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Is the Scion xB a fashionable urban vehicle, or the closest thing to a refrigerator on four wheels? Like most unabashedly boxy vehicles, the Scion xB tends to be polarizing; and for those who like the look, the 2013 xB has a certain kind of charm that those in urban areas might especially appreciate--due to its decent space and versatility, all in a compact-car parking footprint.Scion thought that it could turn the xB into a full-fledged mass-market hit, so with its last redesign it made the xB a size larger and loaded it with a different kind of retro design sensibility that characterized the likes of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR—both now obsolete. What it ended up doing instead was brushing away the cult following that the smaller, sharply boxy pre-2008 xB had gathered. And the current xB is something a bit more benign—more like a soft-cornered armored van, thick at the waist with a wide rear pillar. For 2013, the blunt front end now has a glossy-black lower grille, and there are a few other exterior changes geared toward making the xB look a little sportier—including a black rear diffuser and LED accent lighting. Additionally, Scion has added some new bronze and chrome accents, and a new seat fabric.
The xB moves with the same 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's powered some versions of the Camry and RAV4, and a choice of either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. You might think that's good news in a relatively small vehicle like the xB, but in reality it's somewhat pokey with either gearbox—as the xB weighs more than 3,000 pounds. The front strut and rear torsion-beam suspension, combined with good electric power steering, give it a crisp, maneuverable feeling around town, but at speed the stock-tune xB feels clumsy in any quick maneuvers. Ride comfort is okay around town but it can get pitchy on the highway. And the biggest disappointment of all, perhaps: Fuel economy ratings are just 22 mpg city, 28 highway.
The box-on-wheels styling does pay off with the xB's roomy, versatile interior. But once you've seen how the seats fold down, you may be disappointed at how much cargo space is actually there. The front passenger seat folds flat, though, and the second-row seat has enough room for adults, a big failing of the first-generation xB. But the seats themselves aren't comfortable enough in front for longer trips. And depending on your tastes, you may judge the xB's interior to either be functionally stylish or a complete fashion victim—and we'll advise that you take a look at interior pictures first (and the small, centrally mounted gauges) to get a sense of that.
Just as with other Scion models, customization and personalization is a big part of the xB's appeal. You can choose from a long list of port- or dealer-installed upgrades and accessories. Meanwhile, at a no-haggle low price, the base 2013 Scion xB remains one of the best deals on the market for those who want a relatively well-equipped, van-like vehicle but don't have high demands for driving dynamics or behind-the-wheel thrills. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth connectivity, a USB port with iPod control, and a Pioneer sound system with HD Radio, RCA ports, and the capability to add a subwoofer.