Review: 2008 Scion xB
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2013.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The latest version of the xB is the car most identified with Toyota's relentlessly youth-oriented Scion division because of its distinctive boxy styling. But if you don't know about such things as "viral videos," you best look at a more conventional Toyota, such as the Camry.
There was a media preview of the early 2008 Scion xB at Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, where Marilyn Monroe's ghost is said to roam the halls, although she died elsewhere in the early 1960s in the Los Angeles area. Chances are that many media members at the preview wouldn't have recognized her if they passed her because they were born long after she passed away.
Emphasis on Youth
"We could take out a big ad in USA Today tomorrow and sell more Scions to older people, but we're not marketing to them. The average age of Scion buyers is 30, which is the youngest in the industry," a Scion official said at the preview.
The official quickly added that Scion welcomes buyers of all ages, but clearly left the impression that people over 30 or so really should opt for a regular Toyota car, SUV or minivan.
Actually, a good number of value-minded retirees and boomers have bought the xB because it's affordable, economical, roomy and easy to enter and drive, besides enjoying Toyota's sparkling reputation for reliability.
Scion has been involved with the worlds of hip-hop music, student film, street art and interactive media. It said it won't use mainstream print media or television to advertise the 2008 xB. Rather, it said it will utilize such outlets as offbeat Internet sites and the Scion site.
The xB preview involved driving the car over narrow, winding mountain roads and in heavy L.A. downtown traffic. But the event also involved a Scion headquarters tour and lunch at a Scion art gallery, with Scion-related art (that seemed like a stretch to me).
Models Come and Go
The xB goes on sale this spring, but the xD isn't scheduled to hit showrooms until August. Unlike the xB, the xD resembles other small Japanese sedans and has a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 128 horsepower, compared to the xB's 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, which produces 158 horsepower and replaces a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder with 103 horsepower.
I drove both the xB and xD, but the latter isn't the subject car here. Suffice it to say that it handles better and has a slicker manual transmission shifter than the xB, although its highway acceleration is marginal.
Scion says Americans wanted an xB with more power and room, although lack of room never has been an issue with the xB.
Front-seat side airbags and front/rear side-curtain airbags are standard, as are a vehicle stability control system with traction control and anti-lock brakes.
Scion says today's youth are used to customizing their lives—from coffee, cell phone ring tones and digital music players to sneakers and clothes to fit their mood.
"Scion's target buyer has changed the way business is done by demanding personalization and customization in all aspects of their lives," said Scion vice president Mark Templin.
Scions are offered with everything from custom shift knobs and larger alloy wheels with wider tires to upgraded brakes and vehicle lowering kits.
Then there are performance clutches, suspension modification parts for better handling—and so on. And most of that aftermarket stuff isn't cheap.
But Scion increased the new version's wheelbase by 4 inches, overall length by a foot and width by nearly 3 inches to provide additional space and a more comfortable ride. Wheels are an inch bigger at 16 inches, and brakes are larger.
However, the xB's automatic is responsive. The manual transmission shifts crisply, but gets notchy if rushed and works with a light but long-throw clutch.
Estimated fuel economy (lowered by the EPA for all 2008 cars) is 22 mpg in the city and 28 on highways with both manual and automatic transmissions.
Average Highway Performance
Large outside door handles assist entry, and front seats provide good side support when snaking through curves. There's lots of room both front and—most especially—in back. Headroom is astounding. The middle of the back seat is comfortable, which isn't the case with most cars.
Unusual Center Gauges
The large climate controls should be applauded, and other controls are easy to reach and use. Doors have small storage pockets and bottle holders.
The cargo opening is low and wide. The cargo area is spacious and can be made considerably roomier when the rear seatbacks are flipped forward.
The heavy hood is held open by an old-fashioned prop rod, but the neat engine compartment has easily reached fluid filler areas.
Scion must be doing something right. It sold 173,034 cars in America in 2006, up from 156,485 in 2005. However, Scion is a small Toyota operation. For example, Toyota sold 929,052 cars here in 2006, excluding Scions.
But, hey, more than 170,000 annual car sales is nothing to sneeze at. And Scion is pulling in young customers that Toyota hopes to keep in the Toyota family as they age.