2008 Scion xD Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
August 19, 2008

At a bargain price that’s not much more than stripper econoboxes, the 2008 Scion xD is a pretty hot little hatch.

In order to bring you this comprehensive review of the 2008 Scion xD, the automotive brain trust at TheCarConnection.com consulted with a wide range of review sources, then included the driving experience of TheCarConnection’s editors.

The all-new xD model replaces the xA model as the smallest model in Scion’s lineup. The 2008 Scion xD shares some of its underpinnings with the latest Toyota Yaris but offers a sportier driving experience and more aggressive styling inside and out.

A new 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is standard on the 2008 Scion xD. It pairs especially well with the five-speed manual transmission but also works quite smoothly with the four-speed automatic; overall, the engine has plenty of pep to move the xD along quickly and keep up with traffic even with a full load. Yet the 1.8-liter gets fuel economy that’s comparable to the old 1.5-liter engine, at 27 mpg city, 33 mpg highway under the new EPA standards.

From the outside, the 2008 Scion xD has a very aggressive style, with flared wheel wells filled by standard 16-inch wheels or optional alloys that range up to 18 inches. The very upright profile affords a lot of space inside. The xD’s front seats are quite comfortable and supportive, but the lower cushions are just too short for taller folks, a common complaint in small cars. In back, the seat slides fore and aft six inches, depending on the size of your backseat passengers or cargo, and the 60/40-split rear seatback (with three adjustable headrests) can recline 10 degrees—which might be necessary as headroom is tight in back. There’s only 10.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the backseats up, but that can be greatly expanded with the seats folded.

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As with the other Scion models, the interior styling in the 2008 Scion is very flamboyant. The gauge cluster is styled like a large watch face. But it’s otherwise quite functional, with a large, two-compartment glove box and plenty of storage cubbies. A trip computer that can display range and fuel efficiency is standard.

The standard-equipment list is vast compared with that of rivals in the same price range. Conveniences like air conditioning; cruise control; steering-wheel audio controls; a 160-watt, six-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system that’s MP3 and satellite compatible; a rear wiper; a first-aid kit; and power windows, locks, and mirrors are all included in the base price. In competing vehicles, some of these items are only available as part of expensive option packages. Major stand-alone options on the 2008 Scion xD include a Pioneer Premium Sound system that actually doesn’t make very good use of the xD’s acoustics, and an in-dash navigation system.

But that’s just the start. Scion prices its car low so as to invite shoppers to customize their vehicles with an extensive array of dealer-installed accessories. Many for the 2008 Scion xD are cosmetic enhancements, but there are also a wide range of TRD performance accessories, including a quick shifter kit, limited-slip differential, cold-air intake, and sport muffler.

And for the first time, there’s a complete body kit available through dealerships. Supplied by Five Axis, the urethane kit for the 2008 Scion xD includes front, rear, and side lip spoilers that bring an even racier look.

Side-curtain airbags, active front headrests, and anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2008 Scion xD, and electronic stability control—a feature usually not at all offered on cars this price—is optional. The xD has received four-star ratings for frontal impact and great five-star ratings for side impact from the federal government. Insurance-affiliated IIHS results agree, with "acceptable" results for frontal impact and top "good" ratings for side impact.

7

2008 Scion xD

Styling

The 2008 Scion xD makes a more compelling statement than its predecessor, the xA.

A unique exterior and a functional interior mesh for a funky, utilitarian aesthetic in the 2008 Scion xD.

From the outside, the 2008 Scion xD has a very aggressive style, with flared wheel wells filled by standard 16-inch wheels or optional alloys that range up to 18 inches. Says Car and Driver, “anyone who remembers the rounder version of the bean-and-box duo that launched Scion in the U.S. will be hard pressed to see the xD as anything but a replacement for the xA.” Critics generally like the departure from the xA’s rather generic duds, with adjectives such as “polarizing” (Car and Driver), “sharper,” (Automobile), and “dramatically styled” (Road & Track). Concludes Automobile, “sharper styling, a wider stance, and tighter wheel-to-fender clearance eliminate the jellybean comparisons that plagued the xA.”

The interior also shows that Scion learned lessons from the slow-selling xA. Gone is the awkward center-mounted speedometer, replaced by “a more traditional driver centered dash layout,” though it does have a nontraditional arrangement of speedo and tach in the same circular housing, “with their respective needles fluttering independently,” says Automobile. The “dash is simple and easy to navigate,” according to Kelley Blue Book.

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7

2008 Scion xD

Performance

The 2008 Scion xD’s performance is mostly middle-of-the-road, with handling and economy slightly below class leader Honda Fit.

More curb weight and a less frisky demeanor (compared to the xA) mark the road behavior of the 2008 Scion xD.

“The xD's new 2ZR-FE 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is Toyota's first application of dual variable valve timing in a compact car,” remarks Automobile, who find the newly developed engine “more frugal and sophisticated.” Reviewers appreciate its improved power, with Car and Driver posting a “7.9-second 0-to-60 time,” a big improvement over the xA’s mill. The engine develops 128 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque, but this is mitigated somewhat by “a car nearly 300-pounds heavier,” comments Kelley Blue Book, “so the difference isn't very noticeable.” The New York Times proclaims the “engine feels perky and frenetic.”

The 1.8 may be paired with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. “Like the xB, the 5-speed is crisp,” notes Road & Track. “Those who want ample acceleration from stop lights and on freeway on- and-off ramps,” warns Kelley Blue Book, might want to eschew the optional four speed automatic, which ConsumerGuide finds “can be slow to downshift.”

“We just wish Toyota would remember that cars can be fun,” laments Car and Driver when discussing the xD’s general verve and chassis dynamics. “The steering, for example, is more isolated, lacking feel to the point of numbness,” they continue, and Automobile warns, “Above 65 mph, the suspension is floaty.” ConsumerGuide notes the “somewhat floppy suspension tuning.” Still, if driven appropriately, Road & Track finds “it’s a nimble car with a strong emphasis on daily usability.”

“Fuel economy with both the manual and automatic transmissions is similar to the Nissan Versa and slightly poorer than that of the Honda Fit,” points out Kelley Blue Book. The EPA rates the Scion xD at 27/33 mpg with the manual transmission, and 26/32 mpg with the automatic.

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2008 Scion xD

Comfort & Quality

If not for the similarly priced Honda Fit, the lack of refinement in the sub-$15,000 might be understandable.

Improved ergonomics and solid Toyota quality found in the 2008 Scion xD are let down by smaller interior volume and a lack of refinement.

Up front in the xD, ConsumerGuide finds “good seat comfort and driver positioning, but the seat lacks height adjustment, and taller folks might find headroom and legroom tight.” Automobile also gives the xD’s interior a demerit for “limited headroom.” Perhaps as a concession for the lack of headroom also found in the back of the xD, the rear seats “slide six inches and recline up to 10 degrees,” reports Automobile. Still, ConsumerGuide is not impressed: “The seat is high set, but entry and exit suffer from fairly narrow door openings. Limited legroom means even smaller passengers will be cramped.”

Kelley Blue Book notes there’s actually “slightly less interior and cargo room” in the new xD versus the xA it replaces. They appreciate its “storage for odds and ends up front, including an upper and lower glovebox on the passenger's side.”

Materials are deemed of good quality, with more Toyota quality seemingly baked in than in the xA. “Its doors close with a reassuring thunk,” says Car and Driver, “and bumps don’t rattle through the cabin.” Automobile, though, finds fault with the xD’s refinement: “all of the xD's square edges don't help with wind noise, which at speed competes with road noise that's translated through relatively wide 195/60HR-16 tires.” ConsumerGuide reports similar complaints, claiming “the engine buzzes under acceleration, and there's lots of tire noise on all except smooth asphalt.”

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2008 Scion xD

Safety

The 2008 Scion xD crash-tests well and comes standard with all the essential safety features.

For its price and size, the 2008 Scion xD provides admirable safety for its occupants.

In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash testing, the xD scored four of five stars for both driver and passenger side frontal impact, and the same rating for rollover resistance. The vehicle earned five stars for both side impact ratings, driver and rear passenger.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the xD an “acceptable” rating for its crash offset test and a “good” for both side and rear impact.

Edmunds calls the xD’s roster of standard safety features “impressive.” This includes anti-lock brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and front active head restraints.
Cars.com mentions the xD’s standard four-wheel disc brakes and driver’s knee airbag.

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2008 Scion xD

Features

The 2008 Scion xD proves a very affordable blank slate for your choice of features.

The wide array of features in the highly configurable 2008 Scion xD run the range from funky to frippery.

It seems Japanese “stripper” base models (remember the days of optional passenger side-view mirrors?) have gone the way of the dodo. Even in its sub-$15,000 base format, Road & Track mentions that the xD is equipped with cruise control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Kelley Blue Book finds it “an affordable, well-built vehicle with more standard equipment than a Honda Fit or Nissan Versa.”

There are three levels of audio, all with iPod hookup as well as an auxiliary jack. The New York Times finds the base Pioneer head unit, a 160-watt AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with six-speakers, a bit frumpy in its design, although they say it has “plenty of expandability” with hookups for amps and bass speakers and “sounds fine for a car at this price.” Moving up to the mid-level stereo “and its multifunction knob” infuriated all the Car and Driver editors with the exception of their “youngest part-timers, who were keen on the programmable OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display.” The premium radio option can be combined with an optional subwoofer, DVD navigation system, and Sirius Satellite Radio (XM or Sirius) if so desired. Many feel that upgrading sound systems “does not improve the speakers, which lack clarity” (Car and Driver).

“Available options consist mostly of items that are geared toward customizing the car, like illuminated door sill enhancements, sport pedals, a carbon fiber engine cover and 18-inch wheels and alloy wheel covers,” notes Kelley Blue Book. An xD can be optioned from mild to wild, with the mid-level stereo’s optional “skins” that can be “created and downloaded on a special site created by Pioneer just for Scion owners,” says Kelley Blue Book. “With available accessories from TRD,” notes Road & Track, “you can turn [it] into a very hot little 5-door.”

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