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2016 Scion FR-S: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2016

We spend most of our time reviewing practical, mass-market vehicles, but occasionally we need a break from the ordinary. The 2016 Scion FR-S provides just such a respite. Designed and engineered in partnership with Subaru, the rear-wheel-drive FR-S is a genuine sports car with exceptional handling. The rear seats even fold flat to accommodate a set of racing tires for track days. Nonetheless, you can buy a brand-new FR-S for the price of a generic midsize sedan, making it one of the hottest performance values on the market.

The FR-S will never be called a speed demon, as its sole engine is a modest 4-cylinder that makes only 200 horsepower. But if you're stuck on acceleration times, you're missing the point of the FR-S. This car is for those who find more thrills in corners than on straightaways, and it's refreshing indeed to find a reasonably priced modern-day sports car with such a focused mission.

What's New for 2016?

The FR-S adds a backup camera for 2016, along with a new 7-inch touchscreen.

What We Like

The essential goodness of a true sports car; simple specs and an affordable price; surprisingly satisfying interior quality; unusually responsive automatic transmission

What We Don't

Modest power; intrusive road noise; highly limited back seats

How Much?

$25,700

Fuel Economy

The 2016 FR-S is powered by a 2.0-liter flat 4-cylinder engine rated at 200 hp and 151 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, but Scion also offers an excellent 6-speed automatic with rev-matching capability on downshifts. Every FR-S comes with rear-wheel drive and a mechanical limited-slip differential.

Fuel economy is 25 miles per gallon in the city and 34 mpg on the highway with the automatic but just 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy with the manual.

Standard Features & Options

The FR-S ($25,700) is offered in one well-equipped trim level.

Standard equipment highlights include 17-in alloy wheels, dual exhaust tips, LED taillights, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob (with a convincingly manuallike appearance on the automatic shifter), cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 300-watt 8-speaker audio system, HD Radio and auxiliary/USB ports. New for 2016 is a 7-in touchscreen, replacing last year's 6.1-in unit, and a standard backup camera.

For smartphone devotees, Scion optionally provides Bespoke audio, which offers a higher level of connectivity with Facebook, Twitter and Internet radio. Other options -- all dealer-installed accessories -- include 18-in alloy wheels, bigger front brakes, fog lights, a rear spoiler, a cold-air intake, a performance exhaust and lowering springs.

Safety

The 2016 Scion FR-S delivers a full house of old-fashioned accident-avoidance measures. Communicative steering, good visibility and strong brakes give a reasonably aware driver the tools to stay out of harm's way. If, however, you fall victim to a collision, know that the FR-S comes standard with six airbags, including front-seat-mounted airbags and side-curtain airbags. For better or worse, no newfangled safety technologies are offered, save for a newly standard backup camera.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash testing carried out by the federal government, the FR-S earned a perfect 5-star overall score. In crash tests carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the FR-S earned Good ratings in each category except the firm's challenging new front small-overlap crash test, where it was deemed merely Acceptable -- still a strong score but not good enough to give the coupe a Top Safety Pick designation.

Behind the Wheel

Getting in and out of the FR-S doesn't require the typical sports-car contortions. Once inside, you'll find an expansive greenhouse, a great view over the hood and reasonable visibility to the sides and rear of the car. The front buckets provide a near-optimal balance between lateral support and long-distance comfort. Rear passenger space is negligible, but the rear seating area folds flat to increase utility. Overall, the FR-S offers an exceptionally well-engineered interior by sports-car standards.

If Ferry Porsche were mixing and matching today's production components into a low-volume coupe, the result might look a lot like the FR-S. The Subaru-sourced flat 4-cylinder is philosophically close to all that the Porsche family holds dear, as is the FR-S's understated styling. Of course, the motor's modest 200-hp output is a far cry from any Zuffenhausen product, and it's the FR-S model's weakest link. You don't buy this car because of the engine, though; you buy it because you don't mind the engine given the excellence of everything else.

Indeed, the new FR-S pretty much had us at hello. Clean lines, a preternaturally balanced chassis and a starting price in the neighborhood of $26,000 make for a very compelling combination. The steering is telepathic, the brakes inspire confidence, and corners are carved with exceptional poise. If a pure driver's car is what you're after, the FR-S is almost impossible to beat for the money.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Subaru BRZ -- The FR-S's twin offers a slightly different take on the formula. It's certainly worth sampling to see which one you like better.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata -- For someone coveting the stripped-down simplicity of a compact roadster, the recently redesigned Mazda Miata remains compelling, and its manual shifter is one of the best we've ever sampled.

2016 BMW 228i -- The base 2 Series costs a few grand more than a loaded FR-S, but it rewards you with superior speed and refinement.

Used Porsche Cayman -- You'll have to go back a few years to find a Cayman in the Scion's price range, but they're out there. The Porsche is a more complete sports car with its exuberant midmounted 6-cylinder engines.

Autotrader's Advice

We'd opt for the manual transmission and little else. Before you go nuts at your Scion dealer's parts counter, we recommend getting to know your FR-S in its most essential form.

Find a Scion FR-S for sale

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Certified 2016 Scion FR-S
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Used 2016 Scion FR-S
Used 2016 Scion FR-S
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Used 2016 Scion FR-S
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Used 2016 Scion FR-S
Used 2016 Scion FR-S
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Scion FR-S: New Car Review - Autotrader