2011 Scion xBPosted on March 2nd, 2011
One box fits all
By Nina Russin
Eight years ago, Toyota introduced the Scion brand with two cars: the xA and xB. The name Scion means “descendent” or “heir to,” suggesting its youthful orientation. Simple model designations fit with the brand’s high-tech approach to selling cars, encouraging buyers to use the internet and dealership kiosks to spec out vehicles.
Monospec pricing eliminates confusion over option packages and dealer add-ons. Dealers keep minimal inventory on the lot. Instead, they fill customer orders using vehicles at nearby storage facilities.
The funky xB had roots in a Japan-market car. Scion’s box-on-wheels quickly won a fan base stateside for its small footprint and versatile interior. It became the first in a legion of urban vehicles designed for budget-conscious city dwellers needing a vehicle suited to their active lifestyles.
Scion rolled out the second-generation xB in 2008. The new car sported a more powerful engine and larger wheels: better suited for driving on American highways. It was also slightly larger, though its footprint remained small enough for on-street parking and crowded garages.
An audio upgrade on 2010 and newer models adds standard USB and iPod connectivity.
This week I spent time in the 2011 xB, priced from $16,950. Base price does not include a $720 delivery charge.
Power comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 158 horsepower and a four-speed automatic transmission. It’s odd to find a four-speed automatic transmission these days, when five or six-speed automatics are the norm. But the gearbox performs well, without overbearing shift shock. Lack of large overdrive gears doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on gas mileage.
Engineers minimized weight gain by replacing the hydraulic power steering system in the original model with a lighter, more compact electric power steering system.
A TRD wheel upgrade and rear sway bar significantly improves performance on challenging roads. The nineteen-inch wheels and tires cost $2150, while the sway bar adds $325. An Alpine premium audio system with iPod interface costs $449. Other options include a rear bumper applique, TRD sport muffler and illuminated door sills, bringing the price as tested to $21,442.
Works like a truck; drives like a car
While I have mixed feelings about the xB’s exterior styling, I love the car’s functionality. The flat roof gives second-row passengers as much headroom as those up front. With the second-row seats folded flat, the xB easily meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
Despite its un-aerodynamic profile, the xB is thrifty at the gas pump, averaging 28 miles-per-gallon on the highway. As with the other two Scion models curb weight is light: just over 3000 pounds. There is less sound insulation than other Toyota models. As a result, the driver hears more road noise, especially with the larger wheels and tires.
Visibility around the perimeter is quite good, despite its thick rear pillars. The rear glass is wide and deep enough to offer a good view out the back. Side mirrors do a good job of compensating for blind spots in the back corners. Over-the-shoulder visibility is excellent.
The four-cylinder engine reaches peak torque, 162 foot-pounds, at half throttle for good acceleration in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range. Drivers should have no problems merging into high-speed traffic off the entrance ramp.
Steering response is soft as compared to the sportier tC. However I had no problems making quick lane changes as one might during an emergency evasive maneuver. There is plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuvering through crowded parking lots.
The suspension consists of an independent MacPherson setup in front and torsion beam in the rear. The optional rear sway bar developed by TRD (Toyota Racing Development) enhances rear axle performance on winding roads. Passengers should find the suspension pleasantly compliant on uneven city streets.
Four-wheel disc brakes with four channel antilock braking stop the car in a firm, linear manner. While I’m not necessarily a fan on wheel/tire upgrades, the TRD package on the test car makes a significant difference when compared to the standard 16-inch rims.
The first-generation xB came with 15-inch wheels. The wheels and tires worked fine on surface streets, but didn’t perform particularly well on the highway. The standard 16-inch rims offer a more stable footprint, but the 19-inch wheels make the xB far more capable of aggressive performance. I was amazed at how well the car performed through a series of decreasing radius turns on a rural road outside town.
Spacious interiorPerhaps it’s the xB’s high, flat headliner: the car’s interior reminds me of a house on wheels, similar to the original VW microbus. One can literally load one’s life inside the xB and make it mobile.
I was grateful to find the seats devoid of the aggressive bolsters which make my hamstrings bark. The seatbacks have plenty of lower lumbar support. The front seats fully recline to increase the xB’s cargo space. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
Gauges are in the center stack, which takes some getting used to. The advantage of configuring a car this way is that it works equally well for both right and left-hand drive versions of the vehicle. A multi-information display includes time, ambient temperature, average and instant fuel economy and distance to empty. I found the digital displays easy to read, even in bright sunlight.
The optional audio system screen is a different story. The reflection from daylight is so bad that I found it almost impossible to read. Given the amount of noise intrusion to the interior, I would recommend against the upgrade.
Passengers in both rows should find ample access to cup and bottle holders. A storage tray under the rear seat expands the xB’s cargo capability, holding laptop computers, magazines, cameras, compact discs, cell phones and chargers . A second storage area under the cargo floor keeps items from prying eyes. The glovebox and center console are adequate for smaller items.
All models come with front, side and side curtain airbags, four-channel antilock brakes, traction and stability control, a tire pressure monitor and first aid kit. Scion also covers scheduled maintenance at the 25,000 mile mark.
Toyota builds the Scion xB at its Kanto plant in Iwate, Japan.
Likes: A versatile, fuel efficient crossover vehicle which holds up to five passengers and is bicycle friendly.
Dislikes: Display on Alpine audio screen is difficult to read in bright sunlight.
Base price: $16,950
As tested: $21,442
Horsepower: 158 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lbs.-ft @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 22/28 mpg city/highway
3 responses to “2011 Scion xB”
Henry Harrison May 24th, 2011 at 10:39
Will the xB Hold a 4’x8’sheet of plywood.
I haven’t tried it so I can’t say one way or the other.
I do consider all the ideas you’ve offered to your post. They’re really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. Could you please lengthen them a bit from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.
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