2008 Scion xD

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Review: 2008 Scion xD

By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.75
Pros:
  • New look
  • Fun accessories
  • Roomier interior
Cons:
  • Road and engine noise comes through
  • Automatic transmission is only a 4-speed
  • Gets lower fuel mileage than the xA it replaces

This calendar year, 2007, is the year to revisit Toyota's youth car brand, Scion.

Scion has revamped two of its three models and even given one car—it's lowest-priced and the only one not recommended by Consumer Reports magazine this year—a new name.

The short Scion xA, 5-door hatchback grows wider, more powerful and rides on a new platform and larger wheels when it arrives in showrooms as a 2008 model in summer 2007.

It also has a new name—Scion xD—and improved styling and standard equipment that are bound to generate greater appeal than the xA had.

In fact, the old xA shape that looked to me like the back end had been lopped off is replaced by a substantial, boxier style.

Mark Templin, Scion vice president, noted the 2008 xD "is dimensionally closer to the (current Scion) xB than the xA." It's not surprising. Scion's boxy xB—it looks like a tall, small van/wagon—has become "the icon of the brand," Templin said.

Higher starting price expected
Scion won't reveal exact prices until closer to the August 2007 debut of the xD at dealerships, but it's likely to be up from the approximately $13,000 starting mark for the current xA.

New standard features include cruise control, curtain airbags and side, seat-mounted airbags.

The xD's fuel economy rating, unfortunately, will be lower than the exemplary 32 miles per gallon in city driving and 37 mpg on the highway rating for a manual-transmission xA.

But the xD will still rank among the most fuel-thrifty autos on sale. Scion estimates the 5-passenger, 2008 xD with manual transmission will be rated at 27/33 mpg. It will be 21/38 mpg with automatic.

The drop is in part because 2008 cars are subject to new government fuel economy calculations; the xD is 285 pounds heavier than the xA it replaces and has a larger 4-cylinder engine.

Who buys a Scion?
Young drivers likely know Scion, which was launched just four years ago by Toyota as a way to attract new buyers.

At the time, Toyota officials worried that the youngest car shoppers didn't aspire to own a Toyota because of the brand's conservative image, even if its vehicles were known for reliability and durability.

So Scion became a new brand sold at Toyota dealerships, and Scion's small, front-wheel-drive cars with four-cylinder power have done well with youth.

With a record 173,034 U.S. sales in calendar 2006, Scion now has the youngest driver median age in the auto industry—30. Better yet, 80 percent of Scion customers are new to Toyota, and Scion has managed to develop a loyal niche among diverse urban youth whose interests are art, music and style.

And to help with that style focus, Scion offers dozens of accessories for buyers to customize their vehicles. Indeed, the average Scion transaction involves more than $1,000 in accessories, such as wheels, shift knobs, light-emitting diode taillights and sport pedals.

This customization—done to customer order at ports when Scions arrive from overseas and at dealerships—as well as Scion's no-haggle car-price policy helps make car-buying fun.

Like buying into a lifestyle
An eager Scion buyer excited about the brand and all the cool accessories available to personalize his or her car won't see the xD as an inexpensive, little car.

Rather, it will be a nimble-handling, easy-to-park, blank canvas on which to add special touches. Who can't love that?

I did notice road noise inside the test xD from the 16-inch tires. Note these are larger than the 15-inch-in-diameter tires on the xA.

And even with the increase to 128 horsepower in the xD's 1.8-liter four cylinder over the xA's 103-horse 1.5-liter four, the engine can sound buzzy when pressed.

I was thankful there's more torque—125 lb-ft at 4400 rpm—than in the xA. It's needed to get the extra weight moving.

I wished for more than a 4-speed automatic, but Scion wanted, among other things, to keep the car affordable.

Odds and ends
I'm glad that gauges are in front of the driver now. In the xA, gauges were up on the middle of the dashboard, leaving the dashboard space in front of the driver empty.

But while the xD's gauges are in the typical spot, they aren't typical. The speedometer and tachometer share space in one round dial.

A strong-sounding Pioneer audio system with six speakers and iPod adapter and auxiliary input are standard. A subwoofer and satellite radio are accessories.

The 60/40 split back seat of the xD can be cozy for three adults, but I liked that everyone, front and back, sits up nicely from the pavement.

Seats have a decided foam feel to them, and while they're not plush, they're covered in attractive materials. But I couldn't easily work the recline lever as I sat in the back seat. There's a full 10 degree recline angle back there, but I wound up climbing out of the car to work the lever at the top side of the seat and adjust the recline before getting back inside.

Notice the gaps between the metal body panels on the xD. Scion made sure they're narrower than those on the xA to convey a more quality look.

The space in the wheel wells between xD tires and body metal also is less for the same reason.

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BB02 - 9/21/2014 1:34:30 PM