2013 Scion xB Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
March 7, 2013

Call it fashionable or not; the 2013 Scion xB offers box-on-wheels versatility, easy maneuverability, and a strong list of features, all at a very affordable price.

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.

Review continues below

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.

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2013 Scion xB

Styling

The 2013 Scion xB stands out on the outside with its chopped-off, boxy look, but many might find its interior too gimmicky.

Chalk this one up in the annals of automotive design gone wrong. Scion had a cult following on its hands with the pre-2008 Scion xB, a subcompact vehicle that was, simply put, boxy to the max—with crisp edges and a look unlike any other on the market. Scion thought that it could turn the xB into a full-fledged mass-market hit, so 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.

Although the xB is an intriguing vehicle on the outside, what Scion ended up with is something more like a soft-cornered armored van. It's slab-sided and pretty thick at the waist, with a wide rear pillar and a long, flat roof. The blunt front end now has a glossy-black lower grille for 2013, 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.

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 to get a sense of that. While the design itself is straightforward—with a very upright dash design—it's the details that are borderline perplexing, with the small analog gauges placed at a distance, at the center of the dash, and the layout of controls, vents, dials, and trims, somehow feeling both boxy and busy.
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2013 Scion xB

Performance

The xB isn't all that quick or nimble, but it's adequate in every way.

The 2013 Scion xB performs adequately, but it lacks any of the verve that younger, urban types may wish for in a vehicle.

What powers the 2013 Scion xB is well-proven—the 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's been used in a number of other Toyota vehicles, including the Camry. Here, despite all its torque, it manages to feel a little sluggish in the xB, which tips the scales at the upper end for this kind of vehicle.

Of the two available gearboxes, we prefer the five-speed manual for its nicely weighted shift lever and progressive clutch uptake. The four-speed automatic feels fine in urban driving, but the big gaps between gear ratios makes highway driving less satisfying and more noisy.

We tend to think of the xB as having two different personalities, depending on the speed. At lower city speeds, the xB's relatively short wheelbase and responsive electric power steering are assets, and the XB feels quite confident. But with this front strut, rear torsion-beam suspension tuned quite soft, it can feel clumsier in faster maneuvers; it's safe and forgiving, but not at all exciting. Add in the strong disc brakes, and you have a vehicle that, overall, responds confidently but without excitement.

[It's important to keep in mind that depending on which of the long list of dealer-installed accessories you choose, ride and handling of the xB can vary considerably.]

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2013 Scion xB

Comfort & Quality

Interior space and versatility are disappointing in the xB, mostly because of its space-robbing seat layout.

The boxy shape of the 2013 Scion xB has its advantages; but it doesn't pay off as much as it should when it comes to interior space and versatility.

That said, the xB is a roomy vehicle, and the versatile hatchback layout, combined with the tall roof, allow lots of space. But the seats in the xB are pretty close to a #fail in our opinion—they're neither extremely comfortable for passengers nor fold in a way that helps truly maximize potential cargo space. Being box-shaped has its virtues--the Scion xB has lots of interior room, and the versatile hatchback yields lots of cargo space. Still, we wish it had better seats.

In our experience in several xB testers, the seats don't yield the kind of long-distance comfort some buyers will demand. After about an hour, the softer cushions can grow uncomfortable, and the seatbacks feel thinly upholstered. There's also enough headroom, and the telescopic steering wheel allows a good driving position.

If you've shopped around among smaller hatchbacks and crossovers, you're bound to be more of a fan of the xB's back seat; with its tall doors and wide door openings, it's a snap to climb into—one of the reasons taxi companies in some cities have pressed the xB into service. And foot space under the front seats for second-row passengers is good, and they sit high for easy entry and exit. There's additional storage room under the second-row seats, plus interior bins and storage areas—especially with the available overhead console.

At first glance, the xB is entirely on its game with respect to seat-folding, but on a closer look there simply isn't as much space as you might expect in this large of a vehicle. The front passenger seat folds back almost flat, but the back seats seem to gobble up too much height when folded—and they don't fold completely flat.

Don't expect a lot of refinement in the xB; it's a vehicle built to a price point, so expect about the same standard of noise and vibration isolation as a compact car. 

The xB tends to ride quite well at lower speeds, but it's less comfortable for long-distance cruising—with pitchiness over imperfect roads with expansion strips or frost heaves.

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2013 Scion xB

Safety

Either by the crash-test ratings or by the feature set, the Scion xB is a very safe vehicle.

Toyota has set its sights on younger drivers for the Scion xB; and with strong crash-test scores and a solid set of safety feature, parents have nothing to steer clear of here.

The 2013 Scion xB has all the safety features that you'll find in competitive vehicles around this size and price. Front, side, and side-curtain airbags are all included, and the stability control system can only be temporarily disengaged at speeds below 35 mph—to get out of a snowy driveway, for instance.

Although the Scion xB hasn't been rated in recent model years in the federal NCAP tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the xB a "good" rating for all its crash tests; it's also been an IIHS Top Safety Pick. 

We recommend that you take a good look around when test-driving the xB. That's because the wide rear pillars create a substantial blind spot for most drivers—although we think that some might not be bothers by it.
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2013 Scion xB

Features

The standard-feature list is good for the 2013 Scion xB, but customization remains the keyword.

If you're shopping for a 2013 Scion xB and only looking at the factory options, your set of choices may look extremely limited. That's because Toyota's Scion brand sells vehicles quite differently—essentially offering one factory build, but adding port- or dealer-installed options that can personalize or customize the xB to be whatever you want—whether that's one that has a sharper look and feel, one that screams out in bright colors and graphics, or one that adds some interesting details inside.

Bluetooth hand-free connectivity and an iPod/USB interface are standard on the xB, as is a long list of equipment, including power windows, locks and mirrors; air conditioning; and a Pioneer audio system with HD Radio, RCA ports, and the capability to easily add a subwoofer.

Head over to the add-on list for entertainment options, too, such as an Alpine 200-watt audio system with a 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen with inputs for up to three amplifiers, or a navigation system.

Performance upgrades are on the list, too, although they're rather limited with the xB. A short-shift kit, Toyota Racing Division (TRD) sport suspension upgrades, and flashier wheels are some of the possibilities.

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2013 Scion xB

Fuel Economy

Many larger crossover models get better highway gas mileage than the 2013 xB.

Toyota's hybrid models are gas-mileage leaders, but the 2013 Scion xB, with a non-hybrid four-cylinder powertrain, doesn't at all follow that leadership; it lags toward the back of the pack, in fact, when compared with the likes of the Kia Soul or other compact crossovers.

The xB comes with EPA mileage numbers of 22 mpg city, 28 highway, whether you choose the manual transmission or the four-speed automatic. You'll do better than that overall in a number of mid-size sedans, like the Toyota Camry, and better on the highway even on some much larger V-6 sedans, like the Avalon.

We've noted that when the xB is driven above 70 mph, its real-world mileage drops drastically; while this might be a reasonably fuel-efficient model around town (we've seen mid 20s) the boxy, brick-like shape should be a cause to look elsewhere if you do a lot of highway commuting.
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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 7.0
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