2009 Scion xB Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 9, 2008

The 2009 Scion xB has polarizing looks, a no-haggle dealer experience, and a long safety features list. It provides good value for those on a budget.

The car experts at TheCarConnection.com read a wide range of professional road tests of the 2009 Scion xB to compile this definitive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also got behind the wheel of the 2009 Scion xB and offer driving impressions and more details to help you make a better new-car decision.

The 2009 Scion xB is in the second year of its love-it-or-hate-it design introduced as a 2008 model. The bigger, rounded-off box design has become more passenger-friendly, but a bit less trendsetting in the process.

Roughly the same dimensions as the Chrysler PT Cruiser and the Chevrolet HHR, the 2009 Scion xB is larger, longer, heavier, and more expensive than the first generation. 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 if you opt for the $279 overhead console, and the dash design itself is squared-off and thick, just like the exterior shell.

The 2009 Scion xB's larger dimensions translate to more interior room. The front passenger seat folds back flat; in the second row, there's now enough room for adults. Foot space is good under the front seats for second-row passengers, and the high seat position makes for easy entry and exit. 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, and the cost-cutting is a little too obvious here. This is not a vehicle for long-distance cruising comfort.

Review continues below

A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine powers the 2009 Scion xB; it's worth an extra 55 horsepower, now at 158 horsepower total, over the former four-cylinder. Unfortunately, the new engine has to move more than 600 additional pounds, so the xB is still no tire squealer, unless you take an off-ramp too quickly. 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. Another complaint is that the 2009 xB has few performance accessories available from the Scion customization catalog.

The increased weight and softer springs leave the new xB less tossable than the original one. Sixteen-inch wheels and a lower ride height have created somewhat 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. If Toyota is trying to attract younger customers, they might find xBs going to their target market's grandparents instead.

With a long list of standard safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, side and curtain airbags, and stability control, the 2009 Scion xB sets a high standard for its price class. The 2009 Scion xB gets a "good" rating for front-impact protection from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and four and five stars for front and side impact protection, respectively, from federal government.

7

2009 Scion xB

Styling

It may not appeal to all tastes, but the rounded-box styling of the 2009 Scion xB soldiers on.

After its 2008 redesign, the Scion xB is unchanged for 2009 except for one new color choice. The styling of the Scion-brand vehicles, especially the boxy 2009 Scion xB, is very divisive.

"While not quite as right-angled as the first xB, the current model is larger in useful ways while retaining the upright angles that made its predecessor so distinctive," reports Edmunds. The original Scion xB debuted about six years ago, and Scion designers have apparently decided that xB Scion owners accumulated a lot more stuff to move around in the last half-decade. In order to facilitate all that hauling, the designers made the 2009 Scion xB much larger and heavier. Edmunds states that "the 2008 Scion xB is exactly one foot longer than the last box, three inches wider and actually two inches shorter in height," dimensions that lend the car a "more substantial, less toylike appearance." Kelley Blue Book finds that, unlike the crisp lines on the old xB Scion, "the 2009 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 that's a good thing is open to interpretation. The styling on the entire 2009 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 Scion xB as "a junior minivan" and says it "lost a little of its off-beat charm in its redesign." Kelley Blue Book notes, "Standard 16-inch wheels—an inch larger than those on the previous model—do a good job of filling the wheelwells in style."

Inside the "funky styling" of the 2009 Scion xB is a completely redesigned interior that Edmunds says "holds a few disappointments." Some reviewers lament the impracticality of the dashboard layout, and ConsumerGuide points out that the 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." True to Scion's niche, custom accessories such as LED interior lights "with matching cup-holder illumination" or sport pedals are available, as Kelley Blue Book notes.

7

2009 Scion xB

Performance

If you expect zippy performance from the 2009 Scion xB, you might be disappointed.

For the 2009 xB, Scion stays with the same 2.4-liter engine found in the tC, a suspension tuned for comfort over sport, and numb steering.

There's no pretending that the 2009 Scion xB is a sporty van, but at least the 2009 models allow for respectable acceleration during normal driving situations. ConsumerGuide observes 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 Scion xB, saying that "there is now plenty of low-end power—something the previous xB didn't have." Kelley Blue Book concludes that the 2009 Scion xB's 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."

In day-to-day driving, Kelley Blue Book feels that the "xB...seems to be most at home on urban roads," while "on rural roads the xB seems a little sluggish." "Low-speed maneuvers feel quick and confident," notes Edmunds, but "with a relatively high center of gravity, the xB rolls significantly during cornering." Realistically, though, few drivers of the xB Scion will be taking their cars to the drag strip, which is just as well since the supercharger available in the tC is not available for the 2009 xB.

Putting power to the asphalt is either a "five-speed manual or a neat sequential-shift, four-speed automatic," according to Popular Mechanics. The available transmissions on the 2009 Scion xB receive generally negative reviews, with Automobile Magazine 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." In performance testing, Edmunds "hustled an automatic-equipped xB hustled from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds."

How else does a slab-sided "toaster-on-wheels" drive? The verdict, based on reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, is that the 2009 Scion xB drives much like you would expect of a box—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." Stopping this box are larger disc brakes on all four wheels that Kelley Blue Book notes stop the vehicle "more quickly."

"Shoppers expecting high fuel economy will likely be disappointed," says Edmunds. The car's ratings have dipped from the low 30s on the previous generation into the low 20s for 2008. EPA estimates show that the new xB checks in at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway for both transmissions.

7

2009 Scion xB

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Scion xB's comfort is average for its price range, but utility and cargo space are hallmarks.

As Toyota's youth-oriented brand (designed to offer the X and Y generations vehicles their parents wouldn't want), you'd think Toyota's quality reputation would carry over to Scion. Unfortunately, the 2009 Scion xB misses a couple of marks.

Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com are mixed about the Scion xB's interior comfort. Some praise the near-limitless headroom and generous cargo space but also note that the seats can be uncomfortable. The 2009 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 observes 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 2009 Scion xB, but that can prove to be of little consolation if you're situated in one of the less-than-comfortable seats up front. MyRide.com is especially critical of the driver's armrest: "It's too narrow to be comfortable, but it doesn't fold completely out of the way either, annoying some drivers in either position." ForbesAutos notes, "There's enough room in the back seat to fit two six-footers with legroom to spare, and its cargo hold rivals many larger SUVs with the seats folded flat."

Speaking of cargo room, which ConsumerGuide says includes "several bins and trays" that "supply handy interior storage," the Scion xB's "cargo area has a handy under-floor bin." Road & Track notes that "cargo volume goes up about half a cubic foot" and calls the 2009 Scion xB "a lesson in interior space efficiency." Edmunds contends "the xB will impress you with its utility."

In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, there are a few minor quality issues. Car and Driver laments the "knee-banging shifter cabinet," lack of drawers, and map pockets. Otherwise, Motor Trend reports that the "Toyota engineers used tight panel fits and strategically placed sound-deadening material to quell wind noise and road vibration." Still, as MyRide.com attests, "There's noticeable engine noise when you gun it, and it's not particularly refined, either." Overall, Edmunds thinks that the "xB is user-friendly and comfortable." Other reviews of the xB Scion's build and materials quality vary, with ConsumerGuide averring that "the materials are still pleasant for the price" despite the fact that "the interior lacks soft touch surfaces." But Edmunds warns, "Ergonomics leave something to be desired, and many of the interior plastics seem a bit low-budget even for this class of car."

The 2009 Scion xB's road noise characteristics are described by ConsumerGuide as "generally well controlled, though larger bumps pound through loudly." According to Car and Driver, noise is "well-damped." The engine is also tame, and ConsumerGuide considers it "largely unobjectionable" in terms of the noise it generates. Only the squeal of the tires and roll of the body at higher than city speeds interrupt the tunes blasting from the speakers.

9

2009 Scion xB

Safety

The 2009 Scion xB includes many high-end standard safety features and good occupant protection, and considering its price, it puts many higher-cost vehicles to shame.

Except for frontal-impact crash protection, the 2009 Scion xB earns high marks in government impact and rollover resistance tests.

In government and independent crash tests, the xB Scion performs remarkably well for a compact car, scoring either the highest or second-highest ratings in all major crash-test categories. NHTSA gives the 2009 Scion xB four out of five stars for front impact occupant protection, and a perfect five stars for side impacts. The IIHS also awards the 2009 Scion xB its highest score of "good" for frontal offset, side, and rear collisions.

Toyota has decided that Scion should offer great safety value for the money, and the xB is a shining example. 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." ForbesAutos feels "braking is secure" thanks, in part, to "electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist functions." However, in some regards, they may have gone a little overboard on the 2009 Scion xB. In reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, many reviewers feel that the stability control system on the Scion xB is too eager to intervene, with Automobile Magazine warning that "if extreme yaw angles are detected, the system will rain on your parade even after you've switched it off." The system re-engages once vehicle speed reaches 35 mph. The 2008 Scion xB (essentially the same as the 2009 model) was awarded as a "Top Ten Safe Vehicle for Less Than $25,000" by Car and Driver.

Visibility in the 2009 xB gets fair marks in various reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. 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, Edmunds is confident daily commuters will find the xB Scion offers "good visibility...for everyday driving." AutoWeek reports that the "much wider rear pillar...didn't bother us at all" and praises "the visibility through all that glass."

8

2009 Scion xB

Features

Forget one size fits all. With the 2009 xB, Scion buyers get a lot of standard features and a lot of choices to make it their own.

The whole purpose of the Scion brand is to attract younger people to the Toyota family of brands. Low prices and the chance to customize vehicles have proven a huge success, and for 2009 the Scion xB gets a long list of standard features while retaining a smaller, no-haggle price.

According to Kelley Blue Book, Scion's approach "encourages customization and makes the car-buying process more personal." The 2009 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 Magazine declares 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." Kelley Blue Book details the audio system's "Organic Electroluminescent (OEL) Screen. This screen, built into the audio faceplate on the dash, allows you to display personal 'skins' to customize the interior of the car. Skins can be created and downloaded on a special site produced by Pioneer just for Scion owners." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com invariably praise the audio system on the 2009 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." Kelley Blue Book mentions that the steel wheels are offered with a choice of "three different wheel covers" and informs us that tire pressure monitoring is standard, too.

Much like the competing MINI Cooper Clubman, the 2009 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. 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. The only options that are lacking are in the performance department. Unlike the tC, xB buyers don't have the option to add the supercharger from Toyota Racing Development. Road & Track cites "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. "For those who want a more 'upscale' feeling inside, an interior trim upgrade kit is also available," according to Kelley Blue Book.

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7.6
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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