2008 Scion xB Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
June 14, 2008

The 2008 Scion xB takes a new tack: it's bigger and more refined, but lags in fuel economy and fun.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com read a wide range of professional road tests of the 2008 Scion xB to compile this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com’s editors also drove the 2008 Scion xB and offer driving impressions and more details, where they help you make a better new-car decision.

The 2008 Scion xB is the second generation of the popular four-door hatchback sold by Toyota's youth-oriented brand. It's larger and more "sinister" in styling than before, Toyota says.

Most reviewers, including those at TheCarConnection.com, feel the 2008 Scion xB has strayed from its roots as a Japanese domestic-market runabout. Moving up in size, the xB now is roughly the same dimensions as the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Chevrolet HHR. It's picked up nearly a foot in length, a few hundred pounds in girth, a couple grand in sticker price, and 55 more horsepower. The Scion xB looks thicker, and it's grown into something that's not so different from domestic retro-wagons. Inside, the xB has center-mounted gauges that are illogically placed, but there are plenty of interior bins and storage areas, and the dash design itself is squared-off and thick, just like the exterior shell.

The boost in size endows the 2008 Scion xB with more storage room. The front passenger seat folds back flat; in the second row, there's now enough room for adults. Storage room under the second-row seats is useful, but the chairs themselves, front and back, get uncomfortable after an hour. The seatbacks are merely fabric stretched over a frame. The cost-cutting is a little too obvious here.

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The 2008 Scion xB is outfitted with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It's worth an extra 55 horsepower, now at 158 hp total, over the former four-cylinder. The engine is mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed sequential automatic. The combination of good shift quality, the smooth revving of the big four, and good clutch uptake make the powertrain a big improvement on the last version. However, fuel economy has plunged from 30/33 mpg to 22/28 mpg.

Sixteen-inch wheels and a lower ride height have created better ride comfort. In terms of handling, though, the Scion xB's front struts and a torsion-beam rear, with electric power steering, keep the xB decently responsive, if a little pitchy. Dramatic moves make the Scion xB bobble it on its corners a bit. It's forgiving but no longer exciting, and electric power steering is artificial in feel.

Anti-lock brakes, side and curtain airbags, and stability control are standard equipment. The 2008 Scion xB gets a "good" rating for front-impact protection from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

8

2008 Scion xB

Styling

Whether you love it or hate it, the boxy styling of the 2008 Scion xB is here to stay.

In 2003, Toyota set out to create a youth brand, Scion, that featured very non-traditional styling, and on that count, it has definitely succeeded. The styling of the Scion brand, especially the boxlike 2008 Scion xB, is very divisive, but consumers have responded to the tune of more than 170,000 Scions sold last year. For 2008, the Scion xB gets new styling both inside and out.

The original Scion xB debuted about five years ago, and Scion designers have apparently decided that xB Scion owners have accumulated a lot more stuff to move around in the last half-decade. In order to facilitate all that hauling, the designers have made the 2008 Scion xB much larger and heavier. Edmunds states that "the 2008 Scion xB is exactly 1 foot longer than the last box, 3 inches wider and actually 2 inches shorter in height," dimensions that give the car a "more substantial, less toylike appearance." Kelley Blue Book finds that, unlike the crisp lines on the old xB Scion, "the 2008 xB is noticeably rounder...than its predecessor." Cars.com adds that "the new xB remains as distinctive as its predecessor, even though the edges have been rounded a bit here and there," though whether or not that's a good thing is open to interpretation. The styling on the entire Scion lineup inspires strong reactions, both positive and negative, and some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com leaned toward the latter. Car and Driver derisively refers to the 2008 Scion xB as "a junior minivan."

Inside the new sheetmetal that flows around the exterior of the Scion xB is a completely redesigned interior, though one that feels like it could still use some work. Some reviewers lamented the impracticality of the dashboard layout, and ConsumerGuide writes that the 2008 Scion xB's "digital speedometer" is "mounted high in the middle of the dashboard, out of driver's direct line of sight," a styling feature that proves "an annoyance to some testers." With the xB's gauges all skewed toward the center of the dashboard, Autoblog feels that "instruments (especially primary ones like the speedometer and tach) belong in front of the driver." Edmunds agrees, finding that "the small and oddly angled tachometer is just silly." However, aside from the peculiar placement of the gauges, the rest of the Scion xB's interior is well-styled, with ConsumerGuide giving the car full marks for the "high-mounted audio and climate controls which are simple to operate and easy to reach."

7

2008 Scion xB

Performance

The 2008 Scion xB falls behind in driving fun—and fuel economy.

One of the chief complaints about the first-generation Scion xB was that it was woefully underpowered. Although it's an economy car, the lack of any engine options frustrated some buyers who cried for more power. For the 2008 xB, Scion has addressed this problem with the welcome addition of a 158-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.

The Scion xB will never be marketed as a performance car, but at least the 2008 models allow for respectable acceleration during normal driving situations. ConsumerGuide writes that "acceleration is good from a stop, even with the automatic transmission." Car and Driver agrees, claiming that "none of the little boxes [they've] tested recently is such an animal at the strip except for the turbocharged PT Cruiser GT." Edmunds also chimes in on engine performance on the 2008 Scion xB, saying that "there is now plenty of low-end power -- something the previous xB didn't have."

Realistically, though, few drivers of the xB Scion will be taking their cars to the drag strip, no matter how many performance accessories they drop under the hood. Perhaps more relevant are the daily driving impressions. In that field, Kelley Blue Book feels that "the 2008 xB...seems to be most at home on urban roads," while "on rural roads the xB seems a little sluggish." Overall, they conclude that the 2008 Scion xB's new engine is "a definite improvement, producing 55 more horsepower than available in the previous xB and giving it some extra power on hills and freeways."

Transferring engine power to the wheels is either a "five-speed manual or a neat sequential-shift, four-speed automatic," according to Popular Mechanics. The available transmissions on the Scion xB receive generally negative reviews, with Automobile finding that "rowing through the five-speed gearbox is like churning butter" on the manual and ConsumerGuide adding that "the automatic is sometimes slow to downshift."

With all of the 2008 Scion xB's newfound power and increased (and admittedly ungainly) dimensions, how exactly does it handle? The verdict, based on reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, is that it drives much like you would expect a box to drive--that is, without much zest. ConsumerGuide finds that although "there is moderate body lean in fast turns...a tight turning radius and light steering feel aid low-speed maneuverability." Car and Driver probably describes it best, saying that they "never fell in love with the sitting-on-a-tipsy-bar-stool feeling that arises on twisty roads." Popular Mechanics agrees, stating that "the new xB rides smoothly and quietly" around town, but it "certainly doesn't have the taut suspension and sporty soul of, say, a Honda Fit."

The 2008 Scion xB also loses points when it comes to fuel economy, as the car's ratings have dipped from the low 30s on the previous generation into the low 20s for 2008. Edmunds says that EPA estimates show that "the new xB checks in at 22 mg city/28 mpg highway."

7

2008 Scion xB

Comfort & Quality

Despite a few questionable interior details and seat comfort issues, the 2008 Scion xB is still enjoyable on long drives.

Because Scion is a direct descendant of the Toyota brand (and still wholly owned by the big T), you'd anticipate top-notch quality throughout. Unfortunately, the 2008 Scion xB doesn't meet expectations in a couple key areas.

Interior comfort is definitely a mixed bag on the Scion xB, as reviews read by TheCarConnection.com praise the near-limitless headroom and generous cargo space but also note that the seats can be uncomfortable. The Scion xB is designed to hold five occupants, and those up front will find "comfortable and supportive" seats with "ample" headroom, though "taller folks may want more legroom," according to ConsumerGuide. Autoblog writes that headroom on the xB Scion has dropped "four and a half inches in back," though Cars.com adds that the rear seats feature "lots of legroom and a nicely angled backrest." Cars.com also finds that "the front of the cabin is airy, and there's plenty of headroom for tall passengers" on the 2008 Scion xB, but that can prove to be of little consolation if you find yourself in one of the less-than-comfortable seats up front.

For 2008, the Scion xB also adds significant cargo room, which ConsumerGuide says includes "several bins and trays" that "supply handy interior storage," and "the cargo area has a handy under-floor bin." Road & Track notes that "cargo volume goes up about half a cubic foot" and calls the 2008 Scion xB "a lesson in interior space efficiency."

In terms of driving comfort and build quality, Motor Trend reports that the "Toyota engineers used tight panel fits and strategically placed sound-deadening material to quash wind noise and road vibration." Overall, Edmunds thinks that the "xB is user-friendly and comfortable." Other reviews of the xB Scion's build and materials quality vary, with Consumer Guide writing that "the materials are still pleasant for the price" despite the fact that "the interior lacks soft touch surfaces."

On the road, occupant comfort and general drivability have been improved for 2008. This is helped by the 2008 Scion xB's road noise characteristics, which ConsumerGuide feels is "generally well controlled, though larger bumps pound through loudly." The engine is also tame, and ConsumerGuide writes that it is "largely unobjectionable" in terms of the noise it generates.

9

2008 Scion xB

Safety

For a small and inexpensive car, the 2008 Scion xB includes many high-end safety features and a well-engineered body that holds up well during crash tests.

With its increased size and weight, the 2008 Scion xB now offers additional safety features and commendable crash test results.

During independent crash tests, the xB Scion performed remarkably well for a compact car, scoring either the highest or second-highest ratings in all major crash test categories. The NHTSA gives the 2008 Scion xB four out of five stars for front impact occupant protection, and a perfect five stars for side impacts. The IIHS also gives the 2008 Scion xB its highest score of Good for frontal offset collisions.

Edmunds approves of the xB Scion's "impressive array of standard safety features including antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags." However, in some regards, they may have gone a little overboard on the 2008 Scion xB. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, many reviewers felt that the stability control system on the Scion xB was too eager to intervene, with Automobile writing that "if extreme yaw angles are detected, the system will rain on your parade even after you've switched it off."

Visibility in the 2008 xB gets fair to good marks. Kelley Blue Book notes that the wide "pillars at the back end of the car create a bit of a blind spot that some drivers may not like," with ConsumerGuide saying that the "pillars complicate rear visibility." On the other hand, AutoWeek reports that the "much wider rear pillar...didn't bother us at all" and praises "the visibility through all that glass." Edmunds says daily commuters will find the xB Scion offers "good visibility...for everyday driving."

8

2008 Scion xB

Features

The long features list, both standard and optional, and low base price make the 2008 Scion xB a real bargain in the features department.

The whole purpose of the Scion brand was to create base models with a firm price and huge options list that consumers could then customize to their liking. This format has proven a huge success, and for 2008 the Scion xB, which comes in only one base trim version, gets an improved list of standard features while retaining its smaller price tag.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the 2008 Scion xB "comes with loads of standard features" and numerous options. One of the xB Scion's most prominent features is the sound system. Automobile writes that "the stereo is ready to blast the contents of your iPod, and the premium audio system's auxiliary inputs make it easier to add more equipment." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com invariably mentioned and praised the audio system on the Scion xB. Edmunds also notes that the xB Scion's other "standard features include 16-inch steel wheels...air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories [and] a tilt steering wheel."

The list of optional features and customer upgrades on the Scion xB is very extensive, but most of the options are reasonably priced and very cool. Road & Track writes that "a huge reason for the success" of the Scion brand is its "unique approach to factory vehicle customization," which is apparent as soon as one glances at the available options on the Scion xB. Car and Driver lists some of the optional features, including "$299 LED interior mood lights, $1599 DVD headrest televisions, and a $2250 navigation system," but notes that few performance options are available. Much like the competing MINI Cooper Clubman, the 2008 Scion xB has so many features and available options that you can easily craft a unique vehicle to suit your tastes, from decals to exterior and interior trim and some minor performance pieces.

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April 18, 2015
For 2008 Scion xB

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The XB does not nearly get the recognition deserved. It has plenty of room\headroom, (one of my legs doesn't bend well), great power, (Camry drivetrain\ engine), safety, (antilock, anti-skid, traction control... + More »
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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 8.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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