Strengths and weaknesses:
- tiny trunk
- useless rear seats
- summer tires only
The antidote for Toyota's aging demographic
The 2013 Scion FR-S is the kind of vehicle Toyota dealers have lacked for a long time - something to lure younger buyers into their showrooms. And, technically speaking, I suppose some of them still are lacking that because not all Toyota dealers have Scion franchises.
For those who do, however, the FR-S will come as a gift from heaven. In fact the Scion brand was created in 2002 as an antidote to Toyota’s aging demographic, but until now hasn’t had the really hot set of wheels that will get the kids tweeting.
And now it does.
The FR-S (for Front engine, Rear drive, Sports) is the kind of sporty, youth-oriented coupe that Toyota hasn’t sold here since the last Celica in 2005.
There are conflicting claims as to whose idea this car was because it’s also marketed as the Subaru BRZ, which went on sale in Canada this summer. (Australia’s allotment of the BRZ sold out in three hours.) I do know it was built on a brand new Subaru-designed platform and chassis using that company’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre “boxer” engine (with Toyota fuel injection). Toyota was responsible for the exterior sheet metal.
The FR-S is built by Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan and when you open up the hood the Subaru name and logo are everywhere - even on the oil filter. (Interestingly, however, the word Subaru has been airbrushed from the photo of the intake manifold that appears on the official Scion Canada website.)
Although our test car had no factory options, it did have an upgrade to the Pioneer audio system that was a $515 dealer-installed accessory. In fact, the only option is a 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters. If you want things like a navigation system, automatic climate control and heated front sets you’re going to have to visit a Subaru dealer, where the BRZ’s base price is $1,305 higher.
Our tester also came with Michelin summer performance radials on its 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, so winter tires and rims will be an added expense for buyers who intend to drive the car 12 months a year. Unlike other vehicles made by Subaru, the FR-S does not have all-wheel drive, so its usefulness in snowy weather is doubtful anyway.
On dry pavement, however, handling is fine. The way the horizontally opposed boxer engine is mounted gives the car a low centre of gravity. The electric power steering is quick and handling is predictable thanks to traction control and vehicle stability control (VSC).
But skilled drivers can override both by pressing the VSC switch on the centre console for three seconds.
This allows for really aggressive driving of the type that should be reserved for the race track - but won’t be because for some young men the temptation to break out the rear end and drift through corners will be too tempting. Or to do donuts in front of the girlfriend’s house.
So although the low price makes it attractive to younger drivers, I wonder whether they will be able to afford the insurance. Most of them were raised on front-wheel drive and piloting the RWD FR-S may prove challenging.
Perhaps it’s just as well that the 2.0-litre engine produces only 200 hp. Still, that’s enough for 0-100 km/h times in the 6.0 second range.
Scion bills this as a four passenger car, which is a joke because the rear seat is barely big enough to carry a few bags of groceries. And it wouldn’t even be suitable for that if the groceries had legs. The trunk is a useful shape, which is a good thing because luggage capacity is a minuscule .196 cubic metres.
Then again, people won’t be buying the FR-S as a family hauler. When the raging hormones settle down that’s what the Corolla and Camry are for. The FR-S is made for good times now.
Although a little short on amenities, it’s a good looking, competent car that can be a lot of fun. How much fun, however, will depend entirely on how old you are - or maybe how young you feel.
Year/make/model: 2013 Scion FR-S
Trim level: 6M
As tested before taxes: $26,505
Options on test car: none
Engine/transmission: 2.0L H4/6-spd manual
Power/torque: 200 hp/151 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): premium recommended (50L)
Fuel economy ratings: 9.6L/100 km city; 6.6L/100 km highway
Observed fuel economy: 8.5L/100 km over 619 km
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km basic; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain
Competitors: Honda Civic Si; Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Subaru BRZ