By Staff Contributor.
Low power, but large fun, it’s a simple philosophy that makes the average automotive enthusiast a happy puppy. Put an engine up front, attach a manual gearbox to it, and then send all of the power being produced out to the rear wheels. Sounds easy, right? Well, machines like that are either expensive or more and more rare. Still, a few automakers have stuck to their guns, and a few others are returning to them.
Case-in-point is the Scion FR-S. This is a car that brings a bit of the classic sporty Toyota heritage back to life. Remember when the Celica was cool? Remember how amazing the Supra was (and even still is)? Go back even further and you’ll wind up at the 2000GT, a car cool enough for James Bond himself.
One company that hasn’t gone away from this ethos of fun, however, is Mazda. This plucky automaker has been churning out the MX-5, AKA the Miata, for decades now and the formula remains the same. Take Japanese reliability and pair it with the mentality of classic British motoring. Voila! Instant automotive legend status.
Let’s figure out which represents the best bang for your buck though, because there’s a bit of a price difference. The MX-5 has been in this game longer, comes with a droppable top, and personifies the term “driver’s car”. I think you can imagine that this will be the more expensive one of the pair, and you’re right. Sure it starts in the high 20,000 range but you’ll soon wind up above 30,000 once you tick a few boxes off the options list. The Scion, on the other hand, has a bit more of a bland interior but does offer a bigger trunk and an actual back seat for folks who better be the opposite of tall. It’s more of a parcel shelf with seat belts but it’s more than the 2013 Mazda MX-5 offers. Additionally, the 2013 Scion FR-S can be yours for a price tag placed right in the mid-$20,000 range.
The real key to deciding, which is the driver’s car king comes down to one thing… um, how it drives. All of the television commercials and salty automotive journalists will tell you that the FR-S is a drift car king. It can be if you rev its brains out and drive at 11/10ths. When driving in a normal enthusiastic manner, however, it’s a brilliant machine that devours any canyon road or track. It is, as you may have heard, a bit down on power and you’ll lose to lesser machines on straightaways. In the curves though, it’s a dream machine.
Let’s get to the real winner here though, because this one was nearly over before it started. Yes it costs more, yes it’s more cramped inside, and yes it remains the greatest driver’s car situated on the good side of $35,000. The handling is downright telepathic, the brakes haul in speed effortlessly and the wail of the engine brings brains back to the era of carbureted twin-cam screamers. Save up the extra pennies kids, and get yourself the real king; the Mazda MX-5.