2013 Scion xB

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Review: 2008 Scion xB

This 2008 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.75

Bottom Line:

Scion's boxy xB is the icon of Toyota's youth-oriented brand. And as a new-generation model, the xB is bigger, more powerful, and has bigger wheels and more safety equipment. Too bad the starting price grew, too, and there's no boost in fuel mileage.
Pros:
  • Fun accessories galore
  • Eminently usable interior
  • Looks like nothing else out there
Cons:
  • Highest starting price ever
  • No fuel economy gain
  • Interior can be noisy

First, let me make clear: I'm obviously not the 20-year-old to 30-something target demographic for Scion's xB tall wagon/van. And there's a part of me that skeptically looks at the xB as an intriguingly packaged but essentially cheap, small car.

Still, I appreciate the fun adventures, not to mention practical hauling of "stuff", that an xB can provide. Gosh, an xB driver can even give a ride to a college basketball player, because this car's ceiling inside is up so high!

And I certainly give an approving nod to the new safety equipment added, and to the fact the xB is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine. It's also mostly a product of Toyota. (It's actually engineered by Toyota partner Kanto Auto Works.)

I just wish that among the new-generation changes, Toyota had improved the xB's fuel economy and that the starting retail price had stayed below $15,000.

But neither happened. The second-generation xB debuts with a starting retail price of more than $15,500, which puts it in the company of other pricey entry cars like the Volkswagen Rabbit, Honda Civic sedan, Nissan Sentra and Mazda3 sedan.

And rather than making fuel mileage a priority, Toyota/Scion officials said they wanted to give current Scion owners what they said they wanted— more power. (Actually, I suspect they had to since they made the xB bigger, too.)

But I thought Scion was supposed to be about being different, doing things in a new way. The explanation for this more powerful xB smacks too much like the same ol' same ol' in the auto business.

Live2BSquare
You still have to have a certain affinity for boxes and squares to like the xB styling. This 5-door car remains the quirkiest-looking box on wheels in the country, just as it was when it helped launch the Scion brand four years ago. The new model has less abrupt edges, especially in front, but the shape is essentially unchanged.

(Scion has done a good job, btw, of meeting its goal of attracting the youngest drivers. Officials say Scion now has drivers with a median age of 30. This is the youngest in the car business. Scion also has diverse owners. According to vehicle registration data, 14 percent of Scion owners are Hispanic.)

The 2008 xB marks the first major changes for this iconic Scion that's instantly distinguishable from other cars with its nearly 5-foot-4-tall, squared-off passenger compartment.

What's best is how roomy this small car is inside. In fact, the 2008 xB, which rides on a new front-wheel-drive platform, has 40 inches of headroom for the driver and front passenger. Get this: This is just a third of an inch shy of what's found in the front seats of a Cadillac Escalade large sport-utility vehicle.

As a matter of fact, headroom in the xB's second-row seats is more than that in an Escalade, and legroom in front and second rows is only an inch or less than what's in the Escalade.

For 2008, the xB grew 2.8 inches wider so shoulder room inside is increased a noticeable 7.2 inches in the xB front seat and nearly 5 inches in the back seat. The new xB also is a foot longer in overall length than its predecessor but still is only about 14 feet long.

Still, cargo space behind the front-row seats, with second-row seats folded down rivals that in many sport-utility vehicle—69.9 cubic feet.

Consider it all a fun study in space efficiency.

About fuel mileage
Alas, the same can't be said for fuel efficiency. The 2008 government fuel economy rating is 22 miles a gallon in city driving and 28 mpg on the highway, lower than the 2007 numbers.

It's not just because the feds are using a new, more stringent formula to calculate fuel economy for 2008.

The 2008 xB is some 500 pounds heavier than its predecessor and has a larger engine—the 158-horsepower 2.4-liter double overhead cam 4 cylinder that's also in Scion's scooty tC coupe.

Sure, the 2008 xB feels peppier than its predecessor, especially on hilly roads. The new powerplant, with peak torque of 162 lb-ft at 4000 rpm, moves the car along with more verve, even if the xB still doesn't qualify as a sporty ride.

But I still heard the buzzy 4 cylinder when it was hard pressed, such as in passing maneuvers.

And I think with gas prices rising as they have been, consumers might appreciate better fuel economy if they're not getting sporty performance anyhow. Note that the Civic, Sentra and Mazda3 all get higher 2008 fuel economy ratings from the government.

Not a quiet ride
The times when I thought of the xB as an inexpensive car were primarily when road noise came from the xB's now 16-inch standard tires. There was just a droning on and on. Wind noise also was evident at highway speeds as this blockish vehicle pushed through the air.

But Scion officials said the xB interior is quieter than before because of added sound insulation.

Note the automatic transmission, expected to be in about 70 percent of xBs, has only four speeds, while the Mazda3 hatchback has a more modern five-speed automatic.

But in a first for a Toyota in America, the new xB's automatic is a sequential shifter that lets drivers manually upshift and downshift without a clutch pedal.

The shift lever also is repositioned to the lower part of the center of the dashboard, and buyers can choose a lower-cost 5-speed manual, if they want. It doesn't change the government fuel economy rating, though.

Odds and ends
The xB rides a bit smoother now that its wheelbase is longer, so the car isn't as prone to the chop-chop kind of ride over concrete pavement that it had before.

But the xB's rear axle beam suspension can manage some road impacts clumsily.

Drivers sit up a bit from the pavement but still can't see around larger vehicles, and the xB's metal pillars around the windshield block visibility during left-hand turns.

Inside, air conditioning is improved for better cool-down, and seats are more supportive, though they still feel like simple foam padding to me.

Check out the new circular gauges arranged in a horizontal line at the top of the dashboard in an eye-catching pattern.

Cruise control is standard now—another nod to the wishes of xB owners—and the radio antenna delivers better reception now that it's a short stalk on the roof, rather than embedded in window glass.

Safety gets a big upgrade with the addition of side-mounted airbags for front-seat passengers and curtain airbags for front and rear seats for the first time.

And, as always with Scions, there's a bevy of add-on accessories available. Indeed, officials said buyers typically spend more than $1,000 on accessories, such as upgraded wheels, stereo equipment and customized, decorative touches that are all available through Scion dealerships.

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BB06 - 7/9/2014 10:09:29 PM