By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.4
The 2016 Scion FR-S looks inside to find room for improvement, and finds some. The dash gets a few tasteful upgrades that improve the appearance, and the audio system sports an all-new interface that greatly improves on the old one, and a standard rearview camera. Luckily, Scion knows to leave the good parts alone, so the 200-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, crisp-shifting 6-speed manual, and sport-tuned suspension remain. With a starting price of about $27,000 with destination charges included, the 2016 FR-S is a strong competitor for the fun-while-driving crowd, combining the light weight and affordability of the all-new Mazda MX-5 Miata and the hardtop feel of 6-cylinder versions of the new Ford Mustang, all wrapped in sheet metal that's the most aggressive ever from Scion.
The 2016 Scion FR-S has one job, and it does it well: It's fun to drive. Designed to be driven to the track, at the track, and home again, the Scion FR-S is almost without equal, save for the mechanically identical Subaru BRZ.
While nimble and quick, the 2016 FR-S isn't fast in a straight line, so muscle-car enthusiasts should skip it. Similarly, if you're not a driving enthusiast but love the sharp looks of the FR-S, you might not like the stiff ride, highway noise or cramped interior.
KBB Expert Ratings
The 2016 Scion FR-S gets subtle refinements to the interior, with different silver trim, new stitching on the dash, and a new audio system interface that greatly improves the listening experience. The 2016 FR-S also gets a new rearview camera, a welcome improvement considering the poor view when backing up.
Last year's suspension improvements to the Scion FR-S carry over to this year, and we couldn't be happier. More stable in corners but no less quick or...
... fun around a track, the suspension improvements help improve driver confidence. But make no mistake, this is still a driver's car, and while it's easier for an amateur to have fun, it's still especially rewarding for an experienced driver. Flick the slick-shifting 6-speed manual into gear, keep the engine revving high, and you'll find the 2.0-liter flat-4 provides plenty of thrust. The suspension lost its tail-happy tendencies last year, and while the drift-kids may complain, it makes for an easier-to-drive and quicker car all around. However, Scion’s FR-S sports car is a hassle in town. The stiff suspension is unforgiving over broken pavement, it's pretty loud inside on the highway, and the tight interior is a squeeze for taller drivers.
The 2016 Scion FR-S comes standard with a touch-screen audio system, and has since its introduction. However, this year it borrows the interface we've been enjoying on many of its Toyota siblings, and it's a huge improvement. We hope that steering-wheel-mounted controls are next on the agenda.
TORSEN LIMITED-SLIP DIFFERENTIAL
Some of the credit for the excellent handling you get in a Scion FR-S must go to the Torsen limited-slip differential. It operates to send power to the rear wheel that needs it most in turns, ensuring extra grip and safe passage through sharp corners.
There's no denying that there's not a huge amount of room inside a 2016 FR-S, but it's only the tallest drivers who would call it cramped. Not only is there good headroom and legroom, but Scion has cleverly carved out space for just about everything you'll want to have with you. The cruise-control and air-conditioning controls are all easy to use, and the new touch-screen audio system is easier to use than its predecessor. The rear seat is mostly decorative, and we suggest just folding it down to augment the meager cargo space in the trunk.
Calling the 2016 Scion FR-S “small” isn't quite right. Instead, it's just really space-efficient, being exactly as big as it needs to be, and no larger. The design is also undeniably cool, with a low-slung stance, wide fenders, sleek headlights, and sporty taillights that look like it doesn't want to stand still for long. But there's nothing overwrought about the styling, no obtuse flares or outsized wings on the trunk, although an active aftermarket can supply those accessories if you're so inclined.
Scion certainly makes buying a 2016 FR-S easy. There's only one well-equipped trim level that includes air conditioning, cruise control, one-touch power windows, power mirrors and door locks. It also comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and the new touch-screen audio system that includes auxiliary and USB inputs. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard. On the safety front, all FR-S's feature stability control, traction control, six airbags and Smart Stop, a feature that cuts engine power if the brake and throttle pedals are pressed at the same time.
Factory options for the 2016 Scion FR-S sports car are slim. There's a 6-speed automatic transmission that includes steering wheel-mounted paddles for rev-matching downshifts, but seriously, this car deserves a manual transmission. The other factory option is a BeSpoke audio system that includes navigation. Other than that, there are color choices and a host of dealer-installed extras that include 18-inch wheels, upgraded brakes, lowering springs, a rear spoiler and other items.
The 200-horsepower horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine in the 2016 Scion FR-S is part of the reason this sports coupe feels so nimble. The unusual design puts more weight lower to the ground, reducing body roll and contributing to the flat stance the FR-S has in corners. The engine comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, which is the clear choice for enthusiasts looking to wring the most out of the FR-S on track day. However, we'd suggest skipping the TRD short-shift kit, which ruins the feel of gear changes. A 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters is also available, but aside from getting better fuel economy – up to 34 mpg on the highway – we don't think it offers any advantage over the manual.
200 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 6,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 mpg (manual), 25/34 mpg (automatic)
The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2016 Scion FR-S starts at $26,100 including the $770 destination charge. Add $1,200 if you want the BeSpoke audio system. Unless you're really looking to save fuel, we'd recommend skipping the $1,100 automatic transmission. That makes the 2016 FR-S pretty competitive against sports-car rivals like the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the new Mazda MX-5 Miata. However, you'll spend less on a base-level Ford Mustang and get a roomier package in the process, albeit at the expense of driving fun. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their new Scion FR-S. Generally speaking, Scion cars have held their value, and the 2016 Scion FR-S should be more of the same.