The Scion FR-S has been the rear-drive fun car in the youthful make’s lineup. The car has become popular for many good reasons and continues to prove that the younger crowd isn’t as car-phobic as some might think.

Quick Specs & Info

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2016 Scion FR-S Class: Entry-level sports coupe
Base Model As Tested: 
Powertrain 2.0L 4cyl, 6spd manual Powertrain 2.0L 4cyl, 6spd manual
Base MSRP $25,305 MSRP as tested $26,075

Overview

2016 Scion FR-S - golf 12 - AOA1200pxThe FR-S is part of the Toyobaru trifecta of rear-drive good times. Subaru has the BRZ, which we’ve reviewed before, and Toyota has the FT-86, which is the Scion’s name in other markets. These are thoroughly enjoyable cars designed as a collaboration between Sub and Toy a couple of years ago. They’re back to basics sports cars with entry-level affordability and power.

The 2016 Scion FR-S sees a few upgrades from last year, including a larger touchscreen, a few interior improvements, and the carryover of last year’s chassis enhancements.

For young sports car enthusiasts, the FR-S is a clean slate of excellence to build from. Travel any of the forums they frequent and you’ll see how this little car is ripe for tuning and modification. It’s a solid base car that is fun on its own, as-is, or that can become a customized little fun box.

The exterior of the 2016 FR-S is the same beautiful look that it’s always been. The car is far more upscale in design than its price tag might warrant. Muscular, almost European fenders squat down and heavy, powerful rear fenders push forward. It’s a classic coupe look that emphasizes the simplicity of performance this car focuses on.

The Scion FR-S has many things going for it. It’s a sports coupe that any parent would feel comfortable giving to their teenager and that any young enthusiast would love to toy with. It’s a perfect market fit for the intended buyer: the 18-25 year old looking for rear-drive fun on a budget.

Inside the 2016 Scion FR-S

2016 Scion FR-S - interior 1 - AOA1200pxThe interior of the Scion FR-S is basically the same 2+2 layout it’s always been. A few detail changes to trim pieces and a big upgrade to the touchscreen, still a Pioneer-based system, are found. Otherwise, things remain untouched.

Seating is comfortable and well-done for an entry-level car. The bolstering is just about right given the capabilities of the car in terms of G-force and the firm softness they offer is excellent for long drives. The back seats are mainly for storing things and maybe bringing along a (small) dog, but are otherwise not really habitable by humans. In a pinch, child safety seats can be installed, but no one should expect this to be a permanent ideal. Trunk space is remarkably large for a car this size and the rear seats fold down for more space when needed.

The new, larger touchscreen adds some functionality. A rearview camera is now standard and the infotainment includes improved streaming and other smartphone options as well as HD radio. We note the continued absence of satellite radio in the FR-S. Dealer upgrades can add a lot more to this, though, including navigation, more smartphone apps (beyond the standard Aha), and so on.

We like the added silver trim that helps to bring a little more style to the interior. This is new for this year and makes the interior of the 2016 Scion FR-S look a little less plain by knocking out some of the base black. The focus on driving doesn’t change, however, and this added trim is mainly for showroom benefit.

Under the FR-S Hood

2016 Scion FR-S - engine 1 - AOA1200pxThe powertrain hasn’t changed since the Toyobaru family was introduced. A 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine from Subaru produces 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque with an honest chug of turbo-free glee. A six-speed manual transmission is standard (and preferred) and a six-speed automatic is optional and includes paddle shifters on the column.

In our experience, the standard transmission, with its beautifully short shift throw and fast dynamic, returns a full second better 0-60 mph time than does the automatic. The manual transmission in the FR-S and its BRZ twin is one of the best sports car transmissions we’ve ever encountered in a sports car. Most can get sub-7-second zero to sixty times out of this car without much practice.

The EPA rates the 2016 Scion FR-S with a combined rating of 25 mpg, 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, with that manual transmission. The automatic does improve things to 28 mpg combined (25 city, 34 highway), giving it a compelling reason for existence.

On the Road in the 2016 FR-S

2016 Scion FR-S - edge 1 - AOA1200pxThe Scion FR-S is a fun car to drive and just begs to corner and play. It’s not a straight line car, with no marked acceleration off the line at all. Yet it flies around the road without worries once it’s going and has a good time doing so. That love of the corner and solid, ground-hugging feel translates directly to the driver and becomes infectious.

The driver and passenger sit low to the ground and the view from the wide windscreen is broad and appealing. The expanse of road is broken only by the lovely little fender humps to either side and the street’s nuances come at you with exciting speed. Everything great about sports car driving is accented in the FR-S with none of the distracting gadgetry and noise-making additions of more expensive sports cars that’ve been watered down with niceties. For pure driving joy, it gets little better than this.

Competition

There are precious few direct competitors to the 2016 FR-S. The Subaru BRZ is one, of course, but the rest of the competition is front-wheel drive or not as visceral in basic focus.

  • The Subaru BRZ offers a bit more refinement inside but is otherwise exactly the same vehicle. We like it for its better interior experience, especially in infotainment, but the Scion has better color choices this year.
  • The Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST are always being compared to the Toyobaru models, though this turbocharged FWD car is very different when the chips are down.
  • The Volkswagen GTI is similar to the Ford in that way.

In the end, it’s difficult to find true competitors to the FR-S and BRZ. Most are hatchbacks, turbocharged, and likely less sport focused and more costly as a result.

Strong Points

  • Excellent entry-level sports coupe.
  • Very appealing overall package.

Weaknesses

  • Impractical and underpowered for serious enthusiasts.

Conclusions

In today’s world of blinking gadgets, smartphone this and that, and automated whatevers, it’s great to see a back-to-basics car that emphasizes simple driving fun. Nothing in the 2016 Scion FR-S does anything for the driver, input-free. The basic expectations are there: cruise control for the long highway, a radio, and enough comfort to keep the back from aching. The FR-S is otherwise unadorned. In return, though, the driver gets a visceral feel of the roadway in a car that exuberantly extols its love of the corner and lust for the long curve.

Be forewarned that if you own the 2016 Scion FR-S, you will feel compelled to take the longer route, turn a little too sharp, and perhaps find excuses to drive more often than you would in a less entertaining car.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The FR-S was a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week. During that time, a total of 237 miles were put on the vehicle in a mixture of highway and around-town driving.

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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) 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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