I Did What All Fathers of Young Children Do - I Traded My Scion FR-S for Something Less Practical
A lot of life changes occurred in conjunction with the sale of my old website, GoodCarBadCar. We also sold the family home in Nova Scotia, moved to rural Prince Edward Island, and quickly began spending more time behind the wheel of a Husqvarna lawn tractor than behind the wheel of any car.
From an automotive standpoint, however, the major ensuing change involved the acquisition of an older Miata. A lifelong dream became a 14-month possession, costing scarcely a dollar while entirely living up to expectations. But with a second toy acquired, in the form of a Suzuki Kingquad, attempting to justify the use of a seasonal two-seater seemed laughable considering there are two young children at home.
Naturally, I sold the Miata and bought that famed minivan alternative, a 2013 Scion FR-S. (Our family vehicle is a 2018 Honda Odyssey.)
10 months later, with most of the time spent on winter tires, the FR-S is gone. It was just too practical. Too flexible. Too reasonable. Too functional. Too pragmatic.
With little inner capacity for nostalgia, the two weeks I’ve since spent without the FR-S haven’t been difficult. Even when a long weekend on the mainland revealed the FR-S to be nigh common, as opposed to the weeks that could go by without seeing another on the Island, I didn’t miss my Toyobaru, just as I don’t miss the Miata. I nevertheless have all kinds of regret for the fact that cars of their ilk – relatively quick and reasonably affordable sports cars that major on feel and interactivity – are growing ever more scarce.
It’s no wonder. An ardent manual-transmission evangelist, with an appetite for steering via the rear end and completing extra laps around roundabouts, can still acknowledge that conventional vehicles hold increasing appeal for the majority of driving situations. Not only are ordinary compact or midsize cars greater performers than at any point in the past, they also offer far greater refinement than ever before, plus more equipment and more space.
How many car buyers care that the swift and capable Honda Civic EX is missing a third pedal, steering feel, rapid turn-in, or a lively rear end? More likely, most car buyers will be unexpectedly wooed by the perception of performance in something like a turbocharged Civic while also swayed by the space and features.
And what does a sporting rear-wheel-drive coupe like the FR-S offer that a regular car doesn’t: style, exclusivity, and a communicative chassis? Pfft. That’s not an easy argument to make to the general public.
Nevertheless, despite the stiff highway ride and the sometimes obnoxious drone of road/wind/engine noise, the FR-S/86/BRZ is a car every car lover should try before they die.
I had wondered, after previous experiences with the car, whether it was as raw an experience as I’d recalled. I needn’t have wondered.
After 10 months in the FR-S, it’s so focused I’m surprised it’s still being built. In fact, I’m surprised it got past a conservative automaker’s inherent internal hurdles during its development phase. Although the avid enthusiast exalts in the sharp steering, world-class shifter, and the sheer tossability of this lightweight coupe, most passengers were unpleasantly surprised to discover that it’s not just a style exercise; that it’s not a small two-door with the mannerisms of a Camry Solara. Then comes the intimidation factor – even on winter tires with all electronic nannies engaged, the FR-S’s rear end comes around in a hurry on the snowy roads that persist through much of a PEI winter. Drivers who grew up in FWD cars before making the move to AWD crossovers assume this behaviour is linked to calamitous outcomes.
The FR-S is truly far outside the mainstream. That explains the difficulty I had selling the car. The young car lovers who wanted the FR-S suffered from one of two issues: a lack of funds, or a burning desire for the car to have an automatic transmission.
One such shopper wanted me to double check that it wasn’t, in fact, an automatic. (As if I wouldn’t know?) Another messaged multiple times over the course of a week, convinced he’d pay $2K more than the CAD $15K asking price if only it was an automatic. That was a modification I was unwilling to undertake.
The process was a pain, with a bevy of inquirers who were worried about anything from valve springs and nonexistent rust to eventual clutch replacement cost and even proximity. No, I can’t deliver the car to Newfoundland.
None of this explains why I decided it was time to off-load the Scion in the first place, especially since I actually found the lack of winter traction only made the FR-S into a more fun-loving caricature of itself.
For starters, the nature of my work does not require me to drive my own car every day. Second, it truly is a miserable car at a steady 60mph cruise. Third, the kids fit in the rear seat when required to do so, but getting them out when they were sleeping requires prior contortionist training with Cirque du Soleil. Finally, I wasn’t in love with the perceived quality, a fact I was willing to overlook when purchasing but increasingly found worrisome.
So I did what all fathers of young children do when faced with selling their once-beloved fun car. I traded it for a motorcycle.
Young and foolish I remain, but a 2018 Suzuki DR-Z400SM (on Continential TKC80 rubber rather than the stock Dunlop street tires) is wildly more fun, far less costly to buy and run, and capable of absolutely conquering an island that’s criss-crossed by red dirt roads.
The NVH is a bit iffy, though. I’ll give you that.
Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.
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