Saturday, December 31, 2016

Correction: This is my last Scion review; 2016 Scion FR-S

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The small sport coupe is a small niche in the U.S. car market, but for shoppers who want nimble handling, peppy performance and good looks in a small package -- and can't abide the thought of four doors -- Scion's updated 2016 FR-S remains one of the best choices available. It's a back-to-basics, lightweight sports car with rear-wheel drive, excellent balance and an affordable price.
     Driving characteristics are the main draw for the 2016 Scion FR-S (co-developed with Subaru, which offers a twin in the Subaru BRZ). The FR-S nimbly zips around turns, yet it's not intimidating to drive hard like a lot of high-horsepower, rear-drive coupes can be. The FR-S gets pretty respectable gas mileage, too: 28 mpg combined with the six-speed automatic transmission, 25 mpg with the six-speed manual.
     While it is quite entertaining to drive, there are some drawbacks with the 2016 FR-S. Its 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine is capable but lacks the low-end oomph that competitors with larger engines can offer. The FR-S can also feel a bit insubstantial in the way it responds to road impacts, and seems noisy during long highway drives. It's not the most practical thing, either. The trunk is relatively small and the rear seats are pretty much useless, even for small children. It's best to think of the FR-S as a functional two-seater.
     By offering a two-door body, 2+2 seating layout and sporty, rear-wheel-drive driving dynamics for a relatively low price, Scion plunks the 2016 FR-S into a segment with only a few direct rivals. Chief among them is its twin, the Subaru BRZ, which is nearly identical. If you desire stronger acceleration, the Nissan 370Z is an option, though it can be considerably more expensive. If practicality drives your decision-making, you can have a lot of fun in front-wheel-drive hatchbacks like the Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper S. Whatever you compare it to, though, the 2016 Scion FR-S stands out as a stylish and elemental small sports car that gives you a great driving experience. It's definitely worth a look.
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     The 2016 Scion FR-S sport coupe comes in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a 7-inch touchscreen, voice commands, HD radio, Aha radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB interface.
Other than exterior color and transmission choices, Scion doesn't offer any factory options for the FR-S. Instead, there's an array of dealer-installed accessories such as foglights, performance parts and a premium BeSpoke sound system with navigation, additional smartphone app integration and Internet radio.

    A 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine generating 200 hp and 151 pound-feet of torque is the only power plant for the 2016 Scion FR-S. You can mate it to either the standard six-speed manual transmission or the optional six-speed automatic with paddle shifters and rev-matched downshifts. The six-speed manual 2016 FR-S returns a respectable EPA estimate of 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway), while the automatic achieves an impressive 28 mpg combined (25/34).

    Standard safety features on the 2016 Scion FR-S include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In government crash tests, the Scion FR-S received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal crash protection and five stars for total side impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded it the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact, roof-strength and head restraint/seat (whiplash protection) tests. The Scion received the second-highest score of "Acceptable" in the small-overlap frontal-offset test.

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Scion has made few concessions to style or luxury in the 2016 FR-S cabin. It's an environment that emphasizes driving, punctuated only by a blend of Toyota and Subaru switchgear and materials. The FR-S's cockpit looks a little bare compared with other compact sports cars in its price range, yet it also feels like a genuine back-to-basics driver's car. Touches of silver-tone trim around the previously all-black interior help lighten up the 2016 FR-S a bit.

     The FR-S's front seats are comfortable for long-distance trips while providing firm support for hard driving. Drivers of just about any size can find a suitable driving position, and the low-profile hood allows an expansive view of the road ahead. Scion has updated the touchscreen-based audio system this year, so there's probably less of a reason this year to go for the upgraded BeSpoke system unless you really want navigation and smartphone app integration.
     In the backseat, legroom is next to nil, heads bob perilously close to the rear glass and the center tunnel impedes hiproom. Trunk space is minuscule at 6.9 cubic feet, although folding down the mostly useless rear seat expands cargo-carrying abilities considerably. 

    The 2016 Scion FR-S is not a car built for sizzling straight-line performance. Its moderately powered 2.0-liter engine revs willingly and lets out a nice snarl at high rpm, but we're still talking about outright acceleration that's no better than that of a modern V6 family sedan.

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     In Scion's defense, moderation is part of the car's design, anyway. It's light and nimble, so you look for excuses to take it for a spin and drive it a little farther or harder than you need to because it's so entertaining. The FR-S defines what sports car driving is all about.
     From a practical standpoint, the FR-S does a decent job in long-distance highway travel. It's not loud, exactly, but it certainly isn't serene at higher cruising speeds. Most drivers will be pleased with the compliant ride quality, but the car's lightweight nature means it can feel somewhat insubstantial compared to bigger and heavier sport coupes. 


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