Can we expect Gen Y to appreciate reliability?

How about impeccable fit and finish? A quiet cabin? Top-shelf materials?

Or do young drivers just want as stylish a car as they can afford?

Either way, the Scion tC has the makings of a youth-market hit. The little coupe — the third model to round out Toyota Motor Corp.'s new Scion youth brand — overcomes the stodginess of its parent company but doesn't forget its roots when it comes to top-level build quality.

The result: a car that should please its cutting-edge target demographic, plus catch the eye of Toyota loyalists who perhaps would like to inject a bit of energy into their oh-so-practical lives.

The tC sports coupe's sleek and sophisticated — yet arguably lighthearted — styling marks a departure from the first two Scion vehicles: the funky, boxy xB and the econo-hatch xA. And one need only peek up through the dual glass panels — which take up most of the roof in the small coupe — to realize the tC is no typical Toyota, either.

Eye-catching exterior styling makes the little coupe look not so little: a low and wide stance is emphasized through a 106.3-in. (270-cm) wheelbase and overall width of 69.1 ins. (176 cm). And while this car is billed as a 3-door hatch, the hatchback is barely noticeable to the untrained eye.

The tC has come a long way from the ccX concept on which it originally was based. Designers learned that while “funky” works for the other Scions, people of all ages want their coupes to be stylish and understated.

Toyota's Scion philosophy appears downright Lexus-like when carried into the sophisticated and way-too-good-for-the-price interior. Passengers will notice a richness of material — from the Japanese rice paper-inspired dash and upper door panels to the cast-aluminum climate control knob and soft-touch control buttons.

Underneath the hood comes a far more acceptable engine than the tiny-displacement gas-sipper in the other two Scions. The tC instead gets the 2.4L 4-cyl. with variable valve timing with intelligence, which does excellent yeoman work in Toyota's Camry and RAV-4. In this guise, the 2AZ-FE makes 160 hp and 163 lb.-ft. (221 Nm) of torque at an accessible 4,000 rpm. The all-aluminum engine incorporates twin balance shafts to impart impressive noise, vibration and harshness levels.

The tC's only available engine is paired with either a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic, which incorporates Toyota's uphill and downhill shift logic system and prevents excessive gear hunting.

But the car's most outstanding features come in the Toyota-standard intangibles: in areas such as fit-and-finish, attention to detail, and quality engineering. And those features are made all the more amazing after Toyota discloses the car went from design freeze to production in 13 months — the shortest-ever development time for any Toyota-made vehicle.

Toyota even managed to upgrade the seats, which were considered sub-par in the first two Scions. The auto maker executed the tC to such quality in such a short time by leveraging strengths of its global platforms and vehicles. The tC shares a platform as well as a multitude of components with Europe's Avensis.

The tC costs $16,465 with freight — less than all of its competitors (Ford Focus ZX3, Honda Civic EX, Volkswagen GTi, Tiburon GT, Acura RSX and Mercedes C230). And that price includes almost all options — even the double-glass moonroof and a driver's knee airbag.

As with the other Scions, Toyota plans to make money through its attractive list of dealer accessories, which include Y-baiting items ranging from bumper appliques to a carbon-fiber engine cover. A Toyota Racing Development (TRD) supercharger is on its way.