Toyota S-FR concept to rival MX-5 at Tokyo motor show 2015

Published: 08 October 2015

► S-FR hints Toyota is considering entry-level funster
► Front-engined, rear-wheel drive, lightweight coupe
► Could there be a Mazda MX-5 rival on the horizon?

Meet the Toyota S-FR, one of three new Toyota concepts set to rock the 2015 Tokyo motor show later this October. Looks pretty sweet, doesn’t it? And certainly much more production-ready than the wacky Kikai and futuristic FCV Plus. In fact, the S-FR gives every indication of being the (eventual) follow-up left hook to the GT86’s straight right in Toyota’s scuffling attempt at shaking off the Most Boring Car Maker in the World title…

What kind of anti-yawn device is this Toyota S-FR concept then? 

Here’s Toyota’s own explanation: ‘Pitched as an entry-level model, its focus is on responsiveness and character that can make a new generation fall in love with driving. [The Japanese really are worried about this, aren’t they?] Toyota sees it as the kind of car that can attract its own die-hard fan base of drivers and customisers.’

Remind you of anything else you can think of?

So the S-FR is Toyota’s attempt to take on the Mazda MX-5, isn’t it? 

It sure does look that way – right down to the combination of front-mid engine, rear-wheel drive layout (so that’s where the FR comes from), with six-speed manual transmission and independent suspension. Toyota has gone with a coupe bodystyle, though, which probably means it could be made cheaper and lighter, and offer extra added precision and responsiveness, compared to the open-top Mazda.

In a further effort to avoid the copycat tag, Toyota is also talking big about its back-to-basics sporting heritage, referencing the 2000GT and S800 in particular (but not the MR2, which was always Mid-engined and Rear-wheel drive). There are no specific performance details for the S-FR available yet, but this is definitely on our must-see list for this year’s Tokyo show. Please Toyota, just build it!

How big is the Toyota S-FR concept?

It’s said to seat four. But that’s got to be a bit of a squeeze as the S-FR is just 3990mm long, 1695mm wide and 1320mm high, with a 2480mm wheelbase. For comparison, the MX-5 is 3915mm by 1735mm, 1225mm tall and has a 2310mm wheelbase.

The S-FR is not a Kei car – the Japanese microcar category is regulated to 3400mm by 1480mm – so could it be based on a cut-down GT86 platform? Toyota’s existing rear-drive thriller is 80mm wider and has an extra 90mm between its axles, but it’s not inconceivable.

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first