Happenings

Back To Basics

BY Philip Ng

Building on momentum of the GT86 Coupe, Toyota unveils a sports car concept that is even smaller and lighter than its already svelte bigger brother - enter the S-FR concept

It may come as a surprise to many of the younger generation, but Toyota once made exciting sports cars that now have their own massive cult followings, such as the mid-engined MR2 and turbo powered Supra. However since then they have remained largely stagnant in the performance car market up until the GT86 Coupe was launched in 2012, which wooed enthusiasts with a relatively affordable entry price and sharp rear-driven chassis. Fast forward to 2015 and the S-FR concept is here to help Toyota gauge just how far they can take the formula of a pure, entry-level sports car.

First impressions are hopeful with the SF-R sporting the long hood and sloping roofline that only a rear-driven car can have, yet dimensions remain compact. Though larger than "Kei" cars such as the Daihatsu Copen, it is still an inch shorter than a Mazda MX5 and weighs in at under a ton, or in other words, over 200 kilograms less than the already light GT86.

The good news continues with the powertrain where a 130hp direct-injected 1.5 liter engine is paired exclusively to a 6-speed manual gearbox, with the engine being mounted behind the front axle for ideal weight balance. Along with independent suspension all around, this should be a recipe for keen handling car.

In the interest of keeping weight and price down, the SF-R has a spartan cabin with the essentials of sports seats and a three spoke steering wheel accounted for. There are neat touches throughout the cabin however, such as trim pieces being coordinated to the exterior colour to brighten things up.

Meanwhile drivers will appreciate a Lexus LFA-esque digital gauge cluster and climate controls situated in 3 easy to reach pods next to the steering wheel. Remarkably they\'ve also managed to squeeze small rear seats into the S-FR's tiny footprint which should be useful for storage or insurance purposes.

Toyota proclaims that they want to make a whole new generation fall in love with driving, which is why the company is looking at getting a three-model sports car lineup together – S-FR, GT86 and new Supra being co-developed with BMW. Though the SF-R might not compete for thrills through outright pace, the spec sheet along with past experience from the GT86 suggests that it will be a nimble handling car with a high fun to dollar ratio. With pricing in Japan projected to undercut a Mazda MX5 by thousands of dollars, we can only hope the same holds true should dealers decide to offer it locally.