The FR-S is a pure sports car from Scion. Backed by parent company Toyota, the FR-S is a joint project between Toyota and Subaru that has created an instant classic. Assembled in Japan since the 2013 model year, the FR-S competes with other affordable and fun sports cars, like the Mazda Miata and RX8, Honda S2000 and Saturn Sky. Of those competitors, only the Miata is still on sale, so due to price, the FR-S may be cross-shopped with the Hyundai Genesis coupe and Ford Mustang.
The FR-S is powered by Subaru’s excellent boxer engine, which is a flat four cylinder. Instead of the traditional inline configuration of a row of upright cylinders, a flat four is horizontally opposed, meaning the pistons lay flat in the block and share the central crankshaft. This allows a lower center of gravity, helping the FR-S offer incredible handling. The flat four has direct and port injection systems and delivers 200 horsepower. Torque is a little low at 151 lb-ft, but is acceptable due to the car’s light weight. The boxer has unusually high compression ratio, so it demands premium gas, however it will give you 22 MPG city, 30 MPG highway with the standard 6-speed manual transmission. The optional automatic transmission achieves better fuel economy at 25 city, 34 highway because it shifts gears ensuring 100 percent efficiency.
FR-S vs BRZ
The Subaru BRZ is essentially the same car, but with a different corporate face and some option differences. From the side image below you’ll probably have a hard time telling the two apart. They both have the flat four, 6-speed manual or auto transmissions, and rear wheel drive. Although Toyota said the suspension on the FR-S is slightly softer for everyday driving, both cars handle nearly the same, offering steering and response that critics have called perfect.
However, the Subaru team seems to have found a better design language as the BRZ looks more expensive and refined than the angry Scion FR-S. Unfortunately, the BRZ is more expensive and for every Subaru version sold, 2.5 Toyotas sell, so the used market will probably make the BRZ more expensive due to rarity. If the looks of the front bumper and badges don’t matter to you, save some money and buy the FR-S.
FR-S vs Miata
An interesting comparison here, as they are wildly different, yet very similar cars. Like the BRZ comparison, they both have four cylinders requiring premium, and pushing power through a 6-speed to the rear wheels. However, the Miata has an inline four instead of a boxer and only produces 167 horsepower and 158 lb-ft. The multi-port fuel injection is a little dated, which is why the small, lighter car only gets 21 MPG city, 28 highway. The Mazda does offer what the FR-S does not have: a convertible option. The FR-S is only a hardtop, while the Miata is available with a choice of soft vinyl or a powered hardtop roofs. Both are a blast to drive, so you will probably need a test drive to make a decision.
Written by Andy Jensen