By on January 5, 2015

Toyota_Caldina_(third_generation)_(front),_Kuala_Lumpur

In a few short months, we’ll see the production version of the Scion iM, based on the European Toyota Auris. If only Toyota had sent this instead.

A decade ago, Toyota offered the Caldina, a station wagon that was a fair bit bigger than a Matrix, riding on the same ST2xx platform that was also used by the Celica.

The big highlight was the GT-Four, which, as its name suggests, used the same drivetrain  as the Celica GT-Four. The 3S-GTE turbocharged four-cylinder engine was, sadly, mated to a 4-speed automatic, with no provisions for a manual gearbox. All-wheel drive was standard.

Around the time of the Caldina’s introduction, there were rumors that it would come to America as the Scion CCX, but that development never transpired. The Caldina’s model cycle came to an end in 2007, without ever reaching North America – though the model, and the GT-Four, remains a popular grey import in Asia, the West Indies and South America (despite being RHD only, they are often brought in as affordable performance cars).

Not long ago, I spoke to a source at Scion regarding the iM and the possibility of a performance variant. Before I could even get into the question of the Caldina, and whether was ever slated to arrive here, the source informed me that a sporty iM wasn’t in the cards – and not for reasons you’d expect.

“We’d be open to doing it,” he said, “but our market research showed that most customers don’t even care about performance. They want fuel economy, practicality – really anything but performance.”

 

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14 Comments on “Toyota Caldina GT-Four: The Scion iM That Never Was...”


  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    In fairness, he’s probably dead-on. Assuming he was talking about Toyota customers, they probably care most about reliability, economy, whether the seat is high enough to get in the car with that new hip, writing down the new evening line-up on Fox News, and clipping Micheal’s coupons for framing their grandkids’ artwork. definitely not performance.

    I have a Toyota Tacoma pickup (though it’s 14 years old) and it still gets regular recalls (usually for things rusting off unexpectedly) Sitting in the service department waiting areas is an educational experience. The average age of the typical customer suggests that their next vehicle will most likely be a 2-door open top model with a satin interior.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      …”The average age of the typical customer suggests that their next vehicle will most likely be a 2-door open top model with a satin interior.”

      That’s the average age of people sitting around waiting rooms.

      One of the reasons I pay through the nose at the dealer is the shuttle service. I drop the car off, and I get back to work. My time is valuable enough, and getting behind at work is bad enough enough that it’s worth the grab-your-ankles price for repairs that work the first time and the ability to be at the office while the work is happening.

      So, the people who have time to sit around the waiting room at a Toyota dealer probably are retired. Everyone else got a ride back to work and will be picked up when their car is ready.

  • avatar
    319583076

    “The average age of the typical customer suggests that their next vehicle will most likely be a 2-door open top model with a satin interior.”

    Nice.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “We’d be open to doing it,” he said, “but our market research showed that most customers don’t even care about performance. They want fuel economy, practicality – really anything but performance.”

    Then what, exactly, is the point of Scion? And what market research informed the decision to form a youth-oriented spinoff brand that is currently only selling two uber-niche coupes, one badly outdated box, and now a Corolla wagon?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I thought the point of Scion was to allow Toyota to sell vehicles that aren’t boring enough or fully baked enough to be labeled as Toyotas in the US.

      Don’t want to impinge on that bland brand image! The reputation for bland reliability is strikes me as quite valuable, and I think doing it this way a good marketing decision.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    “but our market research showed that most customers don’t even care about performance. They want fuel economy, practicality – really anything but performance.”

    C’mon you guys we’ve got to do a better job at responding to those market research questionnaires. This is the reason there are no brown diesel performance stick-shift wagons

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I think those market researchers scan the question, “Do you plan to buy a new car within the next six months to one year?” and throw out all the “no”s.

  • avatar

    It is possible this may be to the Matrix what the Gen 2 xB was to the Gen 1 xB. Larger and less space efficient. With the extra weight of the Celica platform and 4 wheel drive, along with the extra roof and glass, and increased drag, I bet this thing regularly saw under 20 mpg around town. If it did offer true wagon-like storage, though, I could almost see the point.

  • avatar
    John R

    “We’d be open to doing it,” he said, “but our market research showed that most customers don’t even care about performance. They want fuel economy, practicality – really anything but performance.”

    I am sure the “market research” was nearly 100% accurate in reporting what people SAY they want. However, I think there is merit in paying attention to how people actually drive.

    It may be unique to the northeast, but I see, on a regular basis, cars that have no business having “90 mph” on their speedometer struggle to do it. Prii and etcetera. Then these individuals are surprised and angered to see anything that can punch at or above the V6 Camcord weight-class walk right past them.

    This sort of situation always reminds me of a quote made some by decision maker at BMW. “Americans buy horsepower, but they drive torque.” In this sort of context I would adapt it to read “…they WANT fuel economy, but they drive performance.”

    I think Ford may be wise to this. Hence calling ordinary turbo-charging “ECO-boost”. It is as if any sort of nomenclature or appellations having to do with “performance” are politically incorrect.

    Hey, Toyota, sell “GREEN-charged”. That one is on me.

    ANYHOW, too bad about the Caldina GT-Four. I have some very passing familiarity with it. It would have been a neat car to have over here. The tuning community would have had a field day.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      On the power front, sometimes I drive around and do a “Do they have more/less” test on other cars, for HP figures. Car vehicles only (including CUVs), no trucks or real SUVs.

      It’s a fun game, cause I’m like:

      LESS
      LESS
      LESS
      LESS
      LESS
      MORE (CTS-V or something)
      LESS
      LESS

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I’ve been away a bit, but how did you imply that a V6 Accord is limited to 90mph without incurring the wrath of Baruth? Did you get a personal email inviting you to come show him how slow his DD is? I want video of this.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    “We’d be open to doing it,” he said, “but our market research showed that most customers don’t even care about performance. They want fuel economy, practicality – really anything but performance.”

    Look at what sells. Sadly, he’s right. :-/

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      My Sienna has 269HP in a 4400lb vehicle.

      Those are muscle car numbers, at least as far as they were considered when I was born in the late 1970s.

      And it drives like a muscle car, unless it’s fully loaded. My van is fast, and very stable at high speed. It has good brakes and a really stiff anti-sway bar.

      It’s not that I don’t care about performance. The truth is that my anonymous family truckster han enough performance that I wouldn’t be driving drive a sports car any faster than I drive my van… I can haul my cake and eat it too, so why bother with a performance car?

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    The original Scion tC was supposed to be a more “sporty” Caldina with a reinforced chassis, US preferred body style, and a larger engine, no?

    Given the additional “affordable” requirement for the Scion brand, I think the 2.4 Camry engine was a good balance of cost and power given the audience. A GT-Four powertrain would’ve been neat, but given the cost, probably would have brought in an additional dozen customer or so.

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