I don’t get it,” remarked a middle-aged man passing a row of Scion cars parked on the street. And that’s just the point — more than likely, that same man walked back to his Camry in his “loose fit” acid wash jeans, drove home and gave his teenage son yet another lecture on how raking leaves builds “character” and how System of a Down doesn’t play real music but rather “just a bunch of noise.” And at the same time, that middle-aged man could probably tell you all about the quality, value and reliability of his Camry and other Toyota products. There lies the dilemma: Toyota realizes that quality, value, safety and reliability are good things, but has struggled with how to wrap all those good qualities into a package that consumers under 30 would embrace.
Enter Scion. With the Scion brand, Toyota is making a credible effort to understand the Generation Y market and give it what it wants without pushing it down its throat. Housed within Toyota dealerships, Scion salespeople are supposed to play it straight with consumers — this means no-haggle pricing (as at Saturn dealers) and the ability to get a car the way a customer wants it in about a week. And by offering over three dozen dealer-installed options, Scion hopes to give its buyers unprecedented opportunity to customize their cars on the front end. Of the two Scion launch vehicles, the xB is our favorite. It looks like nothing else on the market, save for a passing resemblance to Honda’s Element. In addition, it has tremendous passenger- and cargo-carrying capability for its size (it’s almost 10 inches shorter than the Toyota Echo), making it an inexpensive way to lug about friends and gear associated with an active lifestyle. True, it lacks the Element’s waterproof seats and hose-down utility floor, but since it’s fully equipped in every other way for a base MSRP just over $14,000, we’ll make do. So what do you get for your money besides a lot of space? Antilock brakes; stability and traction control; air conditioning; a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player; a 60/40-split-folding and removable rear seat; a tachometer; power windows, locks, mirrors and steering; and keyless entry — in short, an impressive list for an economy vehicle. Throw in a pleasant driving demeanor, and it’s obvious that Scion will have no trouble selling this practical, stylish vehicle.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The xB is sold as a single trim level. Each one comes with ABS; air conditioning; power windows, locks, mirrors and steering; a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player; a 60/40-split folding and removable rear seat; keyless entry; a rear wiper; rear defroster; a tachometer; and a ground effects kit. There are about 40 dealer-installed options. This list includes a CD changer with multicolor head unit illumination, satellite radio, a subwoofer, alloy wheels, a roof rack and a lighting kit for the foot wells, just to name a few. Those seeking to eke out a bit more performance can opt for a strut tower brace and/or a cold air intake.
Powertrains and Performance:
Power comes from a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder with variable valve timing. It’s the same engine used in the Echo and xA, and it makes 108 horsepower. This isn’t a lot, and as the xB weighs almost 400 pounds more than the Echo, acceleration isn’t as spirited. Still, it has enough get-up-and-go for city driving, and it cruises along nicely on the highway. Merging and passing maneuvers require a little more effort, particularly on cars with the four-speed automatic. A five-speed manual is the other transmission choice. Fuel economy is in the 30-mpg range.
The xB comes with stability and traction control, antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, three-point belts in all five seating positions and a first aid kit. It has not yet been crash tested.
Interior Design and Special Features:
Being tall (64.6 inches) and boxy has its advantages, and the xB treats its passengers to incredible amounts of head- and legroom. Even when the front chairs are adjusted for a normal-size driver and passenger, those seated in the rear (there’s room for three) are still able to stretch out their legs. And stylish as the xB is, these attributes make it a great vehicle for anyone with a baby on board. With the rear seats in use, the xB can hold 21 cubic feet of cargo; fold or remove these seats and the number goes up to 43. Apart from being spacious, the cabin is agreeable in appearance. Lots of hard plastic is inevitable in this price range, but most of it is low in gloss. The center-mounted gauge pod takes some getting used to, but is otherwise unobtrusive.