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It may share some of its hardware with the Toyota Yaris, but the Scion xD has a completely different reason for existing. The Yaris (which was new for 2012) is aimed mostly at those who need an inexpensive commuter appliance, while the xD aims at younger buyers on a tight budget, but in love with the idea of high style, and a high level of features and accessories--while still pocketbook and parking-space restrained.
Without falling too far behind the curve, the Scion xD has been static while a raft of new subcompacts have made styling a strong selling point--everything from the new Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, to the Ford Fiesta, to the Fiat 500. It can even look a little menacing, which its bulldog-like, blunt front end. The spoilered tailgate looks like the back end of a sport shoe, and in all, the xD has a squared-off stance that's the opposite of the svelter European-influenced Yaris.
As it rolls off the showrooms floor, the Scion xD doesn't entertain drivers as much as its semi-tough stance implies. The powerplant's a 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder with plenty of power for city tasks. It works well with the five-speed manual, but the automatic's relative lack of gears is one of the reasons the xD feels perky in urban driving. That also means it's usually turning higher engine speeds, which is why its gas mileage falls to the back of the subcompact class, at 27/33 mpg, no matter which gearbox you choose.
Inside, the xD's upright profile pays off in lots of interior space. The front seats are a sore spot, though: they're supportive enough for short drives, but because their bottom cushions are too short, the seats aren't comfortable for longer trips. It's a common complaint we have with many small cars, but it's very noticeable here. There's better news in back, where the small amount of available room is mitigated by a seat that slides back and forth on a six-inch track, increasing the utility of the hatchback. The seat also splits and folds 60/40, and it reclines 10 degrees, so smaller adults who squeeze in back can probably find a reasonable amount of comfort. Once the seats are folded down, the hatchback space opens into a nicely sized cargo hold, accompanied by the xD's numerous cubbyholes and storage bins.
The xD was one of the last vehicles in the U.S. market to get standard electronic stability control, in the 2012 model year when it became mandatory. Otherwise, the xD's set of standard safety features is competitive: anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags in the front and rear, front side airbags, and active front headrests. It still hasn't been tested by the NHTSA, though. In other respects, it has a surprising amount of standard equipment, from air conditioning to power features to a new Pioneer sound system with HD radio, Bluetooth and a USB port for iPod connectivity.
As with any Scion product, that's just a starting point. Buyers can order from more than 40 dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, as well as hundreds of aftermarket parts. Many dealer add-ons for the 2012 Scion xD are cosmetic enhancements, but they also offer a wide range of TRD performance accessories—including items like quick-shifter kits, larger brakes, shorter springs, or a performance exhaust system.
- Still a strong value
- Well-equipped in base form
- Scion's long list of accessories
- Better-looking than the similar Yaris
- Good interior space
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- Cost-cutter front seats
- Head room is shy in back
- Lacks a telescoping steering wheel
- Cargo space behind rear seats is tiny
- Low gas mileage for the class