2013 Scion xD Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
October 7, 2012

Packed with value, the 2013 Scion xd isn't quite as much fun to drive as it looks.

It may share some of its hardware with the Toyota Yaris, but the Scion xD has a completely different reason for existing. The Yaris (which was 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.

Without falling too far behind the curve, the Scion xD has been static while a raft of new subcompacts have made styling a strong selling point--everything from the new Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, to the Ford Fiesta, to the Fiat 500. 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.

As it rolls off the showrooms floor, the Scion xD doesn't entertain drivers as much as its semi-tough stance implies. 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, but the automatic's relative lack of gears is one of the reasons the xD feels perky in urban driving. That also means it's usually turning higher engine speeds, which is 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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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.

The xD was one of the last vehicles in the U.S. market to get standard electronic stability control, in the 2012 model year when it became mandatory. Otherwise, the 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. It still hasn't been tested by the NHTSA, though. 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.

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2013 Scion xD

Styling

The bulldog stance works better on the Scion xD's sheetmetal than in its, er, durable-looking interior.

Without falling too far behind the curve, the Scion xD has been static while a raft of new subcompacts have made styling a strong selling point--everything from the new Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, to the Ford Fiesta, to the Fiat 500.

The xD's still a smart-looking hatchback, regardless, with good answers to those newer vehicles. It's always looked a little aggressive and tough--something to do with its ride height, and the range of big-wheel options that peak at 18-inchers that barely tuck into its wheel wells. The bulldog-like, blunt front end sets it all up well, and the tailgate's spoiler reads like an athletic shoe. The net is that the squared-off stance gives the xD some small-scale menace, the opposite of all those competitors that swoop their way toward svelte, European good looks.

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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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2013 Scion xD

Performance

Don't be disappointed by the Scion xD's somewhat buff appearance and list of tuner accessories: it's no performer.

As it rolls off the showrooms floor, the Scion xD doesn't entertain drivers as much as its semi-tough stance implies.

The tuner cues and overtures stamped into its sheetmetal and printed on its order sheet don't play out so readily from the xD's 128-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. In a car this small--Toyota's Yaris gets along fine with a smaller engine--the xD should have quick off-the-line responses and good passing power. With the standard five-speed manual shifter, that's mostly the case. Order the four-speed automatic, and you'll find big gaps between then xD's gears, which makes it feel a little winded at highway speeds. It also lacks any kind of manual shift mode.

The xD's gas mileage is at the back of the subcompact class, too. It's pegged at 27/33 mpg, no matter which gearbox you choose.

In terms of handling, the xD simply lacks the crisp responses and tossable feel that makes other small cars fun to drive--cars like the MINI Cooper, Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500. Even if you want to try to make the most of it, the xD is lacking the right details and tuning for the mission. 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. Ride quality is quite good though, with a rather soft calibration that should do well on choppy urban surfaces. Aftermarket and dealer-installed bits help the xD handle a bit better, but mostly at the expense of ride quality. Inferior rear drum brakes also cement the impression that this is a sporty car only with respect to appearance and marketing.

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2013 Scion xD

Comfort & Quality

Stiff front seats are the Scion xD's concession to price; there's less room inside than the boxy shape implies, too.

The Scion xD doesn't quite live up to its promise: the boxy shape has good interior space, but the seats aren't comfortable, and the cabin's not very quiet.

The front seats are good enough for short-distance commuting, but on longer drives, they become a sore spot with our admittedly tall test drivers. The seats are more thinly padded than most, and the bottom cushions are short, which leaves drivers without much support. The xD's tilt steering wheel doesn't telescope, either, an issue for very tall drivers. The former's a common complaint we have with many small cars, and it's very noticeable here; the latter's becoming less and less common.

The back seat offers better accommodations. The space isn't huge, but the seat itself slides on a six-inch-long track, which either expands leg room for passengers or puffs up the rather meager amount of cargo space. 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.

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. And while the xD's upright profile pays off in lots of interior space, wind noise is somewhat higher than other small hatchbacks.

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2013 Scion xD

Safety

More airbags are standard this year, but the NHTSA and IIHS haven't said how much that improves the Scion xD's safety.

The 2013 Scion xD sits in a class where crash safety is rapidly improving. This year, it gets larger side-impact airbags and tougher seatbelt reels, but it still doesn't have what we'd like to see most: a new crash-test score from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which hasn't given it a rating since it updated its test criteria for the 2011 model year.

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests, last year's xD earned top "good" scores for all tests--an improvement over its prior front-impact rating--as well as the Top Safety Pick designation. The IIHS hasn't yet issued its 2013 awards; we'll update this page when more information becomes available.

The xD was one of the last vehicles in the U.S. market to get standard electronic stability control, in the 2012 model year when it became mandatory. Otherwise, the 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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2013 Scion xD

Features

Scion's customizing and accessorizing brings more features to the xD, and Bluetooth is standard.

The 2013 Scion xD sports a long list of standard features, which makes the basic model a good value. That list includes air conditioning; a Pioneer sound system with HD radio, Bluetooth and a USB port for iPod connectivity; power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; a rear wiper; and a trip computer.

Scion's whole brand is set up around these well-equipped models and a raft of accessories available from dealers, and the xD is no different. Drivers can choose from more than 40 dealer-installed upgrades and accessories, as well as hundreds of aftermarket parts. A majority of the add-ons are cosmetic, but Scion also offers range of performance accessories under Toyota's TRD badge—add-ons like larger brakes, shorter springs, quick-shifter kits, or a performance exhaust system.

The customization possibilities can make these small cars a little more distinctive, but beware on spending too much. Despite its good resale value, we can't think of many buyers who'd pay extra for a secondhand xD fully loaded as a boy racer--with everything but the real performance.

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2013 Scion xD

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage is good on the balance, but the Scion xD isn't much more efficient than some mid-size sedans.

The 2013 Scion xD looks as if it should get excellent fuel economy. In the grand scheme, it does--but it's still a few miles per gallon behind some much larger cars, and well off the gas-mileage marks set by the best subcompacts.

Granted, its gas-mileage ratings are roughly on par with other tall, boxy hatchbacks like the Kia Soul or Nissan Cube, but the xD's numbers just don't meet expectations, whether they're examined in the city or on the highway, with a manual transmission or with the automatic. The xD's EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 33 highway aren't much better, if at all, than most mid-size cars.

Why are the numbers so low? The xD's engine is somewhat larger than other small cars its size, and the higher, less aerodynamic stance probably doesn't help.

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