As it rolls off the showrooms floor, the Scion xD doesn't entertain drivers as much as its semi-tough stance implies.
The tuner cues and overtures stamped into its sheetmetal and printed on its order sheet don't play out so readily from the xD's 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. In a car this small--Toyota's Yaris gets along fine with a smaller engine--the xD should have quick off-the-line responses and good passing power. With the standard five-speed manual shifter, that's mostly the case. Order the four-speed automatic, and you'll find big gaps between then xD's gears, which makes it feel a little winded at highway speeds. It also lacks any kind of manual shift mode.
The xD's gas mileage is at the back of the subcompact class, too. It's pegged at 27/33 mpg, no matter which gearbox you choose.
In terms of handling, the xD simply lacks the crisp responses and tossable feel that makes other small cars fun to drive--cars like the MINI Cooper, Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500. Even if you want to try to make the most of it, the xD is lacking the right details and tuning for the mission. When pushed hard its rather soft suspension wilts, with a rubbery, not-confidence-inspiring steering feel.
The xD also feels heavier than you might expect such a small car to be. Ride quality is quite good though, with a rather soft calibration that should do well on choppy urban surfaces. Aftermarket and dealer-installed bits help the xD handle a bit better, but mostly at the expense of ride quality. Inferior rear drum brakes also cement the impression that this is a sporty car only with respect to appearance and marketing.