Scion Canada was
crazy kind enough to give me an FR-S to test drive for a week and I figured I would be equally kind in giving it a ‘real world’ review.
By real world I mean from the perspective of someone who is not tainted by the luxury of having multiple press cars a month, or pockets lined with riches from foreign lands.
When I approached the car for the first time my initial reaction was ‘damn this thing is orange‘ followed by ‘not quite sure about those tail lights’.
The first problem isn’t really a problem because if I were to purchase one I just wouldn’t get it in orange (probably blue or silver), and my issue with the tail lights kind of just went away the more I drove the car I suppose they just had to grow on me.
Moving on from those initial superficial impressions I was immediately pleased to see that this particular FR-S was manual. The one I drove at the first Stretch and Poke Meet (thanks again Scarborough Scion) was automatic and while it was a decent automatic it really doesn’t compare to the six speed version.
Once I got in, adjusted the seat and mirrors to my liking, and took off I was shocked at how easy the clutch pedal was to depress in comparison to my Mazda 3 and old e30. This made the absolutely terrible traffic I was stuck in 15 minutes after getting the car not so bad.
As my time with the car continued the transmission became one of my favorite parts of the vehicle because unlike some other vehicles I have driven the FR-S didn’t feel like moving a stir stick around in a pot of paint. It was rather comparable in throw to the TWM short shifter in my 3 just a little higher and a whole lot smoother.
While it would be cool to be like almost everyone else and claim that this car is underwhelming and under powered taking a stance like that while driving a Mazda 3 would be preposterous. Comparatively the FR-S felt plenty fast and it is probably the fastest car I have spent a prolonged period of time driving. It doesn’t smash you back into your seat or cause buxom passengers to squeal with glee but it’s a fun car to drive none the less.
Handling is where this car really excels and that becomes very apparent the first time to you a turn, and soon thereafter on ramps become a real treat. The basically neutral balance of the car combined with great throttle response and well sprung suspension really allows yo to push it in turns, the tires complain way before anything else begins to.
Once I got more comfortable with the car I found myself driving it almost exclusively in the higher rpm range because that is where it felt the most responsive and with the driving aids off the car seemed to constantly be asking me how much of a scene I wanted to make and when I did it was right there with me instead of trying to talk me out of it.
Of course doing that constantly on public roads would have placed the car in the impound right quick ,so every now and again I would leave the driving aids on so I could be scolded by the flashing traction control light whenever I tried to get out of line.
I would have really loved to take this car out to the track or a closed course and see what it was really capable of but unfortunately the papers I signed in order to have this car for a week forbade it.
If there were any place I think the FR-S could be improved upon it would be the interior. It wasn’t bad, and I’ve surely experienced worse, but I thought some of the materials used were a little on the cheap side and some of the aesthetic choices a little odd.
For example the clock that sits beneath the touch screen pioneer deck –which I liked– looked a little dated and reminded me of the 13 button OBC in my e30. Personally I feel integrating it into the two optional head units, or even gauge cluster, might have been a better choice.
The stereo is decent but lacked a little on the low end but that’s common of pretty well all factory stereos I have had exposure with.
The CF looking trim that went across the dash irked me, and the shift boot also felt a little ‘plasticy’, but the former could be fixed with black interior paint and the latter is such an incredibly easy thing to replace it is hardly worth mentioning.
One non aesthetic annoyance I did notice several times was that the seats didn’t lock when folded forward which complicates things a bit when you are trying to move a living thing (like a dog) in and out of the back seat by yourself. I’m not 100% sure if that is an issue with all of them or just this particular one as it’s been around the block a bit.
I’ve read a few other reviews online about road and engine noise being a little loud but neither of those really registered to me as higher than usual and I don’t think the average enthusiast coming from a car with an intake or exhaust will be bothered.
On the positive side of things I really liked the seats and steering wheel which in my opinion is the perfect size. I’ve got a pretty narrow frame and the seats still kept me in place during all of my shenanigans and also didn’t hurt my back on longer drives.
Space wise the rear seats are kind of a joke but fold them down and you can fit a bmx (wheel removed) through the trunk which is honestly more important to me than accommodating rear passengers. I’m sure a moderate amount of adult things (like grocery) could fit back there as well for those who don’t ride kids bikes.
All of the controls were fairly intuitive (including the stereo) and I never had to crack open the glove box and find the manual to figure out how to use anything.
As someone who isn’t a fan of most new cars the fact that this car doesn’t bother me aesthetically is quite a feat. Kudos to Scion for not slapping a big face on the front end of this car and creating something that actually doesn’t need too much after-market help.
Driving the car received a decent amount of head turns but at this point in the summer I feel most people are used to seeing them so it didn’t hold up or stop traffic.
My main sticking points with the car visually are the wheels which in my opinion they are far too busy and don’t compliment the exterior at all, and the ride height. The car has an obscene amount of wheel gap (even for a stock car) but that is probably just my bias showing based on the subject matter I normally post about.
In reality I could see a lot of people buying this car who can’t be bothered to slow down to avoid all of the bumps in the road I’m used to avoiding.
While the Scion had a few interior things I didn’t like at the end of the day, in a car like this, the interior –aside from the wheel, seat, pedals, and shift knob– doesn’t really matter. This isn’t a car you buy for it’s plush accommodation it’s a car you buy because you love driving and want to drive something that’s made to be driven.
Is it the FR-S perfect car for me now? No. Is it a car I wish I could own? Yes.
It’s a manageable car to drive from point A to Point B that could double as a track or drift car in a second. It’s also the perfect car to shake things up amongst manufacturers and remind them to build fun to drive, rear wheel drive, cars at a lower price point.
*Sorry there are not any detail oriented photos with this review, I somehow managed to erase all of them from my card prior to downloading them.
**Yes I did, no there isn’t video.