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The FR-S is not your friend's boxy Scion. Thanks to sleek styling, rear-wheel drive and sharp handling, the FR-S is one of the most appealing performance cars of 2013.
Light and well-balanced chassis; excellent steering; high fuel economy; comfortable and spacious front seat; abundant standard features; distinctive styling.
Small backseat and trunk; lack of navigation and other luxury options; relatively modest acceleration.
Available FR-S Models
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The 2013 Scion FR-S is an all-new, rear-wheel-drive sport coupe co-developed by Toyota and Subaru.
When the Scion brand debuted in 2002, its mission was to appeal to young buyers with stylish cars boasting affordable pricing, abundant customization options and the promise of reliability backed up by the reputation of Toyota, its parent company. Largely missing from that mix, however, has been performance. Now, a decade later, all the right elements have been combined for the all-new 2013 Scion FR-S.
Co-developed with Subaru (which makes the twin of the FR-S, the Subaru BRZ), the FR-S ups the performance ante considerably above the Scion tC, the next sportiest car in the Scion family. The FR-S is powered by a 2.0-liter flat-4 ("boxer") engine that sends 200 horsepower to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. That's not a lot of power for a sporty car nowadays, and suitably, acceleration is merely acceptable. Yet, the FR-S's light weight, compact dimensions, low center of gravity, sublime steering and beautifully balanced chassis add up to enough fun that you won't mind when a Mustang V6 pulls away from you at a traffic light.
The FR-S cockpit is all business. Frivolous gee-whiz features -- such as Scion's typical flashy instrument displays and adjustable mood lighting -- are nowhere to be found. Instead, the driver faces an array of instruments dominated by a large tachometer, while both front occupants are held fast by aggressively bolstered sport seats. Of course, don't expect a large measure of multipurpose practicality from the compact coupe, as the rear seat and trunk are diminutive.
In terms of competition, the 2013 Scion FR-S has no direct rivals other than its Subaru twin. After all, affordable rear-wheel-drive sport coupes are few and far between. The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the closest in character to the FR-S, but if you prefer a rear-wheel-drive coupe, you'll have to step up to the more expensive Ford Mustang or Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Yet given its desirable qualities -- light weight and a responsive nature -- the 2013 Scion FR-S should be a thrill for driving enthusiasts looking for big kicks for small bucks.
The 2013 Scion FR-S comes in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth (with streaming audio) and a Pioneer eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, RCA output jacks, an auxiliary audio jack and USB/iPod integration.
In keeping with Scion's marketing philosophy, in lieu of factory options there are a number of dealer-installed accessories that include foglights, a premium audio system and various suspension and engine performance parts.
Under the FR-S's sleek hood is a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed "boxer" four-cylinder engine that makes 200 hp and 151 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters and rev-matched downshifts.
At the test track, a manual-equipped FR-S sprinted to 60 mph from a standstill in 6.6 seconds: fairly quick, if not as speedy as more powerful but heavier sport coupes. Testing of an automatic-equipped BRZ yielded a much slower time of 7.9 seconds.
Fuel economy estimates are quite good and stand at 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined for the manual and 25/34/28 for the automatic.
Standard safety features include antilock brakes (with brake assist), traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags.
In Edmunds brake testing, the 2013 Scion FR-S came to a stop from 60 mph in 117 feet -- a short distance, though it's lower than average for a car with summer tires.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the FR-S received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.
Scion has made few concessions to style for the FR-S's simple, businesslike cabin that blends Toyota and Subaru switchgear and materials. It's an environment that puts an emphasis on driving. Frankly, it will feel a bit spartan compared to some other sporty cars in its price range like the VW GTI, but then this is supposed to be a back-to-basics sort of driver's car.
In true Scion form, the audio system is anything but basic, however, as it comes with a full assortment of media types and controls. It's also much easier to use than the touchscreen unit found in its Subaru BRZ twin, although Scion does not offer the Subie's navigation system and some other features.
The FR-S's front seats are supportive enough for hard driving, yet still comfortable for long-distance trips as well. People of just about any size should find the driving position to be quite agreeable, and thanks to the low-profile hood, there's an expansive view of the road ahead.
There's a backseat, too, but few humans are likely to want to sit back there. Legroom is next to nil, your head will be perilously close to the rear glass (or entirely pressed against it) and the center tunnel impedes hiproom. Trunk space is also rather small at 6.9 cubic feet, but folding down that mostly useless backseat expands cargo-carrying abilities considerably.
If you're the sort of driver whose car must be able to hammer down freeway on-ramps with its tires ablaze, the 2013 Scion FR-S is not for you. Its power is sufficient and nothing more. Instead, the FR-S is for those who get a thrill from going around corners and feeling all the nuances and inputs that go along with a car that offers phenomenal communication and impeccable control.
Its limits are approachable and easily controlled, which makes for a wonderfully engaging sports car. The brakes don't fade, the gearbox is a pleasure to shift and the chassis remains composed even when the road surface doesn't. The steering imparts the front tires' grip status precisely to the driver's hands, and even the available automatic transmission is programmed for enthusiastic driving.
Away from twisty roads and used for more mundane moments -- say, on the way to work or on a road trip -- this Scion is still rewarding. It's surprisingly easy to drive and the ride is sufficiently well damped. However, there is a fair amount of road noise that is especially evident on concrete-surfaced freeways.
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