sharing way.
Few cars can offer this kind of engagement.
Pricing and Value (8/10)
There aren't many vehicles to compare the 2016 FR-S to for a value judgement. The Subaru BRZ twin for this car has a slightly higher price point and better interior offering. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is all-new for 2016 and offers a similar driving experience and price point, along with a convertible roof, but suffers from a heavier feel and less comfortable interior experience. For these reasons, we rate the 2016 Scion FR-S well in terms of price and overall value.
Downsides to the FR-S are shared with any car of this type. Rear-wheel drive may not be suitable for all drivers in all weather conditions. Summer tires being standard equipment doesn't improve that any.
The pricing for the FR-S is fair for the amount of car received and resale values are steady, though not remarkable.
Total Score and Competitive Comparison (64/80, 80%)
We've scored the 2016 Scion FR-S with an overall "B" rating. The lower points, namely technology and the interior, are what give the Scion its ability to offer a low price point so it can entice its primary market - younger buyers looking for a small sports coupe with street credibility.
Competition in the small entry-level sports car market is not very heavy. Most are front-wheel drive with the only exceptions being the Mazda MX-5 Miata and the Subaru BRZ. The BRZ will appeal to a slightly more sophisticated, older crowd whereas the Miata is going to appeal to a less sports-centric and more open top, fun times buyer. Competitors offering FWD may give better all-weather performance, so shoppers might consider the Ford Fiesta ST and Focus ST as options here. In that case, Scion also offers the less expensive, FWD tC model as another option.
As a total package, the 2016 Scion FR-S is a great little sport coupe that's done very well. For the entry-level driver looking for a fun car that won't bust the budget, the FR-S is a solid choice. Parents of teenagers who want a sports car should also find this a perfect option as it offers premium safety and doesn't have enough muscle to become trouble in a kid's hands.
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