Scion xB

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You smile when you see a Volkswagen Beetle, you grin at a Chrysler PT Cruiser, but you openly laugh when you see the new Toyota Scion xB because, in a word, it looks like a Tonka toy. There is no question you are either going to love or hate this station wagon, but regardless, it is going to sell well. The reason is simple, it is priced well and has a very useful design and most people are going to take pleasure in the attention.

If you watch you option list you can be driving this Scion for $14,200 and get over 30 mpg and we strongly believe, excellent resale. In other words, Toyota has another winner in its stable, and this one is going to delight the all-new Scion dealer network because this little rig is a blank canvas waiting for some creative options. For example, Toyota lists as options some of the most unconventional items we have ever seen. You can load you Scion with illuminated cupholders, LED interior lights, bazooka tube subwoofer, satellite radio, carbon-fiber fuel door cover, special shift knob, cargo tote, sport pedal covers, mud guards, door sill enhancement B-pillar appliqué, and a rear spoiler to mention just a few. Add essentials such as curtain side airbags and front side airbags, remote keyless entry, and alloy wheels and you can pretty much be assured you are going to own an exclusive looking mass produced vehicle. Of course, if you order all those the list price is going to be at $20,000 so be judicious. All told there are about 40 options for the xB and Scion is said have a no haggle policy so what you read it what you pay. Some cavets when ordering the optional big subwoofer, it takes up a lot of storage room. In addition, the stereo reception is poor unless you get the satellite option, which is worth it.

Mom’s view: We tested the automatic transmission xB and found it plenty spunky at first thanks to the small tires and light weight. However, once the Scion is over 4000 rpm the acceleration ends and the engine groans and its time to think seriously about visiting your local tuner shop. We stopped at Autolinks Motorworks, 4961 Santa Anita Blvd, in San Gabriel, Calif. and were told even the more normal looking xA has drawn a barrage of customizers.

Despite the options, what I liked were the standard features. The xB comes with ABS; air conditioning; power windows, locks, mirrors and steering; a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player; a 60/40-split folding and removable rear seat; keyless entry; a rear wiper; rear defroster; a tachometer; and a ground effects kit as well as airbags.

What I didn’t like was its size. It is ten inches shorter than a Toyota Echo and people feel that since the Scion is small they can just shove you around in traffic. I used the horn extensively to no avail. I would pay extra for a louder horn. In fact, an air horn mounted on the roof would probably look great and give the bullies a clear message that they don’t own the road. Luckily, the Scion handles and stops quite well. And it comes well-equipped with active safety features: antilock brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (which increases braking pressure in emergency situations) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (which apportions braking force to the tires with the most traction); Vehicle Stability Control (which attempts to restrain a vehicle from spinning out of control by adjusting the application of throttle and brakes); and traction control.

There were a variety of storage areas inside, including the usual glove box, and map pockets, and trays under the dash. What bothered me the most was the lack of good rear interior lighting when you were searching for dark items you dropped. Maybe this car is designed for younger eyes, but a more powerful interior lighting system wouldn’t hurt.

Overall, I liked the Scion and would recommend it to those who find its styling attractive. For a few dollars a month more I would prefer a more modest looking station wagon from Subaru or Volkswagen, but I would miss the attention the Toyota brings. A real plus is that I never felt I was driving a small car.

Dad’s view: I am way too old for this vehicle, and the Scion is selling well to those who are the proper age, 20 to 30. The reason is obvious, I don’t need the attention. However, every time I climbed inside I felt comfortable at home and eagerly tested the Scion with zeal. But, when I walked to the car I was always meet with the same look by those in attendance. You could read their eyes. They said, “What did your kid do wrong that caused you to take his car away?”

The Scion needs more power if it is equipped with an automatic transmission. The 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine has variable valve timing, but runs out of gusto after 4000 rpm.  It’s the same engine used in the Toyota Echo and creates 108 horsepower which is fine in city driving, but when passing or accelerating you need to plan ahead even thought the Scion weighs just 2340 and has 105 foot pounds of torque.

You can drive this Scion hard. It rides smoothly and is effortless to drive with good brakes. It’s no hot rod, however, so shifting into lower gears is needed for quick acceleration. Inside, it’s roomy and has a nice interior with controls that are easy to operate. The driver and passengers sit upright in chair-like seats and benefit from excellent visibility. As its looks suggest, the xB offers better cargo capacity than your average compact car.

Young working female’s view: This is a tall fellow. Its over 64 inches tall and offers an extremely roomy interior. It is uncomplicated to fit in a baby seat, don’t worry dad, and if you fold the rear seats down you have yourself 43 cubic feet of room. Forget the subwoofer if you want to haul things because it is placed right in the middle of the rear storage area.

In terms of appearance, there is little question this is a price leader. The interior is youthful and I found it very difficult to read the center-mounted gauges because of the poor lighting and the small numbers for the tach and fuel indicator. With an 11.9-gallon gas tank, you can go 300 miles, but we won’t try any more. I averaged about 28 mpg in mixed driving.

You can order the Scion with either an automatic-transmission or manual transmission, expect 0 to 60 mph speeds around ten seconds. However, with the gas pedal rigged to provide a lot of acceleration initially you feel you are moving faster. It does not take long to figure out that the feeling of speed quickly evaporates after 30 mph. Still, this is excellent for commuting, but not so hot for high speed passing.

There is no way that I would consider the Scion. Although the price is attractive, I would rather have the new Toyota Solara and drive a car that exhibits the appearance I want to display for the driving public.

Young working male’s view: I hope you got a chance to hear me at the House of Blues. Anyway, this is not my type of vehicle for only one reason, it is too trendy. I do appreciate what you get for the money. The car runs great and, except for the usual short wheelbase roughness over banged up pavement and low bidder highway potholes, the chassis does its job exceptionally well. If you want his car to handle better, the tires and rims need to be changed. I enjoyed driving the car and listening to CDs with the optional stereo and elaborate speaker system. But the radio reception was sub par except for the satellite stations which are worth the $10 a month extra fee.

Big trucks and side winds definitely alter your driving style as the square sides and lightweight conspire to make you well aware that you are piloting a small car. The good news here is that the Scion’s narrow stance leaves plenty of extra room in the lane so the gusts are unproblematic to compensate for.

The steering was very good; the brakes more than up to the task, and the interior surprisingly quiet. You have the feeling you are sitting high in seats that are a bit thin in the padding department. Visibility was well above average and driving in heavy traffic was only a problem when some large SUV was tailgating. I learned not to worry and just turned up the stereo and admired Toyota’s creativity.

Family conference: Scion plans on bringing out a coupe and perhaps a sedan later, but in the meantime, if the xB appeals to your sense of aesthetics we recommend you drive and buy soon because this is going to be a hit in some areas. What it is going to be like driving in the snow is another matter with its small tires and low ride height. Perhaps, in a few years, the Scion will come out with all wheel drive and it might appeal more to the snowbound. Regardless, this is a good vehicle, and a valuable one at the suggested base price. We would like to see the crash test results first, but we are sure that  Toyota has we spent a bundle to make sure the Scion is tough since a poor scores would be the only element that would hinder sales.  On the other hand you might want to wait until next year when a new, not so squared off version arrives. For all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com and click on business.

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