2009 Scion xD

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
November 11, 2008

Buying tip

Wishing for a two-door hatchback? You might want to take a look at the Toyota Yaris, which, though cheaper, is configured to be even more frugal than the 2009 Scion xD. For 2009, the Yaris is also available in a five-door hatchback model, so if you’re craving better fuel economy and don’t mind a step down in performance and features, look across the lot.

features & specs

5-Door HB Automatic
5-Door HB Manual
26 city / 32 hwy
27 city / 33 hwy

The 2009 Scion xD is one of the most substantial and feature-laden vehicles for the money, and the opportunity for customization helps mask any econo-car cues.

In order to bring you this comprehensive review of the 2009 Scion xD, the automotive brain trust at TheCarConnection.com consulted with a wide range of review sources, then included the driving experience of TheCarConnection.com's editors.

The 2009 Scion xD replaced the xA in 2008 as the smallest model from Scion, Toyota’s line of small cars aimed at young buyers. The 2009 Scion xD shares some of its underpinnings with the latest Toyota Yaris but offers more aggressive styling inside and out.

A 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine is the only choice on the 2009 Scion xD. It’s slightly more powerful (and slightly more fuel-efficient) engine than the smaller one used in the Yaris, and 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. Unfortunately, the automatic doesn't have a manual shift mode, and it lacks the refinement of the Honda Fit's, which features five gears and returns better economy.

From the outside, the 2009 Scion xD has a slightly menacing style, with flared wheel wells filled by standard 16-inch wheels or optional alloys that range up to 18 inches. Some liken it to a bulldog-meets-Mack-truck look, others have likened it to blocky footwear. The very upright profile affords a lot of space inside at the expense of more wind noise. The xD's front seats get mixed reviews and, while supportive for short drives, 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. Toyota makes efficient use of the space with storage bins and cubbyholes. The front doors feature molded-in bottle holders, and there are bins forward of the gear selector and to the left of the steering wheel.

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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. Unlike some Scions, it's situated in front of the driver and moves with the tilt steering wheel. A trip computer that can display range and fuel efficiency is standard. Seating and interior finishing materials are better than expected at this price point.

Compared with that of rivals in the same price range, the standard-equipment list is vast. Conveniences such as 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 2009 Scion xD include a Pioneer Premium Sound system that doesn’t sound so premium to TheCarConnection.com’s resident audiophile, and an in-dash navigation system―a rarity in this class.

But this is a Scion, and that means access to over 40 dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, in addition to hundreds of aftermarket parts. Many for the 2009 Scion xD are cosmetic enhancements, but there are also a wide range of TRD performance accessories, including a quick shifter kit, lowering springs, cold-air intake, sport muffler, and big brakes.

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 and rear impact protection. Side-curtain airbags front and rear, active front headrests, and anti-lock brakes are standard on the 2009 Scion xD, and traction and electronic stability control―a feature usually not at all offered on cars this price―is optional. Do note, however, that the brakes are front disc/rear drum, while some models offer more fade-resistant four-wheel discs.


2009 Scion xD


The 2009 Scion xD is less polarizing than the bigger xB but still stands out in the crowded compact wagon class for its unique sheetmetal.

Smaller and less boxy than its big brother xB, the 2009 Scion xD sports a distinctive shape that’s a mix of rounded, wedgelike, and boxy styling traits.

The 2009 Scion xD "looks pugnacious and utilitarian," writes Edmunds, calling it the "Bulldog Look." 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 Magazine), and "dramatically styled" (Road and Track). Concludes Automobile Magazine, "sharper styling, a wider stance, and tighter wheel-to-fender clearance eliminate the jellybean comparisons that plagued the xA." MyRide.com says the 2009 Scion xD "stands out in a good way from other cars in this segment."

Edmunds describes the interior environment as "avant-garde." With "golf ball-like dimples [that] cover most of dashboard and door panel surfaces," they say it's "nothing if not distinctive." The interior 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 Magazine. The "dash is simple and easy to navigate," according to Kelley Blue Book. MyRide.com notes, "The center stack also has some contouring instead of just a flat front."

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2009 Scion xD


The 2009 Scion xD's performance is configured more for commuting; it will, without much excitement, competently get you to where you're going.

Though the 2009 Scion xD might be sold as a fun, youth-oriented model, most say that it performs more as a transportation appliance.

"The xD gets a 128-hp, 1.8-liter four with variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts," remarks Edmunds, who finds engine "is neither particularly loud nor particularly quiet about its work." Reviewers appreciate its 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." MyRide.com notes "the xD's acceleration isn't going to set the world on fire, [but] the xD is capable of getting up to speed at a comfortable pace for every day driving."

The 2009 Scion xD may be paired with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual. "The automatic transmission can be slow to downshift. The manual transmission has a smooth clutch and shifter," notes ConsumerGuide. "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 MyRide.com finds "lacks a manual sport shift mode." Edmunds points out that while the shift action of the manual "isn't particularly clean, it helps make the xD feel a bit quicker than the Honda Fit."

"Another feature not carried over from the xA to the xD is the chuckable, fun nature of the first-generation Scions," 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" and attributes the "early onset of tire squeal and plenty of body lean in fast turns" to the suspension's soft damping." Still, if driven appropriately, Road and Track finds "it's a nimble car with a strong emphasis on daily usability." Brakes are a bright spot, with various reviews read by TheCarConnection.com describing them as "strong" and "responsive." With damning praise, Car and Driver concludes, "[Scion] has done the same thing to the xD that it had done to the xB: made it competent, composed, and mostly dull. In other words, they've turned it into a Toyota."

Car and Driver shows some leniency when referring to the 2009 Scion xD's middling fuel economy ratings, lower than those of the old xA. They point out the cause is likely because of the "revised fuel economy standards" that the EPA enacted in 2008. The EPA rates the Scion xD at 27 mpg city, 33 mpg highway with the manual transmission, and 1 mpg less with the automatic. "In ConsumerGuide testing, manual-transmission xD models returned 28.8-29.2 mpg in mostly city driving. An automatic version averaged 28.8 mpg in city/highway use."

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2009 Scion xD

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Scion xD would resonate with more shoppers if front seat comfort was as good as its rear. Cargo space, while good, doesn't match its primary competitor, the Honda Fit.

Keeping in mind the 2009 Scion xD is a subcompact, cargo space is nothing to write home about, but rear seat room is better than expected. Fit and finish is typical Toyota, which is to say that assembly quality is top-notch and materials are respectable.

The front seats, finds MyRide.com, are "mediocre," and while seat firmness "seems just about right, lack of thigh support and [a] low seating position made it less than ideal." In fact, they continue, "lower back pain set in after an hour on the road." Automobile Magazine 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," observes Automobile Magazine. 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." Edmunds reports "84.5 cubic feet of passenger volume," and the rear seat is split 60/40. Car and Driver, in a subcompact comparison where the Scion xD placed eighth out of nine, reports that the xD suffers from an "Asian-shop-girl driving position" (whatever that means) and "the driving position is too buslike, the seat cushion feels like a dome."

Edmunds notes "there's slightly more cargo room in the Honda Fit, but the 2009 Scion xD offers enough for most people...Some hidden cubbyhole storage beneath the load floor in back is also available." Kelley Blue Book notes there's actually "slightly less interior and cargo room" in the new xD versus the xA it replaces. However, Car and Driver claims, "With the rear seats folded, the xD's 36 cubic feet of storage bests the xA's by four." Kelley Blue Book appreciates its "storage for odds and ends up front, including an upper and lower glovebox on the passenger's side." MyRide.com details the little things: "The front doors have a storage bin with bottle holder. Things get a bit more spartan in the back: only one cupholder at the back of the center console."

The 2009 Scion xD's fit and finish are generally well-regarded. "The sport steering wheel had a nice heft. The tilt function moves the wheel and the instrument cluster, keeping the view of the gauges unobstructed," asserts MyRide.com. "Its doors close with a reassuring thunk," says Car and Driver, "and bumps don't rattle through the cabin." They add that the interior plastics are "more upscale" than its competitors'. Edmunds remarks, "There isn't a surface on the xD's interior that lacks the feel of nicely textured quality." Automobile Magazine, 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." MyRide.com sums it up nicely: "Small economy cars aren't going to compete with big luxury sedans on noise, and the xD is no exception."

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2009 Scion xD


The 2009 Scion xD promises respectable protection, even if it is one of the smallest vehicles.

For a relatively small vehicle, the 2009 Scion xD earns respectable scores in front impact crash tests and excellent scores in side impact tests.

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 2008 xD an "acceptable" rating for its crash offset test and a "good" for both side and rear impact. At the time of this writing, it has not tested the 2009 model, but since there have been no structural changes, the 2008 test is representative.

Unlike some cars costing thousands more, the 2009 Scion xD boasts a long list of standard safety features. Edmunds calls the xD's roster of standard safety features "impressive." This includes anti-lock brakes with brake assist, traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and front active head restraints, which Kelley Blue Book notes "push the occupants back into their seats in the event of an accident." Also standard is a tire pressure monitoring system. Not standard (but available together as an option) are traction control and an electronic stability system, according to Cars.com, who also point out the brakes "use a disc/drum setup, not the stronger four-wheel-disc type." Visibility is "bad to the rear corners due to thick roof pillars but is OK otherwise," declares ConsumerGuide.


2009 Scion xD


While the 2009 Scion xD costs more than some competitors, it offers many more standard features, plus extensive Scion-warranteed customization possibilities.

2009 Scion xDs come well-equipped with a lengthy list of standard features and can be customized to your liking with many OEM and aftermarket upgrades.

Kelley Blue Book describes Scions as "truly practical and affordable modes of transportation that don't loudly scream 'budget'." 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 and Track mentions that the xD is equipped with cruise control; power windows, locks, and mirrors; and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. Of the 2009 Scion xD, Kelley Blue Book contends, "It's an affordable, well-built vehicle with more standard equipment than a Honda Fit or a Nissan Versa."

Various reviews read by TheCarConnection.com describe the single-trimmed Scion xD as "monospec." Car and Driver explains: "you choose color, stereo, transmission, and wheel covers―with accessories providing all the tasty flavor." 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." That display can showcase "skins" that can be "created and downloaded on a special site created by Pioneer just for Scion owners" and "short videos, too," says Kelley Blue Book. The premium radio option can be combined with an optional subwoofer, DVD navigation system, and Sirius Satellite Radio if so desired. Many feel that upgrading sound systems "does not improve the speakers, which lack clarity" (Car and Driver). Beyond Pioneer, as Edmunds points out, "aftermarket companies like Lund, Sparco and Yakima are also committed to making personalization of the new Scion easy."

An xD can be optioned from mild to wild. "With available accessories from TRD," notes Road and Track, "you can turn it into a very hot little 5-door." Buyers have a choice of wheel covers or alloy rims in sizes ranging from 16 to 19 inches. And functional upgrades include "a quick-shift kit, big brakes, shorter springs, an exhaust system, a carbon-fiber engine cover," according to Edmunds. Other available options consist mostly of items that are geared toward customizing the 2009 Scion xD's appearance, like illuminated door sill enhancements, sport pedals, a carbon fiber engine cover, and a cargo cover, points out Kelley Blue Book. The optional navigation system can play DVDs while the car is parked.

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Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 7
Features 8
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