By on March 26, 2018

Image: Toyota

With Monday’s announcement of a refreshed 2019 Yaris sedan comes the last shovelful of dirt heaped on Scion’s grave. Toyota has an updated version of the subcompact four-door ready for an official unveiling at this week’s New York International Auto Show, but don’t go looking for that tell-tale “iA” model nameplate. It’s gone.

The complicated history of Toyota’s smallest sedan begins with the automaker’s defunct youth brand, Scion. As the brand grew more confused (and mainstream), Toyota borrowed the recently introduced second-generation Mazda 2 sedan, slapped a Scion badge on it, and rolled out the iA. Mazda had second thoughts about offering the car in this market, making the iA and the CX-3 the only domestic adopters of the car’s platform.

For Scion, grafting a large, unusual grille onto the wee car proved sufficient in de-KODO-ifying the model. During the inaugural 2016 model year, however, Toyota grimly loaded a single round into its shotgun, took the Scion brand behind the barn, and did what it had to do. The two newest Scion models — iA and iM — kept their model names and took up residence in the Yaris and Corolla lineups for 2017, adopting their sibling’s name as a prefix (despite not sharing the same architecture).

Now, both models enter 2019 free of vestigial Scion badging. (Read More…)

By on January 20, 2018

2017 Toyota Yaris iA - Image: Toyota

Three years ago, I stood in the Palais des congrès in Montreal as representatives from Mazda Canada introduced the next-generation Mazda 2, a model that never made it to either Canadian or American dealer lots. Well, not as a Mazda, anyway.

The 2015 Montreal International Auto Show debut of the KODO-ified little hatchback was hardly on the same level as, say, that of the next-gen Ram 1500 or Chevrolet Silverado or Ford Ranger we saw last week in Detroit. Still, the previous 2 endeared itself to buyers as a roomy, agile, and quirky little beast, and the redesigned model looked sharp. All good. Certainly, small cars weren’t nearly in as much danger from subcompact crossovers in 2015 as they are now.

So it was odd to see the model disappear from the future lineup on both sides of the border, only to return almost immediately as a Scion-badged sedan, the iA.

The one-car iA line, now sporting a Toyota badge, soldiers on alongside the existing three- and five-door Yaris — the Yaris that isn’t a Mazda — for the 2018 model year. But it’s in 2019 that things get confusing. (Read More…)

By on August 23, 2017

2018 Honda Fit Sport 6MT in Orange Fury - Image: HondaThe Dodge Dart is dead. The Ford Fiesta is likely on its last legs in the United States. Ford Focus production is moving to China, off the North American continent where demand for Ford small cars is rapidly declining. General Motors is scaling back production at the Chevrolet Sonic’s Orion Township, Michigan, assembly plant.

That’s the Detroit small car picture, or at least part of it. From Japan’s perspective, however, small cars are entirely worth it, not just because of the sales success enjoyed by the Honda Civic (currently America’s best-selling car through 2017’s first seven months) and Toyota Corolla, but because of the demographic small cars target. (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2016 Mazda2, Image: Mazda

It was January of 2015 and I was standing in a small venue in Montreal. The space was dark save some access lighting and red spotlights pointed at a sheet-covered car.

A few moments later, the sheet was pulled off, and Mazda Canada announced the 2016 Mazda 2 would be coming to The Great White North.

Eleven months later, Mazda Canada would reverse that decision, citing other all-new products — namely the CX-3 and MX-5 — requiring Mazda’s full attention. After all, the small automaker didn’t want to spread itself too thin, and it wasn’t like the previous-generation Mazda 2 set the sales charts on fire — on either side of the border.

In America, Mazda North America Operations had zero intention of selling the subcompact in any region other than Puerto Rico. Yet, year after year since the model went on sale in other global markets, Mazda continues to certify the Mazda 2’s emissions system with the California Air Resources Board, effectively making it eligible for retail sale in any of the 13 “CARB states” and District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, Mazda says it still has no intention to sell the Mazda 2 in America. What’s going on? We reached out to Mazda to get an answer.

(Read More…)

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