2015 Scion FR-S Improves on a Classic Little Sports Car

When the Scion FR-S first debuted in 2012, it was immediately lauded as the return of the classic, small Japanese sports car. Yes, it was a Scion vehicle (built in partnership with Subaru), but it was a direct, familial descendant of beloved Toyota roadsters and racers of the past.

When the FR-S arrived in showrooms, it was immediately snatched up like Evian bottles in the Mojave. Scion was taking bespoke orders before the FR-S went on official sale. There were waiting lists as dealers couldn’t keep them in stock. Naturally, they ended up selling for beyond the initial asking price. In fact, that happened so often that Scion had to ask their dealers to keep their prices reasonable for everyone looking to snatch up an FR-S.

Three years later, the market settled a bit. Those who wanted one right away have theirs, so Scion and their FR-S settled into more sane sales numbers. But, while Scion redesigned much of its line this year, the automaker took the wisest, savviest course they could possibly take with the FR-S. They left it pretty much as is.

I originally drove the FR-S back in 2012 during a track event at Spring Mountain in Nevada. It was a smash hit — a fun little track car you could drive home in ample comfort. Bigger than a roadster like the Mazda MX-5, but smaller than just about every other sporty car available, it was a truly delightful driver’s car.

Related: NYIAS 2015: Scion Doubles up on iA and iM Debuts

During a weeklong test drive of the latest model (at least until the 2016s arrive in showrooms this autumn), I was looking to see if the car still had its same charm — hoping Scion didn’t mess with the mix or fix what was most definitively unbroken. Fortunately, it’s the same great little car.

The FR-S still uses a sport tuned, 2.0 liter, four cylinder engine. Its Boxer engine design allows the small, but efficient power plant to sit down low in the car for an optimum center of gravity. The boxer manages 200 horsepower, and that’s enough to get the relatively light (roughly 2,800 lbs.) FR-S moving out in front of the pack quickly. Keeping weight down allows what is a very responsive machine to pull down mpg of 25 city, 34 highway.

This is not a powerful, straight line fast car. It’s not intended to be. It’s meant to sprint, to be nimble, to dance. It’s a perfect urban sports car because you don’t need massive power in tight city confines to stay out of trouble and beat the next guy to a parking space. You need quickness, responsiveness and tight handling. The FR-S came out of the gate providing that and still does with this 2015 version. 

Sadly, I had to make do with an automative transmission with sport shifters. Now, this is a tragedy because a tight, sensitive machine like the FR-S should only come with a manual. Still, we can’t blame Scion for burdening their machine with an idiot’s gearbox. Only about 10% of the feeble, sheepish American driving public know how to drive a stick. If Toyota’s little sister wants to sell its FR-S in bundles, Scion has to bow to our nation’s failings.

With a base price holding just under $25,000, the FR-S is a car any man looking for an enjoyable, yet affordable drive should explore. It’s not the most mature vehicle on the planet, so would-buyers should get in on the fun while they’re young — and while Scion keeps the FR-S as is.