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For Scion it's hip to be square

AT some point, I stopped being part of the so-called youth market

This made me sad. Then I saw how young people are expected to dress, and I heard some of their - ahem - music. Suddenly, I began feeling quite a lot better.

Of course, not everyone is as borderline curmudgeonly as Yours Truly. Certainly, the folks at Toyota are fully aware of the spending potential in that 19-27 age bracket, and they aren't about to look a gift Bieber in the haircut. Hence, Scion, Toyota's youth-oriented division.

The Scion side-brand launched at the New York Auto Show in 2002 with the boxy xB and the tC coupe in concept form. You can find my review of the redesigned 2011 Scion tC online at www., but you couldn't find these first two Scions in Canada unless you went through the hassle of importing them yourself.

The first tC was a bit hum-drum in the styling department, although it certainly had its fans, but the real groundswell came with the popularity of the Scion xB. Astute readers may have deduced that the "C" in tC stands for "coupe." The "B"

in xB? That's for "box."

The xB was the squarest thing on wheels since Ward Cleaver got his driver's licence taken away, but it was one cool cube as far as young drivers were concerned. Not only did it have acres of room on a teeny-tiny footprint, but it was also a blast to drive. Ever since Toyota cancelled the Mr-S coupe (another model not available to Canadians), there hadn't really been much driving appeal to the big T's lineup. Camrys and Corollas may be as dependable as a cast-iron frying pan, but they're also about as exciting as same.

Scion's offerings, on the other hand, offered a bit more pizzazz. They also were sold in a unique style that was different from the usual dealership experience, and this approach was no small part of their success.

Rather than starting out with a basic model that hooks buyers in with a low entry price and then ends up getting optioned out until the value of the car has gone up by a third, Scion offers its cars in a single trim level: All The Fixins. Everything from alloy wheels to Bluetooth handsfree is standard equipment.

That doesn't mean there isn't room for customization. On the contrary, Scion will let you build a tricked out car in a much easier fashion than most other manufacturers. Spec'ing out go-fast goodies like Toyota Racing Development wheels and lowering springs is as easy as a click of the mouse button; even the Scion website is easier to navigate for the web native than, say, Subaru's.

It took fully eight years before Toyota judged Scion to be enough of a success to bring to Canada. For what it's worth, I think that was a huge mistake on their part.

No, not finally bringing their sub-brand to the Great White North. Rather, ignoring the Canadian market for this long doesn't make sense, especially when you look at the kinds of cars Canucks buy: we like our cars small, and inexpensive and wellequipped.

So a Scion, youth-branding or not, makes perfect sense for the average Canadian. What's more, their current lineup is about to both be refreshed and swell in numbers as new models launch over the next few years. The new tC is already a striking improvement over the original, and the new xB has grown in size to better suit the North American market. The xD multipurpose vehicle might have an emoticon for a name, but at least it's a happy one.

The real story, though, is the influx of new models that are on their way. First to arrive will be a Scion version of the Toyota iQ. This diminutive car is not just clever in name only; targeted at the Smart Car crowd, it's a few points up on the Mercedes-built offering with a hyper-efficient engine and seating for four.

The iQ has already been doing quite well overseas, and despite a diminutive design that's clearly set up for maximum fuel-efficiency, reviewers all say the same thing: this is a fun car to drive. In Scion trim, it's also quite handsome, and you may be intrigued to know that Aston-Martin has bought the rights to produce their own version. If it's good enough for James Bond, Jr., it's probably going to be good enough for you too.

What's more, along with all the cheap and cheerful sportynatured practical cars, the rumour is that the long-awaited FT-86 Toyota lightweight sport coupe is now going to make its bow as a Scion. This year's New York Auto Show was again the place where the curtain dropped on an important Scion concept car, the FR-S.

We'll have to wait until the Tokyo Auto Show later this year to see what the actual production models are going to look like, but the Scion concept that showed up in New York looked fantastic, much better than previous Toyota versions.

If everything goes smoothly, then we should see the FR-S (or whatever they end up calling it) hit showrooms in 2012. However, right now that new tC is burning up the sales charts, passing the Civic and the Fiesta in the Gen-Y age bracket. Marketing ploy or not, Scion is here to stay, and at least for Toyota fans who were longing for that company to swap the beige trousers for a pair of skinny jeans, that's a good thing.

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