2015 Scion xB

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
November 21, 2014

Buying tip

While the dealer accessories can get out of hand, e sure to choose the ones you really want before taking the car home, as they can be rolled

The 2015 Scion xB still excels at the big car in a small package goal, but a lack of updates have kept it only as good as the slightly flawed follow-up to the original.

As one of the founders of the boxy-car segment, the Scion xB holds onto its niche appeal even as the Honda Element and Nissan Cube, two other squared-off models, have left the market. The 2015 xB continues to carry the torch for the niche, even as it has been outshined (and far outsold) by the Kia Soul.

The xB's fade from the limelight is due in part to its attempt to go mainstream in the 2008 redesign. While the original U.S.-market Cube was a small, boxy cult classic, its successor, the current model, grew to try and capture more sales, although the change seems to have had the opposite effect. Today's xB has most of the functionality of its predecessor, if not its pocketable size, melded with puzzling functionality choices inside like tiny, centrally mounted gauges. In recent years Scion has merely carried over the xB instead of fixing some of those obvious market turnoffs—opting instead for a few special editions. The blunt front end now has a glossy-black lower grille, while an available black rear diffuser, chrome accents, and LED accent lighting can help jazz up the look.

The same 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that's powered versions of the Toyota Camry and RAV4 does well enough here, but it's not as athletic as you might think, since the xB weighs more than 3,000 pounds. It's available with either a manual or automatic transmission. 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 at lower speeds but can get pitchy on the highway. Fuel economy ratings are just 22 mpg city, 28 highway—the biggest disappointment of all, we think—no matter which transmission you select.

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Once you've seen the xB's interior with the seats folded down, you might also be disappointed at the lack of cargo space. 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 front seats aren't comfortable enough for longer trips.

Customization and personalization—and a no-haggle base price—remain a big part of the xB's appeal, as they are for all Scions. If you can stay away from the seemingly endless dealer-installed accessories and upgrades, you'll get one of the best deals on the market for a relatively well-equipped, van-like vehicle. Almost all xBs come with a Display Audio system that includes a 6.1-inch touch screen, six speakers, Bluetooth and HD Radio technology, a USB port, and an auxiliary audio jack.

The only change for 2015 is the addition of a standard rearview camera for all xB models.

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2015 Scion xB

Styling

You might be attracted to the boxy, 'chopped' profile, but the gimmicky interior is a turnoff, and many of the details now look dated.

Scion has managed to create a unique box-on-wheels theme for the xB. That said, the xB is now somewhat of an odd outlier, and the blocky exterior doesn't quite deliver on the space efficiency it makes you think is inside.

Scion had a cult following on its hands with the pre-2008 xB, a subcompact vehicle that was 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 an odd retro-modern design scheme that seemed to play off the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR—both of which long ago left the marketplace.

Although the xB still holds its place within the shrinking niche, it's arguable that it looks more like a soft-cornered armored car, or a bread van, with its high haunches, thick waist, wide rear pillar, and long, flat roof. The blunt front end was updated with a glossy-black lower grille, and there have been a few other exterior changes intended to make the xB look a little sportier, including LED accent lighting and a diffuser-like black rear fascia insert. None of that makes it look any less bulbous, something that's even more confusing when you get into the interior, which is about a size down from the exterior.

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The xB's interior is much less fashionable than its sheetmetal. The cabin design is straightforward, with an upright dash and a straight-across shelf, but there's a mishmash of perplexing details—like the small analog gauges placed toward the center, at a distance, as well as cluttered controls—that detract from its functionality...and its coherence. Some may like the no-nonsense design, but we're not big fans.
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2015 Scion xB

Performance

Don't expect anything quick or nimble, but the 2015 Scion xB performs adequately.

The 2015 Scion xB is aimed at younger folks in urban environments, but it's not quite the perky runabout you might expect it to be. Instead it offers a grown-up, merely adequate (and unexciting) driving experience, and it's not particularly quick.

All xBs use a 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The same powertrain has been used in a number of Toyota-brand vehicles, including the Camry. It's plenty for that family sedan, yet it somehow manages to make the xB feel a little sluggish.

The base transmission is a five-speed manual gearbox, which we prefer. It has a nicely weighted shift lever and progressive clutch uptake, and lets the driver get the most out of the engine's modest output. The available four-speed automatic has big gaps between its handful of gear ratios, which makes highway driving more noisy and less satisfying.

Ride and handling can vary widely depending on which dealer-installed accessories you've chosen, but we tend to think of the xB as having two distinct, speed-dependent personalities. Around town, the xB's rather short wheelbase and responsive electric power steering are assets, and it feels quite stable and maneuverable. Yet with its soft standard suspension calibration, the xB can feel clumsier in faster maneuvers and in turns. Adding bigger wheels or lowering the suspension will, of course, have effects on the way the xB drives, but either is likely to hurt more than it helps overall.

Add in the strong disc brakes, and you have a vehicle that is safe and confidence-inspiring but short on driving fun. While it's relatively small, you can feel the bulk Scion added to the larger second generation, and it just sort of puts a damper on the experience.

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7

2015 Scion xB

Comfort & Quality

The 2015 xB is way less useful and versatile than you'd expect from the outside, and a space-robbing seat layout is partly to blame.

The 2015 Scion xB is boxy, to be sure, which leads you to believe that it would have a cavernous, space-efficient interior to match that sheetmetal. Unfortunately, the squared-off Scion has only decent space inside for cargo and passengers, and the seats can't be flexibly reconfigured for the loads of stuff you think it should be able to accommodate.

The xB's somewhat skimpy, thinly upholstered seats simply don't yield the kind of long-distance comfort some buyers want. There is enough headroom, and the telescopic steering wheel allows you to get to a good driving position, however.

The back seat, with its tall doors and wide door openings, is a snap to climb into—and perhaps one of the reasons taxi companies in some cities have pressed the xB into service. There's good foot space under the front seats for second-row passengers, 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; an available overhead console adds more.

When folded, the back seats gobble up too much height, and they don't lay completely flat, making an uneven cargo floor. The front passenger seat folds back almost flat, though, which helps some. The xB would really benefit from some well-engineered rear seats, which would allow it to take better advantage of the space that's being squandered otherwise—Honda's Fit would be a good example to follow, with its ever-flexible Magic Seat design allowing it to maximize room for either stuff or humans.

Ride and refinement are a step behind many rival models, too. The xB tends to ride quite well at lower speeds, but it's less comfortable for long-distance cruising. Roads with frost heaves or expansion joints and those in generally bad condition will cause the xB to pitch uncomfortably. Because the xB is built to a price point, you can expect about the same standard of noise and vibration isolation as an inexpensive compact sedan or hatchback, which is to say it's not very quiet inside. 

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2015 Scion xB

Safety

The Scion xB lacks federal test results, and not all of its IIHS occupant-protection results are good; and there's definitely no accidence-avoidance wizardry on offer here.

The 2015 Scion xB is meant as a good, safe first car for younger drivers, and it delivers with a solid list of safety features and good crash-test ratings.

The federal government hasn't crash-tested the Scion xB in many model years, although the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the xB a 'good' rating for all but its newest crash test, the small frontal overlap. There, the xB scores a 'marginal' rating, which means it is no longer given the agency's Top Safety Pick award. It should be noted, however, that this test was put in place after the xB was designed and engineered, meaning the engineers did not have the luxury to design to the standard as those producing newer models have.

Front, side, and side-curtain airbags are all included, as is stability control, which can be temporarily disengaged to avoid getting stuck in snow or to extricate the car once it has been waylaid by the white stuff.

From a driving standpoint, the xB can be frustrating for its lack of outward visibility; the wide rear pillars create a substantial blind spot for most drivers. Scion compensates slightly by making the rearview camera standard for all 2015 models, although that only helps improve vision when reversing.

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2015 Scion xB

Features

Touch-screen entertainment systems are now included on the entire model line, and the xB is quite well-equipped.

The 2015 Scion xB comes well-equipped from the factory, but in typical Scion fashion there aren't many options to choose until you get to the dealer.

Standard features on the xB include air conditioning, power windows and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, and 60/40-split folding rear seats. Scion also added a standard Display Audio system for 2014, which includes a 6.1-inch touch screen, with six speakers, Bluetooth and HD Radio technology, a USB port, and an auxiliary audio jack. And for 2015, a rearview camera joins the standard-equipment list.

As for options, that comes down to how Scion sells all of its cars—usually with just one factory build, yet with seemingly countless port- or dealer-installed extras. Essentially, you can personalize or customize the xB however you like, creating a vehicle with a sharper look and feel, one that screams out in bright colors and graphics, or one with special details like carbon-fiber appliques.

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

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2015 Scion xB

Fuel Economy

Don't let the xB's Prius cousins across the lot lead you astray; fuel economy isn't anything remarkable for the Scion xB.

The 2015 Scion xB carries the same EPA estimated fuel-economy figures whether you select the manual or automatic transmission. Its numbers are nothing stellar, and we've noted that the bluff shape hurts real-world fuel economy when speeds pass 70 mph.

Both xB configurations are rated at 22 mpg city, 28 highway. These numbers are disappointing, as 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 Toyota's Avalon. Toyota's hybrid models are gas-mileage leaders, but the Scion xB, with a non-hybrid four-cylinder powertrain, doesn't follow that; it lags toward the back of the pack, as well as behind the Kia Soul.

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In our experience, when the xB is driven above 70 mph, its real-world mileage drops drastically. Fuel economy is reasonable around town—we've seen mid 20s—but if you do a lot of commuting on the highway, this effect of the boxy, brick-like shape gives cause to look at other options.
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December 20, 2016
2015 Scion xB 5-Door Wagon Automatic (SE)

Fun car, very practical and versatile, lots of aftermarket upgrades. MPG sucks and it's slow however.

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Just got a 2015 one off a one year lease as a CPO from a local Toyota dealer. I used to have a Honda Element and it's very similar to that car but more practical in some ways It's a bit sluggish and the MPG... + More »
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7.2
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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 7
Features 8
Fuel Economy 7
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