A 2016 Scion FR-S plus the Apache Trail make for a fine day of driving. With an automatic transmission instead of a manual, will it still be as fun and exhilarating?

To start with, styling for the 2016 Scion FR-S is identical to the 2015. No big changes here. It comes with rather sedate looking 17-inch alloy wheels. And on those wheels are also rather sedate 215-45R17 tires from Michelin.

The front fascia was trend setting when the FR-S was new, but the sharp and angular look has now been spread to almost all Toyota models. Which leads me to the question, why not just call this what it is, a Toyota.

At the rear of our tester here, you can see something different though. We have optioned the TRD exhaust system which has downright huge delta shaped exhaust tips. It’s pricey at $1100 bucks, but really amps up the sound.

The interior of the FR-S did get some new style for 2016. What you see that’s new here is mainly the bright silver trim on the doors and the steering wheel. With the automatic, it has paddle shifters on the wheel too.

Ahead of the steering wheel is still a nicely laid out and simple instrument cluster that’s easy to read. The center stack is as simple as they come too, no climate control or endless gadgets here. And that for some reason pleases me on this particular car.

There’s also a new standard Pioneer audio system for 2016 that has a very good sound quality for a base unit. It’s touchscreen is easy to use, it offers voice controls, and a variety of connectivity options.

You can add additional things at the dealer like Satellite radio and navigation, but the new backup camera is now standard. I think it’s a nice unit and thus technology gets scored at 5 out of 5 stars.

The seats in this car are positively fantastic. Unlike the Recaros in the Mustang I recently tested, I can sit in these comfortably all day long with no pain as a result. The cloth fabric grips you well and it breathes in the heat. I do wish leather was an available option though.

16-scion-frs-17On the console by the way, the automatic shifter looks remarkably similar to a manual one. At its base are the drive mode controls, which include a Track oriented sport mode that significantly disables the traction and stability control nannies.

There are a couple costs here to this being a compact sports car. Storage is at a minimum with no center console compartment. And, the back seat is there to make your insurance rates lower, not really add passenger capacity.

The trunk though is nicely sized for a car like this. You can fold the rear seat forward a bit, but not flat unless you really push the front seats up. And I am particularly happy to say there is a spare tire under the floor.

This is key, because I picked up a bolt on the freeway on my first day with the FR-S. If this car had a can of fix-a-flat and an air pump I would have been stranded with my only option being call a tow truck. So kudos to Scion for this, this cherry on top gives the FR-S 5 of 5 stars for its interior.

16-scion-frs-9Under the hood is the shared engine with Subaru, a 2.0 liter flat-four boxer engine. This one has Toyota’s D4-S fuel injection system though, with both port and direct injection. This nets out a nice 200 naturally aspirated horsepower.

While I usually prefer a manual transmission in a sports car, this autobox goes a long way to smoothing out the rough edges of this engine. Because it shifts at a lower rpm than we usually might with a manual, the racket is reduced.

The transmission itself does fine job, snapping off face slapping shifts. The paddle shifters work ok, but it does a fine job on its own. And here with the TRD exhaust, the extra sound from the rear offsets the noise from under the hood well enough to make it all quite enjoyable.

The EPA city fuel economy is 25 mpg and highway being 34 mpg. In my week with the FR-S I achieved 31 mpg combined which is well more than the EPA promised 28 combined. And with that I give the powertrain 4 of 5 stars.

16-scion-frs-4The chassis of the FR-S follows the time-honored sports car formula. That’s rear wheel drive, a fully independent suspension, good brakes, and a light overall curb weight. And on our tester, they added in the optional TRD rear sway bar for some extra flavor.

This car really comes live on the track. But, even on public roads you can still stretch its legs and feel its cat like reflexes. The suspension tune is stiff, they didn’t compromise here to please all. Grip is only held back by run-of-the-mill tires, but that’s ok for most daily life driving on this car.

With steering that feels just right, brakes that well more than adequate, and an overall level of refinement, this thing is just plain fun.

16-scion-frs-20Putting a smile on my face up here on the Apache Trail is always advantageous when it comes to scoring the chassis. And when you add the fact it’s suspension remained well composed even on the rougher section, it earned an easy 5 of 5 stars in this area.

Overall quality here too is an area where FR-S makes this all look so easy. Aside for a rattle or two inside over rough pavement, the build of this car is solid. The finishes and fit of all its parts were virtually flawless, earning it 5 of 5 stars for quality feel.

In safety, the Scion FR-S continues to impress as the IIHS awarded it their coveted Top Safety Pick. It achieved good results in most tests and an acceptable on in their small overlap test. Crash prevention technologies aren’t available here, so it’s not eligible for Top Safety Pick +.

With a price of $28,900 with the options it has, our Scion FR-S has a bang for the buck recipe which is hard to duplicate out there in the market. There simply just aren’t any direct competitors at this price in terms of content or form.

Thus the Sense of Value score is 5 of 5 stars. Combined with the rest of the categories the 2016 Scion FR-S earns 5 of 5 stars for our test.