January 21, 2016

Horse 2061 - From Happy To Grumpy In Under 2

On a scale of Seriously Uncool to DB-9 Sub Zero fridge, I have owned several Uncool cars and a few Cool cars. The most recent Cool car that I own is the current model Mazda 2 DY. Hatchback? Yes. Small? Yes. Fun? Very.

The 2 is a quietly cool car. It has a sense of style about it but it's a restrained and subdued kind of cool. The 2 is a springtime afternoon with gin and tonic and jazz sort of cool. It is the clarinet and double bass kind of cool.
Yet even this kind of cool can be ruined by a fool with the stroke of a pen. A clarinet and double bass kind of cool can be ruined by a fool with an electric guitar. Allow me to demonstrate.

This is the Scion iA.

The United States has always been a strange place for motor cars. Possibly as a result of not having a myriad of different manufacturers willing to play in North America in the 1950s and 1960s, the so-called Big Three automakers decided to differentiate their markets with domestic only badges. A Chrysler could become a Plymouth, De Soto or  Dodge for instance and a Ford could also become a Lincoln or Mercury.
When the Japanese decided to play in America's backyard, they learned that that's how the game was played and so brands like Acura exist in no other market. Scion is one of those brands and its strategy is nothing short of bewildering.
Scion as a Toyota brand wants to differentiate itself from Toyota and so that's where all the weird cars go. The Toyota 86, Rukus and even the Corolla hatch are all sold under the Scion badge; meanwhile the plan for the Toyota badge proper, is to play it safe. Cars like the Corolla sedan and the Camry and the Tacoma and Tundra trucks are sold as Toyotas.
I will openly admit that I just don't know what Scion is for. I do not understand its point of existence. If the brand Scion was struck out of existence, I seriously doubt that the world would miss its passing or even be aware that it had gone. In the realm of the automotive universe, Scion is the equivalent of Lichtenstein: funny name and of little import. The name iA for a motor car sounds to me as exciting as the four part thriller "The Wonderful World of Paper Clips"

Having laid out my prejudice against the brand, I now turn my attention to the car itself. Mazda does reasonably nicely for itself and apart from the messy divorce with Ford which now means that it will have to fend for itself, their first crop of post-split cars is by all accounts excellent.
Why then if you are Mazda, do you want your precious little 2 to be sold under such an anonymous badge? Surely you'd want it to sit alongside the 3 and 6 and the CX and BT ranges and be proud of the fact that you've created a competent, fun and cool little car which is easily the superior of VW's Polo, Fiat's cheeky and badly built 500 and even have a tilt against yout ex-partner's Fiesta.
Worse, under the Scion badge they don't even sell the hatchback. Unless I happen to somehow get hold of a two door sports car or something with a stonking V8 up front, I seriously doubt that I will ever buy a sedan. The advantages, including how cool they look, of a hatch over a sedan, are just so large that its not funny. The 2 sedan is still a neat little car but given the option of a hatch, the hatch wins every time. Scion in their madness don't offer a hatch. Are they nuts?

Next we come to the elephant in the room - the styling. What were they thinking? The 2 was already cool. Its wedge sort of grill is reminiscent of Mazda's flying dorito, the rotor from their rotary engines. We go from a car which looks happy and cheerful to one that looks like a bit of a grump. That might work if you're trying to sell a car with many hundreds of horsepowers all snorting under the hood and just waiting to be set free but when you have a happy puppy of a car that wants to run, the personality is just all wrong.
Okay, maybe as a Scion they needed to establish some sort of brand identity but in trying to make it edgier, it is like they threw in an electric guitar solo into that cool jazz combo with the clarinet and double bass.

There is one redeeming feature about the Scion iA though: it will never be sold in Australia. As a North American market car, the brand doesn't travel. Instead, we get the 2 in exactly the same state as they do in Japan. We get the car in its unmolested form. We get Mazda's cool little 2 as Mazda intended.

No comments: