2009 Scion xDPosted on July 8th, 2009
Scion’s baby box is a super value
By Nina Russin
Last year, Scion replaced the subcompact xA with the xD, a car that looks very much like a scaled-down xB. After driving the 2008 model, I was struck by the night-and-day difference between the xD and the car it replaced. While the xA aspired towards buyers with active lifestyles, the xD embraced them.
Not only does the xD have a more refined powertrain; its versatile, thoughtful interior is ideal for carrying large cargo. The xD incorporates all of the hot button features for millennial buyers, including iPod connectivity, available satellite radio and navigation.
At the same time, the Scion brand carries forth Toyota’s reputation for quality and dependability. The factory warranty includes free scheduled maintenance for the 5000 and 10,000 mile intervals.
Since the xD is a light car, it can run well on a relatively small engine and maintain good fuel economy. The four-speed automatic model tested averages 28 miles-per-gallon according to EPA estimates: my fuel economy for the test drive was slightly higher.
Base price is $15,450, making the Scion xD an ALV super value.
Enough power for the open road
Automatic transmissions can make small engines anemic, especially on the low end. The four-speed automatic transmission in the xD is an exception to the rule. Acceleration in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range will be a pleasant surprise to the urban commuter.
Variable valve timing maximizes power from the car’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. The engine reaches its peak torque- 125 foot-pounds- at 4400 rpm: average engine speed during hard acceleration.
Despite weighing a mere 2665 pounds, the xD feels solid on the highway. Engineers wisely gave the car a low center of gravity and a wide track. It rides on standard 16-inch wheels, which work much better than the smaller rims on the xA. Designers pushed the wheels to the corners to give the xD the largest possible footprint.
Electric power steering is similar to the system used in Toyota’s hybrid cars: it’s lighter and takes up less space than traditional hydraulic pumps. The system works well on the xD, producing a positive on-center feel on the highway, with plenty of assist at lower speeds.
An independent front and torsion beam rear suspension with a standard front stabilizer bar keeps the chassis flat in the corners. The rear axle is compliant enough for Phoenix roads: I’d be curious to see how it feels on salt-damaged roads in the upper Midwest.
The standard braking system consists of front discs and rear drums with antilock braking. I don’t like drum brakes because they retain water and are harder to service. Since most of the braking on a front-wheel drive car takes place on the front axle, the system is adequate for the pint-sized xD.
Visibility is quite good out the front. A standard tilt steering wheel helps smaller drivers maintain a clear view. Like the xB, the Scion xD has a narrow greenhouse and small rear window. The rear window functions adequately when the rear headrests are lowered all the way. With passengers in back, it’s difficult to see behind the car.
Standard front and rear wipers keep the glass clean in wet weather.
Designers made the best use of the interior space by keeping the car uncluttered. A second glovebox provides enclosed storage in place of a center stack bin. The floor console is simple and small, consisting of a gate shifter, an open bin at the base of the center stack, and three cupholders.
Since the xD has no floor tunnel and a high ceiling, three can sit in the second-row seats. Access and egress to the rear seats is excellent. Both first and second-row seats move fore and aft, and recline. All four doors have bottle holders; the middle passenger has access to a cupholder at the back of the floor console.
A single gauge up front combines speedometer and tachometer. A digital fuel gauge is positioned to its left, and a multifunction display to the right. The display on the right includes odometer, trip meter, real and average fuel economy.
The iPod connector, auxiliary port and 12-volt power point at the base of the center stack are easy to reach from either front seat. Climate and audio controls function intuitively. Dual reading lamps up front and a standard dome lamp illuminate the interior at night.
Buyers who want to upgrade from the standard Pioneer audio system can purchase a premium system that adds the ability to download skins, images and short videos. A navigation system is also available as an option.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern, using releases on the outboard seatbacks. Though the xD’s rear cargo area isn’t as large as the xB’s, drivers can get a road bike frame in back with the wheels off. Concealed bins under the cargo floor stow small items.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, active front headrests and a first aid kit. I’d highly recommend adding optional traction and stability control ($650): technologies proven to significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
The xD is on display at Scion dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A versatile subcompact car with seating for five adults and a configurable cargo area. The xD’s four-cylinder engine provides plenty of power for highway driving, and averages 32 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
Dislikes: Limited visibility to the sides and back due to a narrow greenhouse and small back window. Electronic stability control is not standard equipment.
Base price: $15,450
As tested: $17,394
Horsepower: 128 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 125 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 26/32 mpg
Comments: Scion’s mono spec pricing simplifies the buying process by limiting options, and including the delivery charge in the base sticker price.
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