2009 Scion xBPosted on June 23rd, 2009
By Nina Russin
Since I began writing about cars twenty years ago, I’ve seen more automakers use Toyotas in their brand B comparisons than any other marque. The Toyota guys love it, since aspiration is the greatest form of flattery.
The Scion xB crossover vehicle is a perfect example. As Kia, Nissan and other manufacturers introduce box-shaped crossovers, they inevitably compare those cars to the xB. Scion’s parent company is Toyota.
Scion’s ace-in-the-hole is experience. Having learned some important lessons from the original model, the second-generation xB is a better fit for its intended audience.
The first xB was a revised version of a Japan market car; the current model was designed specifically for American buyers. It’s larger and more substantial than the model it replaces, with a more powerful engine, and larger wheels that perform better on the highway.
Despite its short wheelbase, the xB is wide enough to seat three adults across the back seats. The car’s width, just under 70-inches, allows for ample hip room. Its 102-inch wheelbase gives the xB an exceptionally small turning radius, making it a perfect city car. Although its thick rear pillars limit driver visibility to the back, they also conceal items in the cargo area. An under-floor storage tray holds smaller items in place.
Scion appeals to millennial buyers with a 160-watt Pioneer audio system that includes pre-wiring for satellite radio, iPod and MP3 connectivity. The driver can use the standard audio controls to scroll through playlists and make selections. An available audio upgrade adds the ability to download skins and short movies.
Power for the xB comes from the same 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine as the Scion tC. Variable valve timing gives the small engine a surprising amount of power while minimizing tailpipe emissions. Buyers can choose between a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
The test has the four-speed automatic. Scion engineers did a good job of minimizing hunting or hard downshifts. While a five-speed automatic might have produced better fuel economy, the xB’s 24 mpg average is pretty good for a car of its size.
Electric power steering on the xB takes up less space under the hood than a comparable hydraulic system. It offers plenty of assist at low speeds, while maintaining positive on-center response at speed.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking give the xB good stopping power in wet weather. The larger wheels on the current model make it much more stable on the highway than the original car. The test car has standard 16-inch steel wheels. Buyers who want a sportier exterior can upgrade to 16 or 17-inch alloy rims.
An independent front and torsion beam rear suspension provides an acceptably smooth ride. A standard front stabilizer bar keeps the chassis flat while cornering.
One thing I don’t like about the current model is its narrow greenhouse. Not only does it limit the driver’s visibility; it also makes the interior dark. There are rather large blind spots in the rear corners, and over-the-shoulder visibility is not good.
A four-gauge cluster at the top of the center stack is easy to read, with a digital speedometer, and analogue tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges. A standard tilt steering wheel allows smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view. Front and rear wipers keep the windshield and back glass clear in rain and snow.
The xB’s greatest asset is its versatile interior. The tall box shape gives both rows of passengers plenty of headroom, and adds room in the cargo bay. Designers did a great job of incorporating storage space around both rows of passengers. All four doors have bottle holders. There are cupholders in the floor console, and in back of the center console for rear passengers.
Standard cloth upholstery is attractive and practical in warm climates. I found the manual seat adjustments easy to use. The seats have adequate lower back support for longer drives. A dead pedal reduces leg fatigue. Standard steering-wheel mounted audio controls minimize driver distraction.
Overhead reading lamps illuminate the front of the car. I would like to have seen similar lamps in back rather than the dome lamp, which doesn’t do as good of a job.
The gated shift lever is at the base of the center stack, opening up the space between the driver and front passenger. The armrest is too far back for smaller adults such as myself. A small bin under the armrest holds compact discs and portable electronic devices. The iPod plug-in and auxiliary port are in front of the bin.
Levers on the seatbacks fold the rear seats flat in a 60/40 pattern. Since there’s no need to remove the seat bottoms or headrests, the xB easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards. The xB’s low liftover height makes it easier to load large items in back than some taller sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Four tie-down loops on the cargo floor secure larger items.
New exterior color
The test car’s Stingray metallic exterior is a new color for 2009. Other than the color change, the exterior carries over the previous year’s styling. Buyers can customize their cars with Scion accessories, including an available grille enhancement, rear spoiler, carbon-fiber window trim and custom exhaust tip.
The xB comes with standard front, side and side curtain airbags vehicle stability and traction control, and a first aid kit.
Monospec pricing and free scheduled maintenance
Buyers who dread haggling at the dealership will appreciate Scion’s monospec pricing strategy. The xB comes in one trim level, and the MSRP includes the destination and delivery charge. Buyers need only to choose the exterior color and transmission type.
Dealerships minimize inventory on-hand, encouraging customers to spec out their cars rather than settling for something on the lot. Scion keeps its inventory in warehouses close to the dealerships for quick delivery.
Base price on the xB is $16,700. Scion’s five-passenger crossover is on display at dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A small, fuel-efficient crossover that’s easy to park. The interior is remarkably spacious. A tall cargo area with fold-flat rear seats is ideal for active lifestyles.
Dislike: Narrow greenhouse makes the interior dark. Thick rear pillars create large blind spots in the rear corners.
Base price: $16,700
As tested: $17,994
Horsepower: 158 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Fuel economy: 22/28 mpg city/highway
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