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Toyota's youth-oriented division made its first appearance at the New York Auto Show in 2002, with a concept model. Naturally, the Japanese-brand automaker had built cars that appeal to younger motorists before, but marketers felt it was time for a strictly-youthful division.
One of the first two products, the unabashedly boxy little xB wagon, turned into something of a minor phenomenon. Not only did the xB attract the sought-after youthful customers, but it also drew plenty of buyers from older age groups who appreciated the little wagon's practical merits. The relatively tall, boxy shape made it easy to get in and out of xBs, and all-around visibility was hard to beat. Scion, on the other hand, saw the xB largely as a foundation for add-on accessories, appealing to the customization crowd.
With its 108-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, the first-generation xB proved short on performance, but plenty of owners fell in love with those Scions and regretted their disappearance after just three seasons.
Somewhat overshadowed by the xB wagon, Scion's xA-also introduced for 2004-was a more conventional-looking four-door subcompact hatchback. Seating five, the xA was similar in structure to the xB, with the same engine but built on a shorter wheelbase. Like the first-generation xB, the xA lasted only three seasons.
Next up for Scion was a semi-sporty tC hatchback coupe, introducing for 2005. Seating four, the tC held a 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine and could have manual or automatic shift.
Except for the tC coupe, Scion essentially sat out the 2007 model year, awaiting total redesigns of its other two models. For 2008, a new xD model replaced the xA, which had dropped out a year earlier. Built on a 4-inch longer wheelbase than its predecessor, the xD held a 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter engine that mated with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Special Release Series editions were issued periodically, to try and stimulate customer interest.
Purists weren't so pleased with the second-generation Scion xB, which also debuted for 2008. The new xB was bigger than the original, more rounded in appearance, with a more powerful engine-but less thrifty on the road and, some insisted, lacking an essential sense of character. Others disagreed, praising the second-generation xB as an improvement over the original. With 55 more horsepower, the 2008 xB promised considerably more performance, and second-row passenger space qualified as nearly enormous.
A redesigned tC sport coupe emerged for 2011, with 19 more horsepower and what company head Jack Hollis called a "throaty exhaust note." Meanwhile, at the 2010 New York Auto Show, Scion unveiled its next product: the iQ, first seen in concept form. A near-production version appeared at the 2011 show, billed as the "world's smallest four-seater." Billed as a "premium micro-subcompact vehicle," the iQ measured 120 inches long and stood 59 inches tall, with large door openings to ease entry/exit.
Going from concept to production for the iQ took longer than some potential customers might have liked, and was delayed by a year, but the stubby-profiled subcompact is scheduled to go on sale as a 2012 model. The iQ gets a 90-horsepower engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Coming up for the 2013 model year is the sporty Scion FR-S, with rear-wheel drive and a 200-horsepower "boxer" (horizontally-opposed) engine.