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  • 2008 Scion xB

    Posted on June 15th, 2008 ninarussin

    A Better Box

    By Nina Russin

    2008 Scion xB

    2008 Scion xB

    The xB was one of two cars that launched the Scion brand back in 2003, the other being the now-defunct xA. Based on a Japan market car called the “Black Box,” the funky xB won the hearts of buyers looking for an affordable alternative to sport-utility vehicles.

    Though it couldn’t match the off-road capability of four-wheel drive trucks, the xB held a surprising amount of cargo, with fuel economy rivaling passenger cars. Monospec pricing and a sub-$14,000 MSRP appealed to first-time car buyers who were wary of the dealership experience, and wanted to avoid long-term loan payments.

    This year, Scion rolls out an all-new xB with much-improved ride and handling, a more spacious passenger cabin and more room for cargo. Powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces fifty-five more horsepower than the original car, the new xB is a more substantial vehicle while retaining the funky charm of the original.

    In addition to the bigger engine, the new xB also has bigger wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, and more standard safety features, including antilock brakes, front, side and side curtain airbags, and vehicle stability control with traction control. Fuel economy is still above average for a crossover-utility vehicle: about 25 miles-per-gallon.

    Scion has maintained its monospec, value pricing strategy. MSRP for the five-speed manual version is $15,650; $16,600 for the four-speed automatic. The base car includes many comfort and convenience features car buyers look for: remote keyless entry, air conditioning, a Pioneer, iPod compatible audio system, tilt steering wheel with redundant audio controls and power side mirrors. Buyers can customize their xBs with a few factory options including premium audio and navigation systems, or choose from a myriad of aftermarket products.

    The test car has four options: a rear spoiler ($423), navigation system ($2010), floor mats ($144) and a security package ($423). Total cost, including a $580 delivery charge is $19,287.

    Love it or hate it styling

    I must confess that my reaction to the xB’s styling is that it’s a face only a mother could love. Then again, I’m about twice the age of the target buyer. In its favor, nobody can accuse the xB of having a bland exterior.

    Though it maintains the basic box shape of the original model, designers added styling touches that meld the xB with the larger family of Toyota vehicles. A thick, angular rear pillar and roof spoiler are similar to elements on the current Toyota Highlander, while wrap-around headlamps mimic the current Corolla. The profile is more aerodynamic than the first xB, and larger wheels seem more proportionate to the body.

    Two vertical taillamps serve as focal points in back. A single backup lamp in the left corner balances off the tailpipe to the right. Though it makes sense on the drawing board, it looks a bit odd on the actual car.

    A standard rear wiper keeps the glass clean in rain and snow. Designers thoughtfully put the VIN number on the inside of the liftgate rather than the base of the windshield: it’s easy for the car owner to find, but not so for would-be thieves.

    Urban interior

    Inside, the styling is stark and urban: a Scion trademark. A four-gauge cluster on top of the center stack displays time, ambient temperature, fuel economy, and average speed. The navigation screen on the test car also displays audio settings. The screen flips up for loading in compact discs. The shift lever is located to the right of the steering wheel rather than in the floor console, leaving more room for storage.

    Dark charcoal upholstery is attractive and practical: it doesn’t get as hot as leather, and it doesn’t show dirt. Though the seats lack lumbar adjustments, I found both front and rear seats to have adequate lower back support.

    There are plenty of bins and cubbies around the front seats for holding small electronic devices, sunglasses, and paperwork. Two cupholders in the floor console are big enough for water bottles in the endurance athlete world. The center console bin is deep enough to hold compact discs. iPod and MP3 jacks plug into the front of the bin, while two pop-out cupholders for second-row passengers are stowed in back.

    The glovebox is larger than average, with room to hold maps and paperwork. There is also a storage shelf above the glovebox. All four doors have large bottle holders and the front doors also have map pockets.

    The car’s narrow greenhouse makes for a dark interior, especially without a moonroof. This is especially noticeable in the second row. On the upside, second row passengers have an abundance of head and shoulder room. Since the front-wheel drive xB has no transmission tunnel through the floor, it’s possible to seat three adults across the back. Legroom is adequate for small to medium-sized passenger: taller men may find the rear seats cramped.

    Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor: a button to the outside of the seatbacks releases them. The xB meets our bicycle friendly standards. There are four tie-down loops on the cargo floor. An under-floor storage area has four bins that conceal valuables from prying eyes.

    Both front seats fully recline, reminding me of my favorite feature in my ’66 Rambler. It’s too bad drive-in movie theaters have gone the way of the carburetor.

    Ready for the open road

    The problem with bringing Japan market cars to America is that nobody in Japan drives very fast. Roads in Japan are much narrower than here in the States, and traffic in Tokyo makes Manhattan look like a farm field by comparison.

    Since the first xB was modeled after a Japan market car, it lacked the high-speed stability that American drivers need. Fifteen-inch wheels worked fine on surface streets, but they made the car feel wobbly on the interstate.

    The new xB was built for American roads, and it shows. The new engine has plenty of power to keep up with traffic, and enough on the low end to make entrance ramps a non-issue. I would recommend the five-speed manual for those willing to live with a clutch: it gives the driver better control over the engine’s power, as well as having a big overdrive gear to maximize fuel economy when power demands are low. The gearbox is easy to shift, and the clutch is light enough for use on the streets.

    Sixteen-inch wheels are a significant improvement over the smaller wheels on the outgoing model. Having maneuvered through some dense freeway traffic in Phoenix’s east valley, I can say confidently that the car is capable of commuting through typical urban traffic.

    Four-wheel disc brakes make the car stop in a straight line on wet or snowy roads; they are also easier to service than drums. An electric steering pump under the hood reduces weight and provides good response at all speeds.

    Visibility around the car is pretty good. The side mirrors compensate for the blind spots created by the D pillars; the biggest problem is knowing where the rear wheels are when backing into a parking spot.

    Although the new car is longer and wider than the outgoing model, the xB remains a small vehicle. The xB is about fourteen feet long and five feet wide: it will fit into any parking space. Despite the tall cargo area, overall height is just over five feet: the xB will clear parking garage  ceilings and garage doors with ease. On the downside, five inches of ground clearance doesn’t leave much margin on unimproved dirt roads.

    All cars come with a three year/36,000 mile warranty, that includes complimentary scheduled service at 5,000 and 10,000 miles. The 2008 xB is currently on display a Scion dealerships nationwide.

    Likes: A practical crossover utility vehicle with above-average fuel economy and a spacious, versatile cargo area.

    Dislikes: Thick D pillars obstruct visibility to the rear. The xB’s low ground clearance limits its use on unimproved dirt roads.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Scion
    Model: xB
    Base price: $15,650
    As tested: $19,287
    Horsepower: 158 Hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque: 162 lbs.-ft @ 4000 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: Standard
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 22/28 mpg city/highway
    Comments: Base price does not include a $580 delivery charge.


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