Performance » 7
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PERFORMANCE | 7 out of 10
driving dynamics don't match the car's fun, quirky looks
the engine is a typical Toyota torque monster so the "stick or automatic?" decision is strictly personal preference
The Auto Channel
a solid performer with good handling and confident acceleration
The automatic is sometimes slow to downshift for more power.
There's something familiar about the Scion xB's performance--it's a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine we've seen in many other applications from Toyota, in everything from the last-generation Camry to the RAV4 crossover of a few years ago. It's a big, torquey four-cylinder with 158 horsepower and by all accounts, should have plenty of power for the smaller xB.
But with the available five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, the four-cylinder feels sluggish in the xB. It's rare to get it to squeal a tire or break traction, which speaks to a restrictive traction control program and to the xB's relatively chunky curb weight. 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.With front struts and a torsion-beam rear, and electric power steering, the xB is decently responsive and confident at low speeds—and of course quite maneuverable—but its weight and soft springs cause it to feel clumsy in any faster maneuvers. It's forgiving, but not exciting. Strong disc brakes haul the xB to a stop quickly, but again plenty of nosedive remind you that the standard xB makes no sporty claims.
Ride comfort is good at city speeds, due to 16-inch wheels and a lower ride height, but this is not a vehicle for comfortable long-distance cruising. In addition to the unsatisfying seats, the ride can become pitchy on frost heaves and patch strips, while as we note elsewhere in this review fuel economy turns unimpressive with higher speeds.
[It should be noted that through dealerships, Scion offer a long list of dealer-installed upgrades, some of them improving cornering prowess.]
The xB's bulldog stance teases its performance--it's not overly quick or nimble.