2012 Scion xD Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 21, 2012

It's not as much fun as its styling suggests, but the 2012 Scion xD has a low base price and offers lots of accessories.

It may share some of its hardware with the Toyota Yaris, but the 2012 Scion xD has a completely different reason for existing. The Yaris (which is new for 2012) is aimed mostly at those who need an inexpensive commuter appliance, while the xD aims at younger buyers on a tight budget, but in love with the idea of high style, and a high level of features and accessories--while still pocketbook and parking-space restrained.

The xD delivers a good answer to that equation. There's something tough and aggressive about this small hatchback's design. It can even look a little menacing, which its bulldog-like, blunt front end. The spoilered tailgate looks like the back end of a sport shoe, and in all, the xD has a squared-off stance that's the opposite of the svelter European-influenced Yaris.

Inside, the xD's upright profile pays off in lots of interior space. The front seats are a sore spot, though: they're supportive enough for short drives, but because their bottom cushions are too short, the seats aren't comfortable for longer trips. It's a common complaint we have with many small cars, but it's very noticeable here. There's better news in back, where the small amount of available room is mitigated by a seat that slides back and forth on a six-inch track, increasing the utility of the hatchback. The seat also splits and folds 60/40, and it reclines 10 degrees, so smaller adults who squeeze in back can probably find a reasonable amount of comfort. Once the seats are folded down, the hatchback space opens into a nicely sized cargo hold, accompanied by the xD's numerous cubbyholes and storage bins.

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It's targeted at younger buyers, and has tuner overtures and cues built into its profile and its accessories sheet, but the xD isn't that entertaining to drive, at least not in stock form. The powerplant's a 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder with plenty of power for city tasks. It works well with the five-speed manual or the four-speed automatic. The automatic's relative lack of gears are one of the main reasons the xD feels perky in urban driving--it's usually turning higher engine speeds--and that's also the reason why its gas mileage falls to the back of the subcompact class, at 27/33 mpg, no matter which gearbox you choose.

Electronic stability control is finally standard on the xD, and its performance in crash tests has been good, but not top-notch. In other respects, it has a surprising amount of standard equipment, from air conditioning to power features to a new Pioneer sound system with HD radio, Bluetooth and a USB port for iPod connectivity. As with any Scion product, that's just a starting point. Buyers can order from more than 40 dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, as well as hundreds of aftermarket parts. Many dealer add-ons for the 2012 Scion xD are cosmetic enhancements, but they also offer a wide range of TRD performance accessories—including items like quick-shifter kits, larger brakes, shorter springs, or a performance exhaust system.

7

2012 Scion xD

Styling

The blocky hatchback look of the 2012 Scion xD is an attempt to stand out, and most will agree it works better on the outside.

Like the entire Scion line, the xD appeals to those who want just a little more style than other small-car models can provide--but on a very tight budget. And while the xD's competition has really heated up over the past couple of model years with the stylish likes of the Ford Fiesta, the Chevrolet Aveo, and a redesigned Hyundai Accent, among others, the xD delivers a good answer to that need.

There's something tough and aggressive about this small hatchback's design--for one, it rides a bit higher than most, and the wheels (16-inchers, or as large as 18-inch) barely fit into flared wheel arches and stand out as a bit large for the rest of the body. As such, it can even look a little menacing, which its bulldog-like, blunt front end. The spoilered tailgate looks like the back end of a sport shoe, and in all, the xD has a squared-off stance that's the opposite of the svelter European-influenced, last-generation Yaris on which it's based.

Just as the exterior is somewhat blunt and upright, so is the interior. The gauge cluster resembles a clock face, and it's mounted on the steering column and moves as the wheel tilts. The chunky instrument panel is almost like the designs used in some SUVs--an extremely upright wall of hard plastic--while the rest of the interior trims are rather ordinary but a rather incongruous mix of matte and glossy.

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6

2012 Scion xD

Performance

If you think that Scion's tuner image, as well as a buff appearance, hint that there's strong performance in the xD, you're going to be a little disappointed.

The xD is targeted at younger buyers, and has tuner overtures and cues built into its profile and its accessories sheet. Yet the surprising part is that the xD really isn't that entertaining to drive, at least not in stock form.

The powerplant's a 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder--which should provide rapid takeoffs and plenty of passing reserves in a car this small and light (the Yaris makes do just find with a smaller engine). That's mostly true with the five-speed manual, but the four-speed automatic's rather wide gaps between gears makes it feel less than responsive out on the highway--and that's also the reason why its gas mileage falls to the back of the subcompact class, at 27/33 mpg, no matter which gearbox you choose.

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Even if you want to try to make the most of it, the xD is lacking the right details and tuning for the mission. There's no manual shift mode for the automatic, and this small car simply lacks the crisp, responsive handling and tossable feel that distinguish the fun-to-drive small cars—like the MINI Cooper, Honda Fit, or Ford Fiesta—from the rest of the crowd. 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. Inferior rear drum brakes also cement the impression that this is a sporty car only with respect to appearance and marketing. Aftermarket and dealer-installed bits help the xD handle a bit better, but mostly at the expense of ride quality.
6

2012 Scion xD

Comfort & Quality

The 2012 Scion xD has a roomy interior, but the execution falls short--with short, hard front seats and some unimpressive materials.

The interior of the 2012 Scion xD is roomy, but it's not particularly comfortable or quiet.

The front seats are a sore spot: they're supportive enough for short drives, but because their bottom cushions are too short, the seats aren't comfortable for longer trips. It's a common complaint we have with many small cars, but it's very noticeable here. Taller, lankier drivers or those with atypical physiques should also be aware that the xD is one of the few models on the market with a steering wheel that tilts but doesn't telescope. There's better news in back, where the small amount of available room is mitigated by a seat that slides back and forth on a six-inch track, increasing the utility of the hatchback. The seat also splits and folds 60/40, and it reclines 10 degrees, so smaller adults who squeeze in back can probably find a reasonable amount of comfort.

There's not all that much cargo space behind the rear seats, but once they're folded down, the hatchback space opens into a nicely sized cargo hold, accompanied by the xD's numerous cubbyholes and storage bins.

While the xD's upright profile pays off in lots of interior space, wind noise is somewhat higher than other small hatchbacks. Ride quality is quite good though, with a rather soft calibration that should do well on choppy urban surfaces.

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Fit and finish is typical small-car Toyota, which is to say that assembly quality is top-notch but materials are a bit behind the curve, with more hard plastics than you'll find in rival models.
6

2012 Scion xD

Safety

The 2012 Scion xD has good crash-test ratings, and while some other models offer more airbags, its feature set is competitive

The xD was one of the last vehicles in the U.S. market to get standard electronic stability control, but it now has it standard. Otherwise, its performance in crash tests has been good, but not top-notch.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, the xD achieved just 'acceptable' for frontal impact, with 'good' scores in side and rear impact for previous model years. But for 2012, the model has been retested and now earns top 'good' scores, as well as the Top Safety Pick designation. The xD hasn't at all been rated by the federal government's new NCAP crash-test program and ratings system.

Otherwise, the 2012 xD's set of standard safety features is competitive: anti-lock brakes, side-curtain airbags in the front and rear, front side airbags, and active front headrests.

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8

2012 Scion xD

Features

With the addition of Bluetooth for 2012, the Scion xD offers what most young, connected drivers want--including many things that cost extra on other models.

The Scion business model is set up so that the brand's vehicles are well-equipped at the dealership, but a plethora of dealer-installed options and customization possibilities call out to make these small cars a little more distinctive.

Going just by the features list, there's a surprising amount of standard equipment, from air conditioning to power features to a new Pioneer sound system with HD radio, Bluetooth and a USB port for iPod connectivity. A first-aid kit is included, as are power windows, mirrors, and locks; cruise control; a rear wiper; and a trip computer. 

As with any Scion product, that's just a starting point. Buyers can order from more than 40 dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, as well as hundreds of aftermarket parts. Many dealer add-ons for the 2012 Scion xD are cosmetic enhancements, but they also offer a wide range of TRD performance accessories—including items like quick-shifter kits, larger brakes, shorter springs, or a performance exhaust system.

Review continues below
8

2012 Scion xD

Fuel Economy

Those expecting a green, fuel-efficient small car are going to be a little disappointed with the xD.

The 2012 Scion xD simply doesn't return the mileage ratings of other small cars, whether that be in the city or on the highway, with a manual transmission or with the automatic.

Its engine is somewhat larger than other small cars its size, and the higher, less aerodynamic stance probably doesn't help, but the xD's EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 33 highway aren't much better, if at all, than most mid-size cars.

Granted, they're about on par with other tall, boxy hatchbacks like the Kia Soul or Nissan Cube.

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6.6
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Styling 7
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 6
Features 8
Fuel Economy 8
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