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In 2013, an audacious Japanese partnership launched a single sports car design destined for Subaru, Toyota and Scion showrooms. Only two of the three models made it to the U.S. market. One of them—the Scion FR-S—is the no-frills bargain of the bunch. It features the same mechanical platform as its Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 brethren, but with fewer standard features and a lower base price.
The FR-S features a 2-liter boxer engine—developed mostly by Subaru—that cranks out an impressive-for-its-displacement 200 horsepower and an acceptable 151 pound-feet of torque. As standard, this engine links up with a six-speed manual transmission, but you can opt for a six-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The manual FR-S can hit 60 mph in about 6.6 seconds, and return 22 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. An automatic transmission slows this dash to just under eight seconds, but offers gains in fuel economy: 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
You won't win any drag races with the FR-S. And while it isn't a straight-line monster, it is an agile sports car that wants to be thrown through the curves. MacPherson struts up front and a double-wishbone setup at the rear aid in this pursuit, as do 18mm (front) and 14mm (rear) sway bars.
The FR-S comes rather well-equipped for its class, but offers no options and is in no way a luxury sports coupe. Not that its buyers expect it to be. But they might not like sluggish acceleration with the automatic transmission, or its light torque supply with an odd dip between about 3,200 and 4,500 rpm.
Scion intends the FR-S to be a simple sports car with just the right amount of amenities to keep most buyers happy. With this intention in mind, Scion only offers one trim level for the FR-S, and it comes standard with: power side-view mirrors with folding feature; dual exhaust; auto-on/off projector headlights with daytime running lights; 17-inch alloy wheels; air conditioning; power windows and door locks with keyless entry; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; cruise control; red contrasting stitching and accents; sport pedals; a fold-flat rear seat; and an AM/FM/CD/Pioneer radio with Bluetooth connectivity, an HD Radio, aux-in jack, eight speakers and a USB port with iPod connectivity.
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201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet in Si model, sport look and low price, but not as agile or quick as FR-S
The grandfather of cheap sports cars, convertible top and options galore, but slower to 60 and seats only two
274-horsepower base model, 5.7 seconds to 60 mph and V6 option, but poor audio system and pricey options
Inexpensive V6 model, 305-horsepower base model and 31 mpg highway, but slow to 60 and not very agile