Scions xD and xB: Bigger and Bolder


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In a nutshell: The Scion xD replaces the Scion xA. It is larger and more powerful. The Scion xB has also been restyled and given a larger engine. They are similar in appearance, but quite different in use. They have different dash arrangements as well. Unless you love to shift, get the automatic version, as there is no gas mileage penalty, Finally, the dealer has hundreds of customizing options to make your Scion toaster look different than others. Fun, responsible, and affordable, the new Scions may appeal to the youth market, but we feel they are for the young at heart as well.

Scion has abandoned the shoe looking xA in favor of the shoe box looking xD and the result is a bolder new little brother for the xB. We drove them both and found that the xD was the most cost effective. It was not as quiet and certainly not as powerful or roomy as the larger xB, but we liked its good-natured tossability, pricing, and fuel mileage. If you need a bigger box the xB is a good choice, but its pricing not places it against the much larger Honda Element, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, the HHR from Chevrolet, and even Toyota’s own Matrix, all which are dandy, economical, family oriented vehicles.

The big news, pun intended, is that the xD had its wheelbase stretched nearly four inches longer than the car it replaced, the xA, and a it is also a bit wider. A more enthusiastic powertrain comes from the well-proven Toyota 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder that has 128 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. We tested both the four-speed automatic and the five speed manual and found them plenty playful, but neither could be classified as spine tingling. We would go with the automatic as the fuel mileage is the same and it is more comfortable in day-to-day commuting.

Handling is better than we expected seeing the box like physical dimensions of the xD and the 16 inches 195/60 tires. Braking was pretty good, too, as the ventilated front discs and rear drums were up to the task of slowing this toaster on wheels.

We like the interior of the xD better than the xB. The gauge cluster is now in front of the driver instead of being mounted in the center of the dash as the latter. The xD’s cluster isn’t all that easy to read, but at least you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to check your car’s statistics.

Being slanted toward the youth market means being unique and having a good stereo. Thus the xD has a lot of storage spaces and the Pioneer stereo works well. However, we suspect this will be the first item replaced by owners. There are also two input jacks; one for IPod and another for an MP3 player. The sound quality for both units was average, despite the well-regarded Pioneer stereo with a single CD player in the dash and six speakers with 160 watts of power. There are a lot of adjustments on the stereo, but we doubt that any buyer is really going to be happy with it as the sound of the tires and wind make a better quality unit almost mandatory.

Mom’s view: Very nice. Handy, easy to maneuver, enough power to stay out from under the wheels of the illegal to drive in residential wheels of Hummer H2s, Lincoln Navigators, and Ford Excursions. Yep, that is right. These road destroyers weigh over three tons, which is the limit on most roads. Personally, I find them offensive, but if you have a large ranch and need to tow everyday they have an off road reason to exist.

Anyway, there is plenty of standard equipment with the Scion xB, especially safety wise. There is ABS, front-seat side airbags, a full-length head curtain airbag system, and optional stability control.

What I also liked about the xD is that is has become invisible. Thanks to the ubiquitous xB the boxy xD no longer generates much visual interest. That is a real plus, but also gives dealers who sell a myriad of options a real pathway to profits as there are so many ways to make your xD your own the mind boggles. I found that they confused most people, as they do look similar now that Toyota has redone its exterior treatments. However, the xD isn’t nearly as large as the xB. For about $1500 more the xB offers a lot more car. It is wider, taller, and over a foot longer. That shows up in the interior with the xB having considerably more front shoulder room and more rear headroom. However, with either the xD or xB there is an abundance of headroom with 30 and. 40 inches for each respectively. Cargo space is dramatically larger in the xB with more than the double the room available in the larger xB at about 22 cubic feet.

I quite liked the xD. The electric steering was well weighted, the brakes felt firm and linear and the front seats were comfortable. On the road there was a bit much road noise, especially offer roughed up roads. The Nissan Versa that costs less has a quieter ride, but than again it isn’t a box on wheels. Acceleration is in the 0 to 60 in over ten seconds category as the 1.8 liter four cylinder and its l6 valves are kept busy by double overhead cams that help make 128 horsepower at a high 6000-rpm. When loaded and traveling against a stiff wind the 125 ft-lbs. @ 4400 rpm of torque is tested. However, it is much better than the xA that it replaced. The xB has more horsepower, but it doesn’t feel that much more peppy due to the extra weight it touts.

I like the ride of the large xB better, but I felt in control at all times in the xD. In either car the ride is not soft and you have to work the engines hard to get thrust due to the fact they both need a lot of revs to produce propulsion. That is also why the gas mileage isn’t as great as one would think based on their compact size. I’d take the xD, keep it to a minimum of options, and scoot around town with aplomb taking parking places those owners of those horrible large SUV drivers can’t even get their pollution mobiles into.

Dad’s view: The ride quality of the xD isn’t up to the standards of the xB and rugged roads can clearly give you the shakes, but it is ready to romp and playful in both appearance and utility. I enjoyed my time with the xD and it would be my choice of all the Scions based on its pricing and extensive standard feature list that includes air conditioning, a trip computer, and rear seats that can slide forward or back. Very creative packaging.

We tested both the manual and automatic transmissions and see no need for the stick shift unless you want to feel you are in control. The linkage for the manual transmission has a very amount of twists to go though, but feels tight and the throws are easy to make. The clutch is soft with a low take up and you’ll need it because both engines need to be kept on boil to gain an advantage. The four speed automatic transmission works just fine.

I found it most unusual to see a seat belt latch hanging from the rear ceiling. It is for use by the person riding in the middle seat. I never got used to it, but it is nice to know that the Scions can hold five people.

The xD is based on the chassis of the Toyota Yaris and it has the same front wheel drive layout, although it is heavier and not as swift. However, we like the Scion much better even if it is not recommended for towing.

There is little doubt that the xD is going to have its hands full trying to eke out a niche with against the larger and not much more expensive xB, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet’s HHR, and the French looking and roomy Nissan Versa. However, none of those can get a dealer option list that includes B pillar appliqués, a spoiler, wheels or wheel covers, overhead consoles, and even a quick shift kit not to mention a navigation system XM or Sirius satellite radio and a upgraded stereo to go with the standard air conditioning. Cruise control, tilt steering wheel with redundant controls and even a tire pressure monitor and first aid kit.

On the highway the diminutive size of the xD dissipates quickly you have a reasonably high seating position that offers good visibility in all directions, but beware those large C pillars can hide a semi truck. Acceleration is best below 60 and you are going to have to keep the accelerator down to generate two-lane highway passing with safety.

The xB is slightly friskier, but has more weight to tout around. It has a smoother ride and has more usable room even with the back seats up. So I would go with the large xB and spend the extra money for the additional engine power and room.

Young working woman’s view: Okay, so I am unemployed at this moment even with a MBA and MIS and an Ivy League Bachelor of Science degree. But hey, that’s life and why I don’t have a new car payment either. Despite this the Scions are not my type of boxcar. I did like the xD’s interior with its very nicely designed dashboard and the place to plug in my iPod. The stereo monitor was a bit much and the stereo controls for the Pioneer unit and its joystick manipulator out of my age range. Seating is comfortable, but only over short distances. The seats lack enough cushion for my nerve center, but they are easy to adjust. The backsets have a 60/40 split and can be slide forward or back and have two position recline to provide the passenger more foot room. The headrests are easy to move out of the way, too. Despite this the Honda Fit has more utility in its cargo hold and is easier to drive enthusiastically. It does not have the panache of the xD.

I much preferred the xB with its larger dimensions even with the center mounted gauge cluster. I also found it more fun to drive and had superior equipment such as ABS with a panic brake assist feature, stability and traction control.

College going male’s view: You get a non-locking glove box, lots of storage bins, a center console and pockets in the front doors as well as a heaping vastness of cargo space when the rear seats are folded flat with the xB. The front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam axle are controlled by anti-roll bars and this box feels well connected to the road if you can learn to live with the lean and the saving grace of the stability control system. Stopping is fine as the xB utilizes ABS disc/drum brakes with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Brake Assist circuitry to reign in this showy shoebox. I would opt for the larger rims and tires if you want to test your driving skill and also gain some needed ground clearance.

Pioneer’s stereo was just okay. The control buttons are quite small and if you order the big subwoofer it takes up space in the cargo area of either vehicle.

Although I am the prime demographic for these Scions I can’t really warm to them. Certainly, I like the room and look, but I like a smoother ride and better gas mileage. I would save a bit more and get the Toyota Matrix. It has the same engine as the xB, but has a smoother cruise level.

Family conference: Surprisingly, neither of these boxes gets exception fuel mileage. The xB has a 14-gallon tank and the xD an 11-gallon unit making both vehicles capable of 300-mile trips without refueling. W got 28 and 25 miles per gallon with the xD getting the better figure. A Toyota Corolla can do better so the wind resistance really impacts these two Scions. The bottom line for us is that they are handy, versatile, environmentally friendly, and are well priced. They have a fair amount of competition, but we like them and find the new xD a good friend in the city.