2011 Scion xB Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 13, 2011

Whether you see the 2011 Scion xB as trendy or odd, it packs a lot of space and versatility into a compact space.

The 2011 Scion xB is unabashedly boxy, and while to some that's what makes it such a stylish, fashionable urban device it's what makes it, to others, look a little too much like a delivery truck—or a refrigerator. In any case, the passenger-friendly xB excels for those who need a roomy interior in a vehicle that will fit in a relatively small parking space.

The Scion xB was last redesigned for 2008, gaining a much higher beltline, slightly larger dimensions to fit U.S. wants and needs, and more of a rounded armored-truck look than its predecessor, which was originally intended mainly for the Japanese market and boxy to a cartoonish extreme. For 2011, the xB gets a few minor appearance changes: The headlamp design is slightly different, there's a new honeycomb grille pattern, backup lamps have now been integrated into the taillamps, and perhaps most noticeably, the front bumper fascia now includes larger lower air intakes. Overall, the xB's interior layout—which gets a slight spruce-up this year, too—is either functional or a fashion victim, and you're best to make that decision by looking at pictures and the layout in person. While the design itself is straightforward—building on Toyota and Scion small-car design, but with chunky details galore—the instrument panel itself retains the illogical center placement for its gauges, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

The engine in the Scion xB is a familiar unit from the Toyota lineup—a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, used until recently in the Toyota Camry and RAV4, among other models. While this large, rather torquey four seems like it would have plenty of power to move the city-savvy xB with authority, it's surprisingly sluggish, and the xB is by no means a tire-squealer unless you accidentally take an off-ramp too quickly. 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.

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The 2011 Scion xB looks like a box on wheels—and it delivers a roomy, versatile interior—but if you've shopped around in the class you might find the xB isn't quite as roomy as you'd expect given the exterior. That said, passenger space is quite good for around-town use, and the 2011 xB is capacious and adaptable. The front passenger seat folds back flat, and the second row now offers enough room for real live adult human beings. Foot space under the front seats for second-row passengers is good, and they sit high for easy entry and exit. Storage room under the second-row seats is useful too. Passengers will find plenty of interior bins and storage areas if the buyer opts for the overhead console. Seats have been one of the low points of the xB interior, though they've been improved for 2011, and ride comfort, while good around town, can be a little pitchier on the highway.

With a vast array of standard equipment—including all the must-haves that you can't take for grants in a small car, like air conditioning and power windows—for a no haggle price, the 2011 Scion xB remains one of the highest-value vehicles for those who want a small car with van- or SUV-like utility. Buyers who want to personalize their 2011 xB can order from a long list of dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, plus literally hundreds of parts from third parties. Many of the dealer customization options for the 2011 Scion xB are purely cosmetic, but they include a handful of performance accessories from Toyota Racing Division such as suspension and shift kits. Other conveniences include LED interior lighting and a nav system.

8

2011 Scion xB

Styling

Whether you see it as a boxy wagon or a new kind of microvan, the high-shouldered 2011 Scion xB is funky, in a good way.

The Scion xB was last redesigned for 2008, gaining a much higher beltline, slightly larger dimensions to fit U.S. wants and needs, and more of a rounded armored-truck look than its predecessor, which was originally intended mainly for the Japanese market and boxy to a cartoonish extreme.

The slab-sided shape looks thicker through the waist, and it's surprisingly close in function to the two domestic retro-wagons, the Chevrolet HHR and now-discontinued Chrysler PT Cruiser. A wide rear pillar visually supports the flat roof, while the front appearance of the xB remains van-like and boxy.

For 2011, the xB gets a few minor appearance changes: The headlamp design is slightly different, there's a new honeycomb grille pattern, backup lamps have now been integrated into the taillamps, and perhaps most noticeably, the front bumper fascia now includes larger lower air intakes.

Inside, the xB also gets a light spruce-up, including a new fabric pattern with black bolsters; the gauge cluster gets a black background for better visibility, plus a separate clock and outside temp gauge. Overall, the xB's interior layout is either functional or a fashion victim, and you're best to make that decision by looking at pictures and the layout in person. While the design itself is straightforward—building on Toyota and Scion small-car design, but with chunky details galore—the instrument panel itself retains the illogical center placement for its gauges, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

Review continues below
7

2011 Scion xB

Performance

The 2011 Scion xB is softly sprung and feels heavier than it looks—which amounts to an unexciting driving experience.

The engine in the Scion xB is a familiar unit from the Toyota lineup—a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, used until recently in the Toyota Camry and RAV4, among other models. While this large, rather torquey four seems like it would have plenty of power to move the city-savvy xB with authority, it's surprisingly sluggish, and the xB is by no means a tire-squealer unless you accidentally take an off-ramp too quickly.

The engine is mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed sequential automatic, and the manual is the pick of the two as the combination of good shift quality, the smooth-revving big four, and solid clutch uptake make the powertrain pleasant to drive. While the automatic is just fine around town, its wide gaps between ratios become a handicap on the highway.

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.

[It should be noted that through dealerships, Scion offer a long list of dealer-installed upgrades, some of them improving cornering prowess.]

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2011 Scion xB

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Scion xB has a very passenger-friendly layout and impressive around-town versatility, but it lacks the comfort for long-legged road-tripping.

The 2011 Scion xB looks like a box on wheels—and it delivers a roomy, versatile interior—but if you've shopped around in the class you might find the xB isn't quite as roomy as you'd expect given the exterior. That said, passenger space is quite good for around-town use.

The front seats grow uncomfortable for most occupants after an hour or so. That's based on lengthy driving experiences with pre-2011 models; Scion has improved bolstering in the 2011 xB (and added a sliding armrest/console and tilt/telescoping steering wheel across the model line), but you should still go for a long test drive if you're frequently on the highway. In back, the bench seat rings in at about the right height for most adults, and wide-opening doors make entry and exit a snap—which is probably why we've seen xBs in use as cabs in some cities.

The 2011 xB is capacious and adaptable. The front passenger seat folds back flat, and the second row now offers enough room for real live adult human beings. Foot space under the front seats for second-row passengers is good, and they sit high for easy entry and exit. Storage room under the second-row seats is useful too. Passengers will find plenty of interior bins and storage areas if the buyer opts for the overhead console.

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. All considered, though, wind and road noise stay manageable.

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2011 Scion xB

Safety

Among sensibly sized, urban-friendly vehicles, the 2011 Scion xB is one of the safest choices.

The 2011 xB is a solid safety pick, whether you're looking at the safety equipment list or performance in major crash-test programs. It comes with a long list of standard safety features, including anti-lock brakes, side and curtain airbags, and stability control, setting a high standard for its affordable price class. The stability control system can only be temporarily disengaged—to get out of a snowy driveway, for instance—at speeds below 35 mph.

While the current xB hasn't been tested by the federal government under the new revised 2011 ratings system, it's earned excellent scores from the insurance-supported Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It's awarded the 2011 Scion xB its highest score of "good" for all categories—frontal offset, side, and rear impact protection, as well as roof strength. In former testing under the old federal system, the xB received four and five stars for front and side impact protection, respectively, from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The only tarnish to the xB's otherwise stellar safety package is outward visibility; the wide rear pillars create a substantial blind spot for most drivers, though taller drivers might not be bothered by it as much.

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2011 Scion xB

Features

The 2011 Scion xB comes with, and can be configured with, a very impressive feature set—though Bluetooth connectivity is behind the curve.

With a vast array of standard equipment—including all the must-haves that you can't take for grants in a small car, like air conditioning and power windows—for a no haggle price, the 2011 Scion xB remains one of the highest-value vehicles for those who want a small car with van- or SUV-like utility.

Sound systems are given plenty of thought, given this vehicle's young target audience. Last year the xB received an upgraded electroluminescent display and standard USB port, in addition to an aux input. The base sound system is a 160-watt, six-speaker Pioneer AM/FM/CD model with MP3 and satellite-radio compatibility, but the optional Alpine Premium Sound System adds a 4.3-inch touch-panel display and HD radio, and it provides for up to three amplifiers: subwoofer, rear, and front.

Buyers who want to personalize their 2011 xB can order from a long list of dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, plus literally hundreds of parts from third parties. Many of the dealer customization options for the 2011 Scion xB are purely cosmetic, but they include a handful of performance accessories from Toyota Racing Division such as suspension and shift kits. Other conveniences include LED interior lighting and a nav system.

The lack of a sophisticated Bluetooth hands-free calling system remains a sore point; all you can get in the xB is an aftermarket-type system that isn't fully integrated.

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2011 Scion xB

Fuel Economy

While overall the 2011 Scion xB isn’t especially green, it’s a lean, fuel-efficient pick for those who do most of their driving in the city.

With EPA fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city, 28 highway, for a Combined 24 mpg, no matter which transmission you pick, the 2011 Scion xB gets about the same mileage overall as a mid-size sedan, and many compact crossover vehicles with higher profiles and stockier stances do better

Shoppers should take into consideration that the Scion xB is especially fuel-efficient around town (we've seen mid 20s) while its brick-like shape means that aerodynamics bring mileage way down—especially if you do a lot of driving above 70 mph.

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Styling 8
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 9
Features 8
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