Scion xB Review

Scion xB Review

Attracting the coveted 18-to-34-year-old age group is job one for Scion, the youth-oriented division of Toyota, and its xB wagon is the fashion centerpiece of the brand. Although the Scion xB has the body of a miniature delivery truck, even in its second generation this box still casts a distinctive silhouette.

We liked the first-generation xB for its distinctiveness; after all, it was little more than a rebadged version of a Japanese-market Toyota. Scion had the American market specifically in mind when it made the second-generation model bigger and more powerful, though some of the original's character was lost in the process. But overall, a new or used xB is a fine pick for a small and stylish wagon.

Current Scion xB
The Scion xB is offered in two trim levels: base and limited-production Release Series 10.0 (or RS 10.0). Standard features include air-conditioning, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker Pioneer sound system (with a CD player, HD radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and an RCA output). The RS 10.0 adds unique exterior and interior trim, a rearview camera and wireless charging of applicable smartphones. Options are limited to transmission choice and dealer-installed items such as upgraded audio systems, a navigation system and different wheel designs.

Every xB sports a 2.4-liter inline-4 that produces 158 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. Fuel economy is disappointing, however, as it is similar to that of many compact SUVs.

Inside, the xB's boxy lines translate to a surprisingly roomy interior that allows you to transport three to four friends with no complaints from the backseat. It's so roomy that some cities even employ xBs as taxi cabs. When the time comes to haul stuff rather than people, the 60/40-split rear seats fold flat, revealing an impressive 70 cubic feet of space. That's actually bigger than many compact SUVs.

In road tests of the current xB, we found it feels fairly stable at highway speeds, although its slab-sided styling makes it vulnerable to crosswinds. The xB is responsive and confident at lower speeds, though over rough surfaces the ride can get a bit bumpy. We've never liked the centrally mounted primary gauges, but the climate controls couldn't be any easier to use and the standard touchscreen interface is fairly user-friendly – especially if you belong to Scion's younger, target demographic.

Used Scion xB Models
The present Scion xB was introduced for 2008, featuring larger dimensions and more power than the first generation. In its first two years, the steering wheel featured only a tilt adjustment, meaning taller drivers had an uncomfortable reach when driving. The later addition of a telescoping adjustment helped somewhat. Besides minor styling tweaks for 2013, the main difference points were the frequent changes, updates and additions to radio faceplates. The ones produced for 2010-'13 could be fairly complicated, but provided iPod control at a time when many other cars in its price range did not. Throughout the years there were also so-called "Release Series" models that featured special paint and interior trim.

The first-generation Scion xB was sold from 2004-'07. Initially it was sold only in California, and Scion gradually rolled it out to other big markets like Florida, New York and Texas. Nationwide sales began for the 2005 model year.

Standard equipment was better than average for a low-priced economy car, as every xB came with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, air-conditioning, an MP3-compatible CD player and power windows, mirrors and locks. Fifteen-inch steel wheels with your choice of plastic wheel covers were also standard, but you could get alloy wheels as a low-cost accessory. Side and head curtain airbags were optional.

The power source in every first-generation Scion xB was a 1.5-liter, inline-4-cylinder engine. In 2004 and '05, it was rated for 108 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque. For the 2006 model year, new SAE certification procedures dropped the ratings to 103 hp and 101 lb-ft, although actual performance was unchanged. We recommend sticking with the five-speed manual transmission if you can, as it gives this xB respectable point-and-shoot capability in freeway traffic. With the four-speed automatic, acceleration can be sluggish.

For the 2006 model year, the xB's stereo head unit was redesigned to incorporate an MP3 player jack. Additionally, dedicated iPod owners had the option of purchasing a specialized unit that allowed for player control and recharging through the xB's stereo controls. Other accessories included a subwoofer, satellite radio, sport pedals and shift knob, and for the truly bored, backlit footwells and cupholders (in a variety of colors). A limited-edition Release Series 3.0 package for 2006 even provided a rear entertainment system with dual 7-inch LCD screens mounted in the front headrests.