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Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S

Toyota Prius Hybrid 2014

BODY STYLE:?five-door hybrid liftback
DRIVE METHOD:?front-engine, front-wheel-drive
ENGINE:?DOHC 1.8 litre, 16-valve four cylinder with electric motor (134 net system hp)
FUEL ECONOMY:?3.7/4.0/3.8L/100km (76/71/74 mpg) city/hwy/combined
CARGO:?612 litres behind rear seats
PRICE:?$26,105 base, as tested; moonroof upgrade package $29,350; touring package $31,090; technology package $34,190

Scion FR-S 2014 at a glance

BODY STYLE: compact sporty coupe?DRIVE
METHOD: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, Torsen limited-slip differential
?ENGINE: 2.0-litre, DOHC horizontally-opposed flat-four ?Boxer? engine (200 hp, 151 lb/ft of torque)
?FUEL ECONOMY: manual – 9.5/6.5/8.1L/100km (city/hwy/comb); automatic – 8.3/5.8/7.2L/100km (city/hwy/comb)
SUSPENSION: (front) MacPherson struts, stabilizer bar; (rear) double-wishbone, stabilizer bar
?CARGO VOLUME: 196 litres
?PRICE: $26,450 (base); $28,840 (monogram series, as tested)

Practicality vs performance-who wins?

Let?s just say it?s time for a second ride and, like me, your partner already has a capable family hauler.

It could be something as soul-destroying as a minivan, or with any luck a crossover, but either way it begs the question as to whether or not the other spouse gets a pass on practicality.

I found this predicament worth exploring, and booked two vehicles that, although having similar MSRPs couldn?t be more different.

The Toyota Prius is the world?s top-selling hybrid, accounting for roughly one-third of all hybrid sales in Canada. Aside from the ?original? model Prius I drove recently (starting at $26,105), the lineup includes the smaller Prius C (from $20,440) and larger Prius V (from $27,480). There?s even a Prius Plug-In for those with more generous budgets, starting at $35,705.

Despite its eclectic styling, my tester was well equipped and spacious, with enough room for three adults in rear, and loads of gear in its 612-litre cargo hold.

And with a fuel economy rating of 3.7/4.0/3.8L/100 km (city/hwy/comb) and my actual result of 4.8L/100km, Prius is the kind of vehicle my wife could easily endorse.

Unlike the following week?s tester: the Scion FR-S.

Putting roughly the same hit on your wallet at $26,450, although my ?Monogram Series? tester was punching a little higher at $28,840, this vehicle is pretty much the antithesis of the family-friendly Prius.

FR-S is a sports car, with a long nose, short rear deck and pronounced wheel arches complementing its low-slung body.

Yes, there?s a rear seat, but you need to be a gymnast to get in, and if the front occupants are any taller than about five-foot-four, there?s zero room in back for your legs.

On the plus side, FR-S has a cargo hold, although it?s less than one-third of the Prius at 196 litres.

Here?s how a conversation with my wife might unfold:

Me: Check out my new ride. I know it looks a little pricey ? kind of like a Porsche Cayman or maybe even a Ferrari California T, but guess what, we can pick up an FR-S for less than $30K!

Frances: Same goes for a Mazda MX-5 ? and you would NOT try selling me on that.

Me: I guess not, but at least the FR-S has back seats.

Frances: And our kids have legs.

Me: We?ll just have to take YOUR car when we?re all together. Maybe the FR-S won?t carry the kids, but at least the seats fold flat ? and look at all the space. There?s enough room to take a full set of tires to the track!

Frances: Hmmm ? the track. I?d better check on that life insurance policy?

Needless to say, both cars have their place, if not in my driveway.

The Prius has been around since 1997 in Japan and since 2000 in Canada, selling more than three million worldwide.

It?s never been a stylemaker, but having been first to market and relying on its proven Hybrid Synergy Drive ? a 1.8-litre Atkinson Cycle four cylinder with high-torque electric motor generating 134 net horsepower ? the Prius continues to sell briskly despite today?s stiff competition.

My base model tester for the week had everything I?d need as a daily driver, although one could easily push its $26K pricetag north of $34K.

Standard equipment includes a touch-sensitive driver door handle with smart key and pushbutton start, automatic climate control, backup camera, Bluetooth, six-speaker audio with 6.1 inch display, tilt/telescopic steering with temperature and audio controls, and more.

The latter feature allows you to cycle through the functions with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, as the display is positioned high on the dash.

Overall, the interior of my tester was a nice mix of tones and textures, with chrome and metallic accents complementing its beige and charcoal. There?s an abundance of hard plastic, but not the shiny stuff. It looks closer to premium than entry level.

The floating centre console is a nice visual element, but practical as well with a large storage tray below and 12-volt powerpoint for smart phones and other electronics.

Pushbuttons for HVAC are easy to operate and large enough for older eyes, and instruments are deeply inset to prevent glare. There?s also a touchscreen for audio and other functions.

The Eco Drive Support Monitor includes several displays: one to show where the power is coming from, one that monitors your acceleration and helps curb any leadfoot tendencies, and another that provides feedback on how driving style affects fuel consumption.

Prius also offers three drive modes in addition to Normal. You can press ?Eco? to soften throttle response and dial down air conditioning and heating, or ?Power? for sharper acceleration, helping you navigate the cut and thrust of city traffic.

EV mode only works for very short distances: up to two km at speeds of 40 km/h or less. I found it a novelty, but the benefit in sneaking home late without waking up your spouse hasn?t escaped me.

Prius?s performance is typical of most four-cylinder cars. That?s not a knock, as today?s four bangers have come a long way, and with the electric motor providing instantaneous torque, this hybrid is no slouch.

But it isn?t nearly as much fun as the FR-S.

This 2+2 sports coupe is no torque monster, but its naturally aspirated DOHC flat-four ?boxer? engine (co-developed with Subaru), delivers 200 hp and 151 lb/ft or torque to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual or quick-shifting six-speed automatic.

These numbers may not impress, but in a car that tips the scales at only 1,251 kg, and has a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution ? favouring a little understeer ? there?s ample power to have fun.

The six-speed manual shifter is a joy to work. With its short, tight throws and just the right amount of friction, it?s the perfect accompaniment to this free-revving engine.

FR-S is also a car that loves to corner, and comes standard with a Torsen limited-slip differential. Keep Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) turned on, and you can kick out the back end just a little. Or even more in VSC Sport Mode.

For the full-drifting experience, which I?ve thoroughly enjoyed on the track, turn the VSC off.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda once said the FR-S ?rewards skillful driving.? My wife isn?t convinced that includes me, and isn?t easily swayed by marketing hype.

Even from the likes of Mr. Toyoda.

So although the FR-S is said to ?obediently answer the commands of the driver,? I answer to an even higher power.

Prius wins. Although I can feel a mid-life crisis coming?

The 2014 Toyota Prius rear view

  • Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S
  • Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S
  • Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S
  • Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S
  • Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S
  • Toyota Prius vs. Scion FR-S
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