Spiffy sportster rekindles Toyota’s sport coupe tradition
Finally, a new sports coupe from Toyota, albeit offered through its entry-level youngster brand, Scion.
I’ve missed the Toyota Celica for years now, and I’m not alone, so with the 2013 Scion FR-S, Toyota again has a low-cost sports coupe that looks great and will provide much entertainment for those of us who prefer cars to look sporty and handle likewise. Plus this is a near identical cousin (if that were possible) to Subaru’s new BRZ. They both even have three letters as their name.
Toyota and Subaru worked together on this sports coupe, with really only the sheet metal reflecting their differing visions of what a cool coupe should look like. Both look pretty sexy and I can assure you even some Audi owners were gawking at the Scion, trying to guess its heritage.
Both the Scion and Subaru run on 101.2-inch wheelbases, are rear-wheel drive to add a sporty feel, and have four-wheel independent suspension and a Subaru designed 2.0-liter Boxer (some call it flat) 4-cylinder that cranks a modestly racy 200 horses. But Toyota added its port/direct-injection technology to aid oomph and improve gas mileage. It drinks regular 87 octane.
So what you get is a spiffy sportster with enough power to feel a tad racy, but not ensure you get a load of speeding tickets. Under normal acceleration FR-S feels a little lackluster, but downshift with the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, or put it in sport mode by clicking a button on the console, and more low-end torque is available. You’ll feel quick, but not fast.
The car’s 6-speed automatic transmission works well and also aids gas mileage, if you’re not tromping the metal clad gas pedal too hard. I got an impressive 31.3 mpg, just a tad shy of what the trip computer indicated. With about 60% being city driving I was happy in that the EPA estimates this car at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Both numbers are higher than the 22 mpg city and 30 highway that the EPA estimates for the FR-S’s 6-speed manual-equipped model.
The base Scion FR-S with the manual goes for $24,200, while this one started at $25,300 and added no options, just $730 delivery to hit $26,030. If you want a racier car you’d likely have to find one with a turbo, and the price will climb into the mid-$30 grand range.
FR-S weighs a fairly light 2,806 lbs. and the car’s steering reflects that. Steering effort is low and the car feels nimble. It turns into corners well and offers a responsive feel. I felt no body roll in tight cornering. This was fun to drive, not quite in the Miata range, but entertaining.
Ride, however, is rough. Expansion joints in cement city streets are each felt with a tap to the derriere. The rear-end with its dual wishbone suspension seemed especially tightly sprung. But this is a car aimed at youthful drivers who normally do not complain of stiff rides as much us Boomers with aging tailbones.
Braking comes from four-wheel discs, ABS and both traction and stability control. For autocross racers, that stability system can be clicked off so you can swing the car’s tail about when racing on a weekend.
My test car was a good-looking ultra marine (sparking deep blue) color, with a black cloth interior featuring a sporty red stitching on the seats and red stitching on the leather-covered steering wheel. Racier folks will enjoy the fake carbon fiber trim on the dash and matte silver trim on doors and console. The dash is black with a textured top to resemble leather.
A real plus, if you favor driving over playing with electronic gadgets, is the car’s simple dash layout. Scion knows its younger drivers want a good stereo and drop a Pioneer 300-watt unit in with 8 speakers and all the usual iPod connections and disc player. But you can easily see and use the controls while you drive.
Three big interlocking round gauges are right above the tilt/telescope steering wheel and easy to see. While the radio buttons and knobs are small, but simple to figure out and include six channel selection buttons, no touchscreen.
If your secret dream is to be a racer you’ll also like the form-fitting supportive seats that wrap around your back and bottom. A little lumbar adjustment would be welcome, but the seats’ overall shape is good, albeit firm. The driver’s seat also comes with a manual height adjustment.
Don’t look for oodles of interior room. Although tall folks will fit in the front seat. I had a 6-3 friend try out the driver’s seat and he had plenty of head and legroom, but there was no legroom in back at that point. Even with a shorty like me in front, there’s precious little legroom in the tiny rear seat. That’s mainly there for insurance purposes, or to torture a not so good friend on a short ride.
Not much room in the trunk either, just 7.0 cu.ft., but that would hold two suitcases if they aren’t too bulky.
There are things I’d change, starting with some additional power, maybe a turbo model will come in future years as a convertible version already is on tap for the 2014 model year.
I also didn’t care for the tinny sound when I shut the trunk and a little sound deadening might help quiet the interior, which is pretty noisy when you drive on the highway. Road noise creeps in from the wheels and the windows. And because this is entry-level sporty you get basic features, such as a push-button start and remote keyfob, power mirrors, power locks and windows, and a one-piece fold-down rear seat to extend the trunk space. There’s no navigation, but that’s standard on Subaru’s BRZ, if you need it.
So, if you’ve been wishing the Celica or MR2 would return, the FR-S (and I presume the BRZ) could fill that want. It’s a fun easy drive if scorching the pavement from a standing start isn’t your top priority.
FAST Stats: 2013 Scion FR-S
Made in: Japan
Engine: 2.0-liter Boxer DVVT 4-cylinder, 200 hp
Transmission: 6-speed automatic w/paddle shifters
Weight: 2,806 lbs.
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
Cargo: 7.0 cu.ft.
Base Price: $25,300
Dealer’s Price: $24,035
Major Options: None
Test Vehicle: $26,030
Sources: Scion/Toyota, www.autos.yahoo.com
Photos: Courtesy of Scion
Hits: Great looking coupe with well-formed supportive race-like seats and quick steering. Gas mileage is good too.
Misses: Tinny sound when you shut the trunk, rough ride.