Review: 2013 Scion FR-S – Great but Not Perfect

2013 scion fr-s frs front grill
2013 Scion FR-S

It’s refreshing to see a car like the 2013 Scion FR-S come to market. It’s an affordable, back to basics, light weight, rear wheel drive sport car. How many other sports cars like this can you name (other than its half brother Subaru BRZ)? Not many! Is the 2013 Scion FR-S as good as everybody says? Lets look at the details and find out.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2013 Scion FR-S $24,200 $24,997 200/151
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: BUY IT! 22/30 Combined 25 Combined 29.8

First Impressions

The FR-S has that exotic car appearance with ultra low and wide stance. Its 51.2 inch tall roofline is only 2.5 inches taller than that of a 2013 Corvette Z06. It looks special and has the curves and lines of much more expensive cars. The other lasting impression is how low you actually sit inside. The front seats are very supportive and forward visibility is excellent.


The FR-S is a car to get noticed in. The first feature that grabs your eye from the front is how low the hood line is. The four cylinder boxer engine is mounted very low in the chassis and allows for more dramatic styling. The next thing are the “hump” fenders over the front wheels. Not only do these fenders look cool, but they also help the driver know where the front wheels are and place the car precisely in corners.

The FR-S has a 101.2 inch wheel base and it’s under 14 feet in overall length. Given that it’s nearly six feet wide – the car appears very wide and it makes for one of the best balanced sports car chassis on the market at any price.  At the rear, you will find proper dual exhaust outlets and stylish tail lights.

2013 scion fr-s interior dash manual

The interior is all about business.  That is to say, the driver’s seat and interior layout are focused on driving and having fun while doing so.  All the controls are within easy reach and are clear to understand and use.  The gauge cluster with the large tachometer in the center and a digital speedometer readout resembles that of a Porsche.  There are some cost cutting evident on some switches and surfaces, but this can be easily overlooked given the affordable price point and the raw performance nature of this car.

You can forget about using the rear seats to carry passengers.  I was actually able to stuff a child car seat and booster back there, but I had to move my seat to a very uncomfortable position to let my five year old seat behind me.  Even so, she had to fold her legs as the legroom was still non-available.  This car is meant to be a two-seater.


At the heart of the FR-S beats a new 2.0 liter boxer four cylinder motor co-developed with Subaru.  Actually, Subaru did most of the work in the engine compartment.  My test car came with a proper 6-speed manual transmission.  Thank goodness!  I have to say, this is one of the best manuals I have ever tried.  (It’s not THE best.  That title goes to the Audi R8 6-speed gated shifter).  The clutch pedal is easy, the shifter throws are nice and short, and each gear change makes a satisfying ‘click’ sound.  It’s no rifle bolt action of the R8, but it’s the next best thing.  All six cogs in this transmission are spaced very close to each other and point to the true track ready character of the FR-S.

2013 scion fr-s engine motor bay boxer

This 2.0 liter produces 200 horsepower and 151 ft-lb of twist.  And as will all small displacement non-boosted motors, you have to wind this baby up to get the full power rating.  All the horses arrive at 7,000 rpm, while full torque arrives a little sooner at 6,600 rpm.  You will hit the rev limiter somewhere around 7,400, so you don’t have much room to play with up there.  The motor revs quickly, but it could be quicker.  It sounds good at full tilt.  It has the characteristic boxer sound, but it’s not the best sounding four cylinder four banger out there.  Also, it does not have proper sound at idle.  This is my biggest gripe with the FR-S.  When it’s warm, it idles near 600 rpm and sounds weak.


The FR-S is a driver’s pleasure.  At this price point, it’s hard to find a sports car that is better balanced or more confident than this Scion.  The engine may not have the low end grunt, but this car makes up for it in the twisties.  It will surprise you with tons of grip from the seemingly narrow tires.  The steering is precise and weighted just right.  The suspension is tuned on the stiffer side, but it won’t rattle your teeth out.  In fact, the FR-S can serve as a good daily driver in all respects expect for two nit picks.  First, it’s loud on the inside.  A lot of the road/tire noise is allowed into the cabin and most of it seems to come via the rear wheel wells.  Surely, there is weight savings to blame here.  This is just fine if you are racing on the track.  However, the road noise can get old on a long commute.  Second, the large C pillars block a lot of the rearward vision and create large blind spots.  Otherwise, the small and efficient FR-S is ready to dart you around town with great fun and precision.


Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Interior Volume Cu-Ft
2013 Scion FR-S $24,200 22/30 200/151 112.2
2013 Fiat Abarth $22,000 28/34  160/170 114.8
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo $23,100 24/35 201/195 111.8
2013 Mazda MX-5 $23,720 22/28 167/140 116.3
2013 Mini Cooper S $23,300 26/35 181/177 117.9

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Scion FR-S a Buy It!

My test car stickered at $24,997 and is a great sport car bargain. Many of the competitors may have lower base prices, but those quickly escalate after adding just a few options.  Not so with the FR-S.  You can actually get it out the door for under $25K.  My test car also surprised me with 29.8 MPG average on my usual mixed driving loop.  Wow, that’s great for a performance oriented car.  I would consider it absolutely perfect if the engine note was a little stronger, and interior noise and rearward visibility were better.  Very impressive car!

Please enjoy this TFLcar Mashup of the 2013 Scion FR-S against its close relative, the 2013 Subaru BRZ:

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, software engineer, writer, and reporter. He has been writing and reporting at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or scouring the internet and other media for various automotive, mechanical, and computer related information.