Look at the videos of Matt Farah or Chris Harris driving various modified and unmodified versions of this car, which is the same car as the Subaru BRZ or Toyota 86. Or my favorite review by the German reviewer Thomas Hellmanzik who is part of the youtube channel Everyday Driver, published Aug 3 2017. This car is not for everyone, but it is definitely going to be appreciated by a certain group of drivers who might also like the Miata/MX-5 but want a real coupe. I've had a Miata and the FRS is a better highway car and a better mountain car in my opinion. The car is a little bit boring in casual driving, for everyday trips I often take a lazier kind of car or pick up truck, but probably because I am a little older and like my creature comforts if the roads are not exciting. But if you have the shifting skills to keep this car in its power band above 4500 rpm and the right roads, this car can absolutely blow your mind and give you a driving experience far beyond the price they are asking for it, especially used. Its low, small, lightweight and extremely rewarding and capable all the way to the limit, while also being very predictable and tactile. Its pretty loud, and somewhat cramped. I consider it a better more modern version of the old Datsun 240z.
I just turned in my lease for this car. I'm sad to see it go. If my situation was a little different I would buy a 2017 model, which happens to address some small annoyances I had with the car - road noise and some roughness on the road.
This was not a car where the head of the company said "let's make the most profitable car we can" or, "let's design a car that will kill other cars." This car was designed out of the desire for something raw and pure. This car was built for a niche population. Luckily, the population of the niche wasn't so small that this car would be unprofitable.
First, let's talk about the power. I think whether this car has enough power for you or not is all a matter of perspective. For me, I drive on mostly cramped Massachusetts roads where I find that the HP of an economy car is plenty. So the 200 hp of this car plus its low weight, is far more than I need. In fact, if there was a 150hp version with better gas mileage, I would've gotten that.
But to enjoy this car, you really have to like driving. You have to enjoy feeling the road, you have to enjoy techniques like heel-toe downshifts, you have to enjoy turning, and you have to enjoy putting in the extra work to keep this car in its power band with its short gearing. And of course, you have to enjoy feeling connected with the car. If you enjoy doing all these little things, you'll love this car, because this car makes those things great.
But if you're not into that, all the work it takes to enjoy this car can be really overwhelming. For a period of time during my lease I fell into a slump where I was lethargic and had low energy. Nothing in particular happened to me, I just got lazy. During that time, I absolutely hated this car. Everything was just overwhelming. I enjoyed driving my 2002 corolla more than this. But once I got out of that slump and had a lot of energy, this car became one of my greatest pleasures again.
The reliability in 40k miles of driving was decent I'd say. I had to replace the battery, alternator, and all brake pads & rotors.
Also, I drove this car through three winters with snow tires, and it performed really well. Definitely better than a FWD with all seasons, except for perhaps accelerating up a steep hill. I was quite often on the leftmost lane of the highway cruising between 40-55 mph during heavy snow and I still had quite a bit of traction. This is actually where the lower power of the car comes in handy, you want to use just enough power to get the tires rolling which is much easier to do in a lower hp car than a higher one.
I think Toyota and Subaru did an excellent job for the money in accomplishing what they set out to do. They wanted a raw, responsive, balanced, stable, light-weight car, and that's essentially what we got. But like I said... not for everyone. If it's not for you, this car could be overwhelming with all its feed back or even boring with the relative lack of power if that's what you're into the most. But if it is for you, it's the best.
Ok... I'll start saying that I love this car; it's great to drive, engaging, responsive and lots of fun. Yes, there's an annoying torque dip in the power band, but you can live with it.
My cautionary tale is regarding its reliability and the willingness from Toyota/Scion to go the extra step (no, not mile) to help their customers. I say that because I have worked with customer service directly or indirectly for the last 16 years and I expected more from a brand with reputation for reliability.
I have bought the car used and I am its second owner. It has only around 27k miles and I have well maintained the car with regular oil changes (synthetic), only shell V-power 93 octane gas, flushed the transmission and differential oil, checked brakes etc -- all items from the manual within their mileage.
This Saturday evening while going to have dinner with my wife, we noticed a squeaky noise when I pushed the clutch pedal. It is nothing really alarming, but it clearly indicates something is wrong and some part is wearing down. It was too late to call the closest dealer and, since Monday was national holiday, I brought the car to a Kwik Kar close to my house. I have researched some forums and the mechanic confirmed: it was the throwout bearing. It was disappointing, considering that I drive mostly highways and I've never tracked or autocrossed the car -- and it doesn't even have 30k miles.
I called the dealer on Tuesday, the only day available, and asked them to check when my warranty expires. Surprise: it expired on 05/29. I was calling on 05/31. The guy was very helpful and felt sorry for me and I asked if they could make an exception, they answered it doesn't depend on them -- they have to get the exception approved by Toyota's Customer Service directly to their management team. Time to call the customer service.
The representative Peter was helpful and opened a case number for me, in theory to ask for a decision regarding if they would approve a service under the warranty due to the circumstances and said that someone would contact me back within 2 days max. No one contacted me, so today I called again. I talked to Vince this time, he explained that this case number was only to document what happened. It would need an authorized (from a Toyota dealer) inspection to verify if the issue was actually throw out bearing, and if I decided to build a case for warranty it would still have to be within the warranty, therefore I had no way out since it was expired. He said I was misinformed by the previous rep on my expectations.
I said I understood that the warranty per se had just expired, but if I could speak to his manager or someone who had the power to approve an exception since it was an unusual issue for a car fairly new and with low mileages. Per Vince, the warranty cannot be extended or any time-grant extension cannot be conceived; there are absolute no exceptions at all. He stressed that no one, regardless of hierarchy in the company, could approve the service under warranty since it is expired, and he was a representative in power to make these statements because there was no decision to make.
I like this car. Yes, before I said I loved this car, I know. But considering the confidence that Toyota inspired me with such an early failure and poor customer service, I will take the hit this time, but I am not likely to ever buy another product from them again. Who knows what will happen to the car when it is 70k miles; I might not keep it to find out. Oh, if you search forums you will see several similar cases of early failure of this component. Do your research before you commit to a car.
06/16/2016 - Quick update for what is worth; I called again the Dealer and they honored the warranty, even though Toyota did not. The car is fixed and I give 5 stars for the dealer which went the extra mile and provided a great customer service. Toyota as a brand, however, left a sour taste in my mouth. If you find a good dealership, stick to it.
06/21/17 - I have trade the FRS in for a Mustang which has been way more comfortable (and fast) as a daily driver since I live in north Texas and here the roads are basically (boring) highways, plus the high revving character from the FRS is a nightmare in traffic. I have the Mustang for over 6 months now and I have to say, there is not even one day I don't miss driving the Scion, but I am glad it is not my daily driver anymore. It (FRS) is one of the most fun cars you can buy in its price range, only second to the MX-5. If you don't mind the lack of refinement in the interior and if your roads are curvy enough, you will be very happy with the car. Engaging, telepathically responsive, amazing chassis, decent gearbox (please flush the transmission oil and replace it with Motul Gear 300, trust me) and great feedback from the steering wheel. Great second car or daily driver on fun roads.