If you want plenty of stress, try designing cars for the youngest drivers. Impressing the 16-to-25 year old buyer has cost many auto executives more than a night’s sleep. But the suits at Toyota believe they’ve cracked the automotive code to Generation Y, with their new Scion brand subcompacts. But does Scion really have what young drivers want?
Designed to capture today’s youth, the 2004 Scion xA and its boxy-shaped counterpart, Scion xB, are the first two models of this radical new Toyota brand. However, these well-built, highly functional and affordable cars may find some rather unexpected markets think Honda Element so it’s hard to say just who will fall for these ‘‘Gen Y’’ mobiles.
The xA, derived from the Japanese Ist, is a 5-door subcompact similar in concept to the larger Toyota ‘‘Matrix.’’ Its simple lines, exaggerated wheel-arches, wedge shaped nose and straight roof line combine for a nicely sporty look. The angular rear portions reveal the xA’s wide hatch for easy cargo access.
Inside the xA, metal tone trim and texture treated doors, dash and seats nicely accentuate the cabin. A center mounted gauge cluster high on the dash, with stylized black-on-white faces, also drew attention, if not raves. The five-seater offers supportive front sport buckets, and a 60/40 split-fold rear seat for a trim threesome. Fold the seats, and the cargo area allows 32.8 cubic feet.
Also a derivative of a Japanese model, the bB, the Scion xB poses a more innovative and aggressive stance than the xA. The xB has a short van-like nose, ruler-straight sides and a tall cabin. And, unique to its style and function, a lowered suspension that makes it look more like a hover craft on 15-inch wheels.
Expectedly roomier than the xA, the xB’s interior adds most of the same sporty shapes and styles to its square practicality. All Scions come well equipped including air, power windows, locks, and mirrors, a first aid kit, and a Pioneer MP3 and satellite capable CD-stereo. The radio head is large and easy to use, as are the rotary climate controls below. The xB’s front sport seats are tall and fairly broad, while the 60/40 rear seats again allow room for two comfortably and three in a pinch. Folded, a generous 43.4 cubic feet of cargo area is possible. However, our car’s cargo space was limited by the optional sound package and its huge Bazooka Tube subwoofer. Fortunately, it can be removed in a few minutes.
But the oh-so-opposite Scion models are actually twins at heart, or triplets if you will, since they share most of their front-drive mechanicals with the Toyota Echo. And that heart is a 1.5 liter, twin-cam, 16 Valve, 4-cylinder engine. It pumps out a modest 108 horsepower and 105 pound feet of torque. Transmission choices are a 5-speed manual, or our test car’s 4-speed automatic.
In a straight line, the xA and xB turned in similar numbers. The wedge shaped xA clocked 0-60 in 10.8 seconds, and ran the quarter mile in 18.2 seconds at 77 mph.
The rectangular xB took 11.5 seconds to jog from 0 to 60, with the quarter mile running 18.5 seconds at 74 mph. Both vehicles are quick off the line, but power is lost in later gears. And though the engines are the same, the xA was much quieter under full throttle.
The xA and xB are supported by much the same independent suspension setup with MacPherson struts in the front, and a torsion beam axle in the rear. But, despite sharing the design, we found a fair bit of difference in handling. The xA had slower turn-in, but really stayed planted through each turn. Conversely, the xB had a more precise turn-in that made for a sportier drive. But the xB has a taller roll center, so we appreciated the safeguard of its standard electronic stability control. An available front strut tower brace adds body stiffness and even more handing response. Front ventilated disc brakes with rear drums stopped the xA and xB at an equal 136 feet from 60-to-0. ABS is standard, as is solid performance.
So not only are the two Scions well equipped, numerous dealer options are available. Dedicated showrooms within Toyota dealerships will feature plasma screen Internet kiosks and other displays to let buyers express their personalities.
And though our Scion automatics aren’t exactly performance-icons, they are economical. EPA estimates peg the xA at 31 city/ 37 highway, and the xB rakes in 30 city/ 34 highway.
Prices for the Scions are equally thrifty. The xA starts at $13,765. Our tester tacked on $2,568 for the subwoofer, sport package and a few other extras. Total $16,333. The xB will fetch a base of $14,965, and our tester, with preferred and sport packages, light package and subwoofer topped out at $17,288.
Scion debuted in California in June with encouraging sales both in volume and in buyer age. Now Scion will reach the South, Southeast and East Coast by February of next year, so keep your eyes peeled. By then we may have a better idea if the Scion brand will really start a youth quake at Toyota, or just add to their impressive variety of quality vehicles. And, given their Korean-fighter prices, Scion is likely to be a success no matter how, or what, they look like.
Engine: 1.5 Liter, Twin-cam, 16 Valve, 4-Cylinder
Torque: 108 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 10.8 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 18.2 Seconds @ 77 MPH
60-0 MPH: 136 Feet
EPA Mileage: 31 MPG City 37 MPG Highway