When it comes to entry-level sports cars, it’s difficult to think of any that outmatch the 2014 Scion FR-S in terms of value for the horsepower. The FR-S is a low-slung, low-priced sports coupe with a fast pace and great handling.
2014 Scion FR-S - 3 - AOA1200px

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Scion
  • Year, Model: 2014 FR-S
  • Class: Sport Coupe
  • Powertrain: 2.0L boxer-4, 6spd manual
  • Base Price: $24,700
  • MSRP as tested: $24,700
  • Availability: Now

Overview

A great sports coupe, no matter its price tag, 0-60 time, or nameplate, must have three things to be considered a great sports coupe. First, it must be offered in a flamboyant shade of “go ahead and pull me over” red. Second, it must have a manual transmission option. Third, it must be wholly impractical for use as anything but an automotive toy.

The 2014 Scion FR-S fits all of those criteria. Our test vehicle was red with a six-speed manual transmission and seated two with an option for yoga masters (aka “2+2 seating”).

The Scion FR-S is part of the Toyobaru family of cars, which include the Subaru BRZ and the Toyota FT-86. All three are largely the same with differences being entirely in interior refinement. Thanks to some updates from Scion for the 2014 model year, though, the interior here is nearly as good as that found in the BRZ. All three are great little sports coupes with a thoughtful powertrain and well-designed handling characteristics.

What makes the 2014 FR-S tick

2014 Scion FR-S - engine - AOA1200pxThe Scion FR-S is powered by a 2.0-liter horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that outputs 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. This runs through a six-speed manual transmission (6-speed automatic with paddles is optional) to the rear wheels. Most drivers can expect 0-60 times of about 7 seconds in this car.

This means you get a smooth boxer engine, a right-sized transmission, rear-wheel drive, and a fun driving experience all at once – and for under $25k. This being a Scion, there is only one trim package with all the extras (performance exhaust, fog lamps, etc.) being dealer-installed accessories rather than package options.

The 2014 Scion FR-S comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, A/C, height-adjustable driver’s seat (a must for us tall folk), tilt-telescoping steering, cruise control, Bluetooth, and a nice eight-speaker sound system and usable 6.1-inch touchscreen. The FR-S uses the same Pioneer system the Scion line uses throughout, which is more navigable than the standard Toyota offering. Dealer options can improve that stereo further and add in satellite radio and navigation, neither of which is offered otherwise here.

The Toyobaru’s great looks

From the outside, the FR-S looks a lot better than $24,000 might suggest. This is one of the best-looking sports cars on the road, bar none. It has a unique, flowing look that screams Japanese sports car in a way that few others can mimic.

A slanted hood boasts strong fender bumps and peering headlamps while the coupe body is simple and powerful. The cut forward from the door, to create the sill line, has small vents at its forward end and the “86” nameplate that appears on both the FR-S and the FT-86 in honor of Toyota’s historic sports coupe glory.

The strong, yet simple lines of the car attracted more than one person to it to compliment me on my ride. It’s an eye-catching car that is ageless. From twenty-somethings to old men at the golf course where I snapped photos, it was a hit.

2014 Scion FR-S - 6 - AOA1200px

Inside the 2014 Scion FR-S

The interior of the FR-S is spartan, but comfortable. The sport buckets are nicely-done and comfortable despite their hugging qualities. While you can’t expect to get much, including car seats, in the rear seating area, you can at least throw groceries back there and the relatively large trunk helps with practicality. But this is a sports coupe. Practicality is secondary.

Controls for driving and entertainment are simple and without fuss. The touch screen and rear backing camera are very small, though, and the camera is more like a video game console than a camera (in a car this size, it’s kind of a perk rather than a necessity).

Another drawback here is shift throw. For a sports car, the lever travel on the manual transmission is long and the transmission is touchy about your coordination between clutch and shifter. It takes a little while to get used to the cadence needed to go through the gears here, but the synchromesh on the transmission is fairly loose, so gearing with just a touch on the clutch, rather than full travel, becomes the habit.

On the road in the FR-S

This is a sports coupe that isn’t so much about speed as it is road feel. There are plenty of faster cars on the road, but few of them can boast this price point, low-end RPM torque, and excellent cornering all in one package. The Scion FR-S just feels confident at all times.

It’s comfortable enough for a long drive, but it’s on the short stints through narrow streets and on winding country roads that it really comes out. This car begs you to take the corners at speed, give it a little too much throttle to bark the tires off the line, and run the revs up high before shifting. It eats up freeway onramps, hard corners, and just about anything with pavement.

2014 Scion FR-S - 7 - AOA1200px

Competition

There are no real competitors to the Toyobaru family. They compete against one another, but other rear-wheel drive sport coupes are rare in this price range. Most often, the FR-S and its companions are compared to front-wheel drive sports cars in this category, such as the Ford Focus ST, Scion tC, and Mazda MX-5 Miata. These comparisons seem a stretch to us.

Strong Points

Great entry-level sports coupe and one of the only ones you can get with rear-wheel drive.

Awesome styling that appeals to just about everyone who sees it.

Weaknesses

Long shift throw and quirky transmission, largely thanks to Subaru who is known for this.

Not a practical car, which anyone who buys this should realize before taking it home. It’s a sports coupe, not a daily family car.

Conclusions

For those who want a fun sports coupe with a lot of style and a driving finesse, but who aren’t interested in taking a lifetime to pay for it, the 2014 Scion FR-S is a great option. It’s fun, sporty, impractical, and flashy. What else can you ask for out of a rear-wheel drive sports coupe? Midlife crisis, here I come!

Test Period Length and Limitations
Car was driven for a total of 317 miles on highway, freeway, town, and city roads. The FR-S was a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week.

Audio review:

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An automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP), the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

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