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Scion deviates from original game plan with FR-S sports car

Back in 2002 when the game plan was unveiled, Toyota launched its Scion brand to hopefully capture a younger, hipper segment of car buyers.

While the targeted Generation Y folks seemed to warm to the idea of owning these quirky styling, inexpensive vehicles, the ultra boxy xB wagon and the xA hatchback (which lasted just three years) certainly weren't being embraced by the masses.

More than a decade after making its North American debut, Scion has done some experimenting, expanding the brand, which this year includes the more conventional Scion FR-S, its first true sports car.

2013 Scion FR-S

  • Performance: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 200 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 25-34 mpg
  • Price: $24,200
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; corrosion 5 years/unlimited; roadside assistance 2 years/25,000

Judging from its near-unanimous reception among automobile experts, Scion is going to sell quite a few FR-S models. There's plenty to admire about this light weight, attractive sports car that has surprisingly good performance, delivers admirable gas mileage (25-34 mpg), and is priced very reasonably at $24,200. By the way, that price is by far the highest among any Scion vehicle.

Not only will this vehicle appeal to younger car buyers, there's little doubt that it's a suitable for any driver who likes to experience fun behind the wheel. And the FR-S will definitely deliver that. It's an engaging rear-wheel drive compact coupe that's easy to maneuver and goes 0-60 mph in 6.6 seconds. It shows some trepidation when climbing hills, but on flat roads it zips along quite nicely.

My primary complaint with the 2013 Scion FR-S - it isn't offered as a convertible! The lone trim model has a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic that includes paddle shifters.

Scion can't take total credit for producing a vehicle that will please the masses. The FR-S was co-developed with Subaru and has a twin in the Subaru BRZ, which shares the same long front end, smallish tail, swooping roofline, and weighs less than 3,000 pounds. They both feature a 2.0-liter, "boxer" four-cylinder that creates 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque.

However, don't mistake these two as identical twins. The BRZ has a slightly different suspension, comes in two trims, and there are deviations from the FR-S in both standard equipment and price. The BRZ goes for $25,495 and hikes to $27,495 for the limited model.

The appealing new Hyundai Genesis Coupe is one primary rival for these two Japanese sports cars and starts at an even lower price ($22,250) and has a half dozen models in its impressive lineup. The next closest competitor for the FR-S and BRZ is the Mazda Miata, which lacks a rear seat and isn't rear-wheel drive.

Unlike other Scions, the FR-S has a very basic cabin setup with the exception of its fine audio system. Note that there are very few luxury options.

Seating and comfort are fine in the FR-S front seat, but don't even consider trying to put your friends in the backseat, or they may quickly become ex-friends. The trunk space of 6.9 cubic feet is diminutive as well. The recommendation here is forget about this nearly useless back seat and keep it folded down so at least the FR-S becomes cargo friendly.

A lack of roominess can be overlooked. Remember, the FR-S is a sports car, not a vehicle designed for a family. It's a unique offering in today's market with a low sticker-price and many enviable qualities, the most obvious being it's attractive and fun to drive. And isn't that the essence what people want in a sports car?

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Weidel on Wheels author Jeffrey Weidel is an award-winning writer from the Sacramento region who has reviewed automobiles for more than two decades. He can be reached at skiweidel@gmail.com
Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.



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