Stick Shift: 2016 Scion FR-S

In a market that hasn’t been as well receiving as hoped, the Scion FR-S returns for another tough round in 2016, with the first really meaningful changes since its launch in 2012. These adjustments are mostly minor, including new cabin trim and other visual tweaks, better audio, a back-up camera and a couple new color options for paint.

It’s no surprise there haven’t been more dramatic changes. The Toyota designed and Subaru assembled FR-S and BRZ brothers have always been dynamic, lively driving machines right from the starting line. With a clear focus on fun above all else, the new 2016 model stays true to Toyota’s original mission. With many factory bolt-on upgrade options like cold-air intakes, bigger brakes, higher flow exhausts, lowering springs and braces aplenty, the possibilities for improvement feel endless.

Courtesy of Scion.

Courtesy of Scion.

With only a couple changes in the looks department, the 2016 Scion FR-S has largely retained its already tight, handsome shape. Boasting aerodynamic proportions blended with a classic Japanese roadster shape, the FR-S lets you enjoy the best of both worlds. Curvy, sleek and low to the ground, with a long nose, short deck and flared fenders, this little Toyota is visually satisfying and practically begging to be tossed around a race track.

Slide into the driver seat and you’re greeted with a well-built, tastefully appointed cabin. Front seats are nicely bolstered, supportive and surprisingly comfortable, even for the slightly taller and wider hipped individual. If the FR-S interior shines brightest from the front seats, it’s nothing but grey clouds in the back. Rear seats are for smaller children only, and even than, my 5-year old looked at me with a measure of skepticism when I asked her to climb in. With a minimalist, form-follows-function aesthetic, the FR-S dresses things up just enough with faux carbon panels, durable plastics and pleasing lines that flow gracefully throughout the sporty cabin.

The familiar 2.0 liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder continues to power our two seater sportster. Making 200 hp and only 151 lb ft of torque, the FR-S was never a powerhouse, but with a 7,400-rpm redline, and most of the power to be found up at it’s screaming limits, the FR-S is a glutton for punishment and begs to be abused.

Courtesy of Scion.

Courtesy of Scion.

 

It may not dominate the local drag strip, but the little Scion is a wonderfully balanced, dynamic tossed salad of white toothy grins and ‘yee-haws!’ Steering is light and precise and braking is tight and consistent. The FR-S doesn’t have very high limits, they’re easy to hit and even easier to stay in once you’ve hit them. Especially helpful to this are those Toyota Prius sized tires that dramatically limit overall grip. This was an intentional move by Toyota, resulting in an overly playful tail that wants to slide around corners and make you look and feel like a professional drifter in the process.

Thanks to a very well-turned chassis, the Scion FR-S doesn’t completely lose it’s edge in automatic form, and even manages a respectable 28 combined mpg. All things considered though, a manual gearbox is still greatly preferred. It’s a shame that sales of the Scion FR-S don’t reflect how good a job Toyota has done in capturing the essence of what makes a sports car so great. This latest entry is light weight by today’s standard, honest, engaging and inexpensive. Provided you aren’t afraid to drive the 4-cylinder like you stole it, the good times will be on tap for years.

By: Brandon Randall

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