- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Telling “Gen-Y’ers” that they have been targeted or singled out for a particular product often generates a reverse to the intended effect.

So, the fact that the Toyota folks have developed a new brand called Scion that is aimed at pleasing, or at least appealing particularly to the Gen-Y crowd may or may not, be a good thing. Intent is one thing, perception is another.

Regardless of the manufacturer’s intent or the perception of those making up the so-called target market, the Scion is really about redefining COOL.

Okay, “cool” may be somewhat outdated as an endearing term, but you get the idea.

Bottom line, is the Scion about styling appeal or marketing?

In reality, it’s both, but the consumer will be the one to make the final decision regarding purchase, and it will be based upon individual tastes and needs, no matter what age the buyer happens to be, or who the manufacturer says the vehicle is intended for.

Scion is based on Toyota’s Echo platform — you remember Echo, the little car focused on a more youthful market. Scion comes in two versions: Xa, which resembles a sort of mini Matrix; and Xb, which may be likened to a diminutive execution of Chevrolet’s Astro van or Honda’s Element (it costs $440 less than the latter).

The Xb happens to be my personal pick with its outrageous edgy box shape, spacious and comfortable interior with built-in versatility and stellar fuel economy (30 miles per gallon city and 34 mpg highway).

Power for both Scion models comes from the same 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine to provide motivation for the Echo. It’s a DOHC, 16-valver with VVTi and electronic fuel injection that drives the front wheels with gear changes made by either a five-speed manual or four-speed, electronically controlled automatic.

At first glance, the Xb Scion appears as though it might be top heavy, but it’s not — it sits low over the custom 15-inch wheels and tires.

In fact, the Xb Scion looks for all the world like a custom job with a white effect taillamp assembly.

The Scion is about options, even though it comes loaded with a host of standard features and equipment — things such as 60/40-split folding and removable rear seat (second row — there is no third row); air conditioning, power door locks with remote keyless entry; power outside mirrors and windows with one-touch auto down on driver’s side; tilt steering wheel; vehicle stability control and traction control; Pioneer 160-watt AM/FM/CD head unit (MP3 and satellite-tuner capable) with six speakers and Scion Sound Processing; exterior ground effect kit with front air dam, rocker panel extensions and rear valance panel; center console and under-floor cargo storage.

There’s more, but that gives one an idea.

A ton of optional accessories are available to personalize one’s Scion.

The Xa is innovative, futuristic and distinctive, while the Xb carries a retro, nonconformist and authentic air. A third model is planned down the road — derived from the CCX concept, which is stylish, sleek and sporty.

Essentially, Scion offers high content and a high level of refinement at a most reasonable price.

The Xa begins at $12,480. Add $800 for an automatic transmission, and $485 for freight charges.

The Xb with a manual gearbox begins at $13,680, again adding for an automatic and freight. Side airbags are a $650 option.

The test Scion Xb’s exterior was sprayed in a Black Cherry Pearl metallic with a dark gray interior.

The base price was set at $14,480, with the final count and amount bumping the ante to $18,413. The average accessory transaction is expected to be between $750 and $1,000.

The Scion presents itself as a love me or leave me kind of ride. The general philosophy in selecting a Scion is to pick the model, transmission type and color, with the only real option being side air bags — the extensive list of so-called optional equipment is in reality a list of accessories and not options at all. This is of course a matter of perception — let’s face it, add-ons cost extra, regardless of what you call them or how you categorize them.

The Scion is an ideal subject for the tuner connection and for “home wrenches” to tweak more power and performance attributes out of either model.

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