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2013 Scion FR-S: Best Car To Buy 2013 Nominee

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The recipe doesn't seem all that hard: light weight, a fun but not extraordinary engine, balanced handling, and an affordable price. But so few companies bother to make such a concoction, it seems almost magical when a new one lands on our plate.

Those are the ingredients of an entry-level sports coupe--and they're a good description of the 2013 Scion FR-S. Those assets are also the reason it's up for our Best Car To Buy 2013 award.

Like its Subaru BRZ twin, and the Toyota GT-86 not sold in the U.S. (at least in name), the FR-S is the fruit of a Toyota-Subaru partnership--thankfully biased toward the Subaru end of the spectrum.

At about 2,700 pounds, with 200 horsepower at the crank, and a tight, short-shifting six-speed manual transmission, the FR-S has the foundation of a good sports coupe. Add to that some rather impressive suspension tuning that balances minimal body roll with ride quality that's fit for daily life, a well-built and handsome interior, and a price tag around $25,000, and you have one of the most fantastic cars released in 2013.

It's behind the wheel, not on the spec sheet, where the FR-S really shines, however.

Steering is precise, if not exactly feedback-laden, but it allows you to place the car wherever you'd like, repeatably. Experienced shoes will find the pedals just as good at turning the car under the right circumstances, with brakes and throttle allowing a masterful dance of trail-braking and oversteer. Slightly stiffer rear springs and bushings give the FR-S a touch more tail-happy behavior, though by our calibrated butts, the result is a car that's simply neutral--which is just about perfect.

While you won't be hauling four people across country in the FR-S, the rear seat is surprisingly spacious and useful (once you're back there), and the trunk has plenty of room for a couple of carry-on or overnight bags. Plus, it gets a very respectable 22/30 mpg city/highway in manual transmission form--not fantastic for a small four-cylinder car, but well within the range for a sports car.

2013 Scion FR-S

2013 Scion FR-S

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While the 25/34 mpg rating of the automatic might be attractive, it gets there by gearing the FR-S to the point of accelerative boredom. With an already none-too-powerful (but fun to rev) engine, the automatic is a non-starter for the enthusiast--or should be.

With the only real differences between the FR-S and BRZ limited to standard equipment items (the FR-S is available without navigation, and is therefore slightly lighter) and appearance items like the front and rear bumpers, the less-expensive FR-S is only slightly different from the BRZ--which we'll highlight tomorrow for its own strengths and weaknesses.

Follow the link for more nominees and information about our Best Car To Buy 2013 award, and be sure to check back December 10th, when we announce the winner.
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