2014 Scion FR-S Review: Introduction
The age of the affordable sports car is upon us, and with so many quality options flooding the market it's particularly impressive that a model like the 2014 Scion FR-S still stands out one year after its introduction. Having fallen in love last year with the Subaru BRZ, the two-door compact coupe that was co-developed alongside Toyota's Scion entry, I was eager to spend time with the FR-S and discover how it might differ from its countryman.
Past that simple one-to-one comparison, however, I was also curious to find out what it was like to drive the 2014 Scion FR-S not on the road courses and back roads that it was designed to handle, but rather the daily winter slog that half the country finds itself dealing with for four to six months of the year. Would the tedium of navigating a rear-wheel drive coupe across a slippery, snowy landscape temper its promise of fun? Are other, alternative compact sports car options from Subaru (the WRX), Ford (the Focus ST), Hyundai (the Genesis Coupe), and Honda (the Civic Si) better four-season options for northern drivers? A week spent with the FR-S delivered exactly the answers I was looking for.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Models and Prices
The 2014 Scion FR-S comes in a single trim level, which right off the bat separates it from the BRZ (which is available in two editions). With a starting MSRP of $24,500 for manual transmission cars ($25,600 for automatics), the Scion FR-S provides buyers with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, 17-inch rims, HD radio, a CD player, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a USB input. That's pretty much it, and don't look to the options sheet for help because there isn't one. Scion will gladly sell you 'accessories,' with a few performance parts and trim items that can be added to the car, but what you see in the showroom is very much what you get with the coupe. With the addition of a BeSpoke touchscreen audio system (an 'accessory,' not an 'option'), my manual tranny test car stickered for $25,898.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Design
- The 2014 Scion FR-S does not offer any new design elements for the current model year.
The 2014 Scion FR-S is, in my opinion, more of a looker than its BRZ sibling. This is primarily due to the changes made to the car's front bumper and headlights, which are sleeker and more aggressive compared to the Subaru, and which better complement the aerodynamic shape of the car. The rear of the FR-S is also slightly tweaked in comparison to its platform-mate, and keen eyes will detect the '86' badge at the top of the coupe's front fenders which pays homage to the AE86 lineage (and JDM GT86 nameplate) associated with the car.
Passengers inside the 2014 Scion FR-S will no doubt notice, but not be all that perturbed by, the lack of creature comforts that it provides. This is a plain cockpit designed to keep costs down and not get in the way of enjoying the automobile's spectacular chassis. At its price point it's definitely less engaging from both a visual and tactile perspective when compared to vehicles like the Ford Focus ST, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it 'barren.' I'm going to go with 'simple.'
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Comfort and Cargo
- The 2014 Scion FR-S is unchanged compared to the previous model year.
The 2014 Scion FR-S forgoes niceties such as leather seats (and, unfortunately for my winter driving, seat heaters) and instead provides simple manually-adjustable sport seats for forward occupants and something resembling scalloped buckets for those relegated to the rear of the car. Yes, small individuals can fit behind the two front positions in the FR-S, but they most likely won't want to, so its best to reserve that area for cargo as a complement to the vehicle's decent amount of trunk space.
The Scion's sport seats offer extensive torso and thigh bolstering, and their fabric wrap is stitched in a nice double-red thread that matches the pattern found on the steering wheel, shifter, and leather shifter surround. They are comfortable enough for daily driving, so don't be intimidated by their track-ready looks. That being said, the suspension system and seating arrangements in the FR-S don't lend themselves well to being used as a grand tourer, so long highway trips might feel like more of a chore than a pleasure from behind the wheel.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Features and Controls
- The 2014 Scion FR-S does not gain any new controls compared to the previous model year.
As you might have deduced from the thin list of equipment available with the 2014 Scion FR-S, there isn't a lot to write about when evaluating the car's list of features. This is perfectly acceptable for a budget-friendly, performance-focused coupe, and for the most part what is there works well.
There are two exceptions, however. The first is the car's available BeSpoke touchscreen audio system, which honestly is no real prize due to its non-intuitive menu system and unimpressive performance. You can save yourself an easy $1,198 here and go for an aftermarket stereo is you are truly looking for an upgrade. The second not-so-stellar aspect of the Scion's feature set is its analog speedometer. Tucked to the left of the center-mounted tach, its tiny font and reverse-swept design almost guarantee that it will never be useful as anything other than a novelty - a fact that FR-S designers seem to have acknowledged by including a digital readout inside the tachometer's binnacle.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Safety and Ratings
- The 2014 Scion FR-S does not introduce any new safety equipment.
The 2014 Scion FR-S offers dual forward airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, and side curtain airbags that deploy along the entire length of the car's cabin. Electronic stability control and traction control are also included with the FR-S, but there's no advanced safety equipment available with the coupe, which means no blind spot detection, no lane keeping, and no collision mitigation.
2014 Scion FR-S Crash-Test Ratings: The IIHS has given the Scion FR-S a rating of 'Good' in all three of its major crash tests, while the NHTSA has yet to evaluate the car's crash test safety.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- The 2014 Scion FR-S retains last year's drivetrain.
The 2014 Scion FR-S features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. This 'boxer' engine is essentially a Subaru design matched with a Toyota direct fuel injection system, which gives it a high-revving character and respectable fuel mileage of 25-mpg around town and 34-mpg on the highway. As mentioned earlier, a six-speed manual transmission is standard with the Scion, while a six-speed automatic can be selected as an option. I was unable to gather any useful fuel efficiency data during my time with the car due to the extreme cold, which negatively affects the consumption of any modern vehicle.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Driving Impressions
The 2014 Scion FR-S is an extremely responsive car in terms of both its throttle and its steering inputs. This is an impressive achievement in such an affordable automobile, especially considering that it presents drivers with an electric power steering setup instead of a traditional hydraulic arrangement.
It's also a bit of a concern when it comes to winter driving. Simply put, the Scion FR-S will go exactly where you tell it to go, and once there's ice and snow on the road your commands from behind the wheel are amplified by the low traction environment that surrounds you. Leaving stability control in its fully-on-and-locked position afforded fun-sapping, but effective rescue from over-exuberance with the accelerator, but as anyone who has ever had to pilot a rear-wheel drive vehicle through a winter season is aware of, sometimes traction control is the enemy of forward progress. I encountered several situations where the Scion's nannies electronically intervened to the point where I was stuck on a patch of ice, requiring me to turn them off and hope the tires outfitted to the car were up to push me out of trouble.
They weren't - at least, not most of the time. Underscoring the importance of matching proper winter rubber to the vehicle you are driving, the Pirelli Sottozero tires on my Scion FR-S tester broke traction at every single opportunity, even on pavement that seemed to be dry and clean. I refuse to believe that the tail-happy FR-S is actually that incapable of motoring in a straight line, and I'm apportioning most of the blame to bad rubber - but it must be said that yes, there is at least some penalty associated with selecting the FR-S over an all-wheel drive cold weather warrior like the Subaru WRX, and to some degree, a front-wheel drive car like the Civic Si.
Of course, what you lose in daily driving ease comes back to you tenfold in terms of fun. The Scion FR-S with the traction control disabled is a perfect drift machine, the kind of car that frightens pedestrians and docks points off of your license at every single 90-degree intersection or long, sweeping curve. I found that the Scion's suspension tuning was even more aggressive when it came to cornering than that found in the BRZ, although I don't have any hard data to back up that impression. Managing the FR-S in zero-traction conditions is an exercise in joy, and one that complements its status as a willing dance partner on the track. Don't judge the car based on its low horsepower, as its equally modest curb weight ensures that the Scion has plenty of gumption at higher engine revs. Keep the 2.0-liter at a boil and you won't have any complaints about its 200 horsepower rating.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Final Thoughts
Few cars below $25,000 can offer the same pure and passionate driving experience embodied by the 2014 Scion FR-S. I'd even go so far as to say that there aren't too many under $40,000 that meet the same criteria, either. Balanced and quick, and a fun entry-point to track driving that won't scare your pants off the first time you take a corner too fast, the Scion FR-S is one of my favorite performance cars. If you are trying to decide between either the FR-S or the BRZ, it comes down to three things: styling, features, and character. If you want a more comfortable ride, then it makes more sense to choose the Subaru. If you want a more aggressive experience - visually and on the road - then the FR-S is your best bet. And if you plan to drive the Scion all-year-round, make absolutely certain to equip it with the best winter tires you can afford.
2014 Scion FR-S Review: Pros and Cons
2014 Scion FR-S review: Pros and Cons
- Very enjoyable chassis
- Fun-to-drive character
- Responsive engine
- Endless winter drifting on command
- Affordable price
- No options at ordering time
- Rear-wheel drive traction at a premium without the right winter tires
- No heated seats
- Essentially a two seat automobile
Toyota Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.