- Roomy back seat
- Chopped and channeled look
- Rides well
- Centered instruments are impractical
- Gas mileage is unimpressive
- More like a big wagon, this time around
Trendy or odd, the Scion xB jams plenty of space and versatility into its compact footprint.
Unabashedly boxy, the Scion xB splits most crowds in two. It's either a fashionable urban plaything--or it's the closest thing to a rolling refrigerator that Toyota sells here. No matter which side you choose, the xB still delivers a roomy cabin and compact size that makes it a good choice for city driving, though its outright performance and refinement will leave long-distance drivers and enthusiasts wanting.
Last restyled in 2008, today's xB is a bigger machine, with a higher beltine and smaller windows than it was in its very authentically Japanese first edition. That vehicle was boxy to a cartoonish extreme: the 2012 model has a chopped look that's more akin to the competition that's gone out of business in the past year, the retro-flavored Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevrolet HHR. Minor updates to the xB came in the 2011 model year, with a honeycomb grille, revamped front and rear ends, and bigger air intakes. The interior's a victim to fashion. The gauges are placed in the center of the dash, a striking effect that renders them almost useless to drivers who actively pay attention to the readouts. It puts the entire interior off-balance, but does leave stylists room to create shallow trays and storage across the dash, and at least the overall theme is integrated fairly well, with lots of chunky, interesting details and textures.
The xB's drivetrain is a familiar combination, consisting of a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that recently powered some versions of the Camry and RAV4, and a choice of either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The engine's a fairly large, torquey piece and would seem to have enough power for the compact xB--but in practice, it's more pokey, with either gearbox. The front strut and rear torsion-beam suspension make for decent road manners at low speeds, and electric power steering helps give the xB a compact turning circle. Crank up the speed, and the stock-tune xB feels clumsy in any quick, back-to-back maneuvers. It's forgiving, but it isn't exciting, and braking brings with it plenty of nose dive. Ride comfort, while good around town, can be a little pitchier on the highway. Fuel economy isn't a strong point, either--with either transmission, the front-drive xB earns EPA ratings of 22/28 mpg, quite a bit lower than hatchbacks like the Kia Soul.
The box-on-wheels styling pays off with the xB's roomy, versatile interior. However, if you've cross-shopped others in the class, you'll conclude the xB isn't as roomy as expected, given its blocky shape and size. Passenger room is good for around-town use, though. The front passenger seat folds flat, and the second-row seat has enough room for adults, a big failing of the first-generation xB. There's ample foot space under the front seats, and storage room under the second-row seats is useful. However, the seats themselves have been a sore point in the past, with thin materials readily giving way so the seat frames can be felt. Passengers will find plenty of interior bins and storage areas if the buyer opts for the overhead console.With a vast array of standard equipment—including all the must-haves that you can't take for grants in a small car, like air conditioning and power windows—for a no-haggle price, the 2012 Scion xB remains one of the highest-value vehicles for those who want a small car with van- or SUV-like utility. Buyers who want to personalize their xB can order from a long list of dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, plus literally hundreds of parts from third parties. Many of the dealer customization options for the 2011 Scion xB are purely cosmetic, but they include a handful of performance accessories from Toyota Racing Division such as suspension and shift kits. Other conveniences include LED interior lighting and a nav system.
For 2012, the xB has a new standard Pioneer audio system. It includes iPod / USB connectivity, an auxiliary-in jack, and a subwoofer RCA output for adding external amps, as well as Bluetooth and HD Radio. A 200-watt unit is an option.