• 2014 Scion FR-S - Driven

    Christian Moe had a weeklong stint with the manual-equipped Scion FR-S after Mark McNabb was disappointed by the automatic-equipped model just a few weks ago.

When Toyota and Subaru announced their plans to join forces and create a small, affordable rear-wheel drive coupe, the world rejoiced. With Toyota’s legendary quality and reliability coupled to Subaru’s knowledge of fun and exciting rally machines, this car had the potential to be one of the best enthusiast machines in years. The car that was created wears the badge FR-S for Scion and BRZ for Subaru. A while back our very own Mark McNabb was granted the keys to a Scion FR-S, but he was saddled with the automatic transmission. To get the most of a machine like the FR-S you need the ability to row your own.

When I got the call that a FR-S was going to be heading to my driveway with a proper three-pedal transmission, I was excited to see how different it was to drive compared to the automatic version that Mark had. I slide into the driver’s seat, slotted the slick manual into first gear and set off on a week of fun and mayhem with tiny sports car.

Click past the jump to read my full review of the 2014 Scion FR-S

  • 2014 Scion FR-S - Driven
  • Year:
    2014
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    6-Speed Manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    200
  • MPG(Cty):
    22
  • MPG(Hwy):
    30
  • Torque @ RPM:
    151
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.4 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    140 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    24700
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2014 Scion FR-S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2014 Scion FR-S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2014 Scion FR-S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Over each one of the lightweight 17-inch alloy wheels the fenders swell and arch making the car look lower.

The Scion FR-S and BRZ share a lot of parts, but the most noticeable difference visually is the nose. Where the Subaru uses an upturned hexagonal grille that looks like grin and large, open horizontal slats for cooling, the FR-S has a more aggressive scowl and every opening is filled with this interesting “T-shaped” mesh that looks rightly sporty and adds a nice visual flair. The Scion also has sharper and more angular fog light housings. Even the headlights look a little better on the FR-S; the internal elements curve more smoothly into their housings that Subaru’s LED-equipped units.

The overall shape of the FR-S screams sports car. The arch of the windshield and curved, fastback shape are reminiscent of the 911 at direct profile, the nose is long and low, and the wheels are stretched to the edges leaving little room for overhang front and rear. Over each one of the lightweight, 17-inch alloy wheels the fenders swell and arch making the car look lower.

The tail of the FR-S squares up with sharp horizontal lines in the trunk, tail lamps and rear bumper all flatten out to give the FR-S a very wide stance from the rear. Adding to the sporty quotient, the trunk lid turns up slightly to look like a ducktail spoiler, the greenhouse slopes and curves inward towards the top and the bumper has a sharp, black insert with an F1-inspired reflector lamp and dual exhaust outlets.

Interior

2014 Scion FR-S - Driven Interior
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2014 Scion FR-S - Driven Interior
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2014 Scion FR-S - Driven High Resolution Interior
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The gauge cluster is dominated by a large white tachometer mounted front and center, with the speedo mounted to the left.

As befits a car of this type, the FR-S has an interior that is focused on the act of driving over most anything else. Drop into the sport bucket seats and you are greeted by a traditional three-spoke steering wheel that is devoid of any extraneous controls; no volume, radio or Bluetooth controls here. The gauge cluster is dominated by a large, white tachometer mounted front and center, with the speedo mounted to the left. Fuel and engine temperature occupies the right side of the cluster. In a nice visual continuation, the same “t-shaped” design from the front grille is found etched onto the dials.

The seats themselves are nicely shaped, if a little lacking in padding. They are coated in a cloth that feels like suede and it does a phenomenal job of providing grip to hold you in place during hard cornering. Sadly that same cloth does also seem to hold onto every hair and loose fiber on your shirt. If you have pets, be prepared to vacuum this thing frequently. I didn’t put my dogs in this car, but you would be hard pressed to believe me based on the amount of stray hair attached to the cloth bucket.

Being a sports car, Toyota made sure all the right visual touches are present and accounted for. The pedals have aluminum covers, the seats have red shoulder bolster accents, and red accent stitching can be found on the steering wheel, seats, shifter, doors and center trim padding.

2014 Scion FR-S - Driven Interior
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2014 Scion FR-S - Driven Interior
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2014 Scion FR-S - Driven Interior
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Controls for the FR-S are smartly positioned and laid out for quick and easy use.

Controls for the FR-S are smartly positioned and laid out for quick and easy use. Directly in front of the shifter there are three large knobs to control the climate control, and above that is the standard touchscreen stereo. There is a “MAP” button on the stereo head unit, but the navigation is a cost upgrade that our car was not equipped with. A quick trip to the dealer, and the parting of a few hundred dollars, can get you up and running though. Mounted rear of the shifter is the two most important buttons in the whole car; Traction Control OFF and VSC Sport.

The overall look of the interior is pretty bland and boring with huge slabs of black plastic covering most every surface, but Toyota has done what it can to spruce things up a bit. That same “T” design on the front grille and instrument dials is repeated in the floor mats, the plastic trim around the climate controls and window switches, and it’s etched into the dash plastics. Oh the dash plastics it gives the look of carbon fiber.

There is a set of rear seats, but much like the GT-R and 911, they are laughably useless if the front passenger is anything over five-feet tall. Thankfully, those seats drop to provide trunk access and increase storage space. When they are folded, you can fit a full set of four tires for your track-day run behind the front seats. In another nod to track enthusiasts, the headliner is arched directly over both front seats to provide extra clearance when wearing a helmet.

Drivetrain

2014 Scion FR-S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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At 151, it is punching under its weight, and there is a strange dead spot in the torque curve between about 3,500 and 4,500 rpm that makes the car feel sluggish.

Underneath that long hood you will find Subaru’s contribution to this sports car project. The engine tucked into the FR-S is a Subaru designed FA20, four-cylinder, boxer unit. It is a 2.0-liter engine that uses Toyota’s D-4S direct injection system to increase power output and emissions. The result is 200 horsepower and 151 pound feet of torque. That may not seem like a lot power, but when you consider this thing only weighs 2,750 pounds — only 200 pounds more than a Miata — the power is substantial enough. The only downside to the FR-S drivetrain is the torque level. At 151, it is punching under its weight, and there is a strange dead spot in the torque curve between about 3500 and 4500 rpm that makes the car feel sluggish.

Our car came with the six-speed manual, and to be honest, that is really the only transmission this car should be ordered with. Thanks to that dead-zone in the rpm range the slushbox can really hinder fun and performance. All the power is sent exclusively to the rear wheels and Toyota has been kind enough to include a Torsen limited-slip differential to help keep that power moving to the right wheels at the right time.

Fuel economy is rated at 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with the combined coming in at 25 mpg. During my time with this car I was actually able to see well over 30 on the long highway slog home to see the family over the Thanksgiving holiday. Even with my frequent honing, I ended the week with the gauge sitting just under that 30 mpg mark. I was beyond impressed.

Price

2014 Scion FR-S - Driven Emblems and Logo Exterior
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If there is anything the FR-S has going for it, it is price. This is a machine targeted and young enthusiasts and it is priced that way. The MSRP for a standard car like ours is $24,700. After zero options and a relatively small $550 destination fee, the final total comes out at $25,215. Quite a bargain indeed.

Driving Impressions

Lots of people have complained that the FR-S is in desperate need of more power, but I would argue that it has just enough.

If you have ever driven a Miata, S2000 or even Porsche 944 you know what the FR-S feels like. It has that same light and flingable feel that all those legendary cars possessed. This is a car that is about fun and feel above all else. The engine revs willing, the seats hold you tight, and the rear end will step out at every command of your right foot. As long as you press that little VSC Sport button, the FR-S will willingly give you plenty of slip angle before the computers kick in to halt the fun. The traction-control disabler doesn’t work quite as well; it will give you some wheel slip, but above 25 mph or so it automatically turns the system back on.

Lots of people have complained that the FR-S is in desperate need of more power, but I would argue that it has just enough. The only issue with the FR-S is that low torque and dead spot in the rpm range. Thanks to the slick six-speed manual transmission, it easy to keep the engine above that 4,500 rpm dead zone, and then it absolutely screams. The dual exhaust coupled to that flat-four makes the FR-S bellow and snarl like it has at least another 100 horsepower hiding somewhere. It sounds fast, and the progressive swell of power as the car bounds towards the 7,400 rpm redline is addicting.

If I had one major complaint to leverage at the driving experience of the FR-S, it would be that I am not sure it drives quite as well as a Miata. It is very close, but the little roadster just has that little something extra.

Competition

Mazda MX-5 Miata

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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If you want the same driver-focused experience that relies on handling prowess over brute force, it is hard to go wrong with the world’s best-selling roadster. The Miata is down on power compared to the FR-S, but thanks to a lower weight and more torque, it tends to feel a bit faster and a little better to drive. With an all-new model coming in a few months that weighs even less, the scale could quickly tip even farther in favor of the Miata.

Driving aside, the FR-S is a far more practical machine. The larger car comes with more interior space, better interior equipment, a large trunk, and that pair of back seats — never mind how useless they are at holding people. The Mazda doesn’t even hold a very good price advantage. With the cheapest Miata ringing in $24,000, you only save a grand over an FR-S, and you get less standard equipment. You do get limitless headroom, unsurpassed aftermarket support and that legendary badge though.

Obviously, Mazda does also sell a hardtop version of the Miata if you don’t enjoy the idea of a canvas roof, but this jumps the price to more than $28,000 and completely negates the price advantage.

Ford Fiesta ST

2014 - 2015 Ford Fiesta ST Exterior
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If all you really want is to have as much fun as possible for the smallest amount of money, and you could care less about the “feel” of a sports car, the Fiesta ST is the ticket. Not only is it one of the most entertaining models Ford has released in decades, it is a legitimate performer that is arguably the best hot hatch sold in the world today. With 197 horsepower and 202 pound-feet of torque, the little hatch easily out muscles both the FR-S and the Miata. With a curb weight that is basically identical to the FR-S it doesn’t even suffer a weight penalty. The little 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine is a willing partner that will rev eagerly to its 6,800-rpm redline while still managing an EPA-rated 35 mpg on the highway.

With its compact five-door layout, the Fiesta is easily the most practical car in this list with the most interior space and most cargo space. It is also available with more equipment and technology features. It also takes home top honors in the price category. A base ST will run you $21,000 and even if you tick every option box available you can’t push the little monster past $26,000 mark.

What you get in silly fun you do lose in other ways. As a front-wheel drive hatch, the Fiesta ST is missing that special feeling you get when driving a low-slung sports car like the FR-S. The weight balance is off, it doesn’t have that wonderful power-on oversteer, and of course it doesn’t look as good. If what you really want is a “sports car” the FR-S is the obvious choice. If you just want fun regardless of the package, the Fiesta ST is the strongest competitor on sale today.

Conclusion

2014 Scion FR-S - Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Scion FR-S is a breath of fresh air in today’s automotive market. With ever car touting just how spacious, well equipped and fuel efficient they are the driver’s car has become lost in the raging seas. For a long time the Miata was the only real choice for someone looking to take home an affordable and tossable rear-wheel-drive machine.

With its low weight, focus on driving dynamics over power and speed, and a forgiving chassis that is gentle to newcomers, the FR-S is the total package. Together Subaru and Toyota are doing their best to make driving fun and affordable again, and I love them both for it. Yes, it could be better equipped, there could be more power and the back seats could be more spacious. But all of those changes will ruin what this car is at its core. Aside from that odd torque curve, this machine is basically perfect.

  • Leave it
    • Interior is a bit dark and dreary
    • Back seats are basically useless
    • Odd torque curve impacts normal drivability
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