2014 Scion FR-S Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
August 15, 2014

Simply built and beautifully executed, the 2014 Scion FR-S is a true sports car.

The 2014 Scion FR-S is an enthusiast's dream: light, agile, and affordable. Even compared to cars costing twice as much or more, the FR-S is one of the most engaging new cars around. The 2014 model carries into the new model year largely unchanged.

The FR-S isn't your typical Scion. Economy and practicality are still evident, but they're not the priority. Instead, the Toyota-styled, Subaru-built sports car is engineered from the ground up to be fun.

Simple surfaces and classic proportions give the outline of the FR-S. Details at the nose and tail give a modern, aerodynamic look to the car. Inside, the 2014 Scion FR-S is basic, but well-built and handsome, if not quite beautiful.

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Under the hood you'll find a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine rated at 200 horsepower. The engine doesn't develop much torque at all, especially low in the rev range, with most of the power living toward the top of the 7,400-rpm tachometer.

Once you've reconciled yourself with grabbing the Boxer four by the nape of its neck and squeezing for all it's worth, the FR-S becomes a second skin. Nimble, light (by modern standards), and incredibly neutral in its balance, the Scion FR-S captures the essence of what a sports car should be: honest, inexpensive fun.

Steering is a bit of a low point, with the electric power assist taking out much of the feel, leaving behind an intuitive and quick, but not very communicative, wheel. The brakes are easy to modulate and adequate to the car's weight and tire fitment, easily surviving a half-dozen laps on track or a long, fast canyon run.

Sitting the FR-S isn't a chore, either. Though there's a sound pipe to bring some of the car's growling engine note into the cabin, very little actual exhaust noise is heard at all. Wind and road noise can become prominent at speeds above 70 mph.

But the seats, in the front, are where the FR-S's interior really shines. Well-bolstered, comfortable, with plenty of leg and hip room for larger and taller drivers, the front seats are an excellent offering for a production vehicle. The rear seat is best reserved for children and shorter adults, though it is serviceable for even six-footers in a pinch.

On the equipment front, there's not much to talk about: the Scion FR-S only has a few choices to be made. Fortunately, those choices include available premium audio with apps capability, while standard gear includes Bluetooth, keyless entry, and climate control.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the FR-S a five-star overall score, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated it 'good' in all categories--although it hasn't yet been tested in the new small overlap frontal category. 

The 2014 Scion FR-S hasn't been crash-tested yet, but it is unchanged from the 2013 model year, so it should score well. Last year's results didn't include small-overlap front tests, however. With six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control all among the standard safety equipment, we expect the 2014 Scion FR-S to be a good performer in future crash testing.

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2014 Scion FR-S

Styling

Simple, classic, and modern and fun, the 2014 Scion FR-S looks like it drives.

Classic Japanese sports cars inspired the 2014 Scion FR-S's design, but it's an entirely modern car, from the badge on the nose to the one on the tail.

Sleek, low, and curvy, the FR-S manages the old-school long hood/short deck proportions that, for many, define the look of a sports car. Detail work at the nose includes a wide grille opening, sharply angled vents in the lower fascia, and smooth curves that flow into the hood and fenders.

The fenders themselves are slightly flared, and also bulge upward from the hood line. A simple side profile sees the roof sweep up and dive down again in a graceful arc, meeting the rear fenders and stubby tail.

The cabin of the FR-S follows this sports-first, minimalist aesthetic, using carbon-look accents and durable plastics molded in flowing, simple lines. The nearly monochromatic upholstery helps put the gauge cluster front-and-center for the driver.

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2014 Scion FR-S

Performance

Light, nimble, with approachable limits, the 2014 Scion FR-S is one of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road.

With just one engine and two transmissions available in the 2014 Scion FR-S, it's easy to pick the variant you want. Fortunately, both configurations reward the driver with curve after curve of driving pleasure thanks to the solid, well-tuned chassis.

Power isn't the Scion FR-S's strong suit. A 200-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder horizontally opposed ("Boxer") engine sits low and rearward in the nose, linked to either a six-speed manual or a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic powering the rear wheels. Maximum torque output is 151 pound-feet, arriving at 400 rpm short of the 7,000-rpm power peak. Neither power nor torque figures are impressive, even for a lightweight sports car. Fortunately, the FR-S is less about its 6.8-second 0-60 mph time than it is about what it does entering a corner at 60 mph.

What the FR-S does in corners is convert gasoline and $25,000 into an infinite supply of fun behind the wheel. Light, tossable, and balanced, the limits of the Scion FR-S aren't very high, thanks in part to fairly low-grip standard tires, but they're very approachable, and, best of all, it's easy to keep the FR-S near those limits--a feat almost impossible, on the street or the track, in stratospherically high-performance cars.

A number of factory performance upgrades are also available, including: a cold-air intake; an exhaust system; lowering springs; strut tie braces; anti-roll bars; upgraded wheels; and larger brake kits.

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2014 Scion FR-S

Comfort & Quality

The 2014 Scion FR-S is comfortable and well-made for its price, but don't expect to seat four full-sized adults.

The low price tag and performance focus of the 2014 Scion FR-S might make you think it's cheaply made, especially inside, but you'd be wrong. In fact, the FR-S's interior, though simple and fairly spartan, looks and feels rather nice.

The front seats are roomy and comfortable, while also offering enough bolstering for support during spirited driving. Head and leg room are also quite good, accommodating drivers over six feet tall with ease. The rear seats are small, and only minimal knee and leg room is available with the front seats at their rearmost positions. With slightly shorter front-row occupants, the rear seat can work even for taller adults, but on the whole, it's best reserved for children and gear.

Cargo space isn't abundant, but it's not bad for a two-plus-two coupe. The trunk is reasonably sized with a well-shaped aperture allowing medium-sized bags to fit easily. The rear seats also fold flat to open up much more horizontal space, though taller items won't fit in the trunk.

Scion says the FR-S was designed to hold four wheels and tires, a toolbox, and a helmet--all you need for a basic day at the track.

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2014 Scion FR-S

Safety

The 2014 Scion FR-S isn't yet rated, but last year's model earned a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the FR-S a five-star overall score, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated it 'good' in all categories--although it hasn't yet been tested in the new small overlap frontal category. 

Standard safety equipment includes the basics, like six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability & traction control. A limited-slip differential improves low-grip traction and starts from a stop.

Advanced technology safety features like blind-spot monitors and lane-keeping aren't available in the Scion FR-S, but, at the $25,000 price point, that's understandable.

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2014 Scion FR-S

Features

A handful of options and a basic set of standard equipment help keep the Scion FR-S focused on driving.

As with the engine and transmission selection, there's just not much on the menu of the 2014 Scion FR-S. Fortunately, what's there is good.

Most of the options and upgrades can be had a la carte, rather than bundled into pricey packages, making it easier to get just the FR-S you want, without stuff you don't need. Highlights of the standard equipment include: manually adjustable six-way driver and four-way passenger front seats; fold-flat rear seats; a first-aid kit; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; eight-speaker Pioneer audio system; USB/Bluetooth/auxiliary inputs; and more.

Some of the optional extras for the FR-S include: BeSpoke premium audio with a 5.8-inch LCD touchscreen display and 340-watt output and limited apps capability; plus accessories including wheel locks, carpeted trunk and cabin floor mats, an ashtray kit, and mud guards.

One notable absence is navigation, which isn't available on the FR-S. The BeSpoke apps capability can add some limited navigation functionality, but for an FR-S with navigation, you'll want to check out the Subaru BRZ.

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2014 Scion FR-S

Fuel Economy

It's no gas hog, but the 2014 Scion FR-S isn't as efficient as we expect a low-power, lightweight car to be.

With just two powertrain options defined by the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission, you might think there wouldn't be much variation in the gas mileage of the Scion FR-S. Again, you'd be wrong.

The manual-transmission Scion FR-S rates 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway for 25 mpg combined. Those are good, but not especially impressive figures for a compact, lightweight four-cylinder car.

With the automatic transmission those figures move considerably to 25 mpg city, 34 mpg highway, and 28 mpg combined--much more on the target you'd expect for the FR-S.

With 455-horsepower sports cars like the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray achieving as much as 30 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, the Scion FR-S's 200 horsepower and 25-28 mpg combined rating is underwhelming.

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Styling 8
Performance 10
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 7
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