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2005 Scion xA Road Test

By John Heilig  
Photos by Charles Ofria

Category: $16,000 - $18,000 Compact Hatchback Coupe
Who should buy this car: The perfect first car for a couple or single college student looking for reliable, economical transportation that is easy on the eyes
Comparable models in this class: Chevrolet Cavalier or Cobalt, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Spectra, Pontiac Sunfire, Saturn ION, Volkswagen Golf

Toyota's Scion xA is a car that attracts attention, not only from the Gen X crowd it was designed to appeal to, but from older fogies such as myself who are interested in any new metal connected to four wheels.

The xA is one of three Scion models that are sold in the US.  The xA is the smallest and most conservatively styled of the group.  It is a front-wheel drive, five-door hatchback with styling cues that resemble the Mini from the rear, but with its own front profile. It definitely is its own car, though. The side profile is cute, the 3/4 view is cute. All about the xA is cute.

While the xA is small, there is excellent front seat leg, head and shoulder room. With the front seat pushed all the way back, though, rear seat legroom is tight. I might have been able to drive with the seat more forward, but it seemed more comfortable with the seat all the way back. Certainly, if we were carrying passengers in the back, I would have moved it forward.

Adding to the uniqueness is a center-mounted instrument panel. It's placed right up there at the base of the windshield where you can get information quickly (once you remember it's there). The instruments were a speedometer, tachometer and fuel level gauge. I liked the design of the speedometer, with black numbers on a white background, but the tach didn't match and that looked kind of strange.  In front of the driver is a huge slanted panel. You could probably tack post-its there for some serious multi-tasking, or even put a photo of your favorite wife or pet.

In the center of the dash, in their normal locations, are the sound system and HVAC controls. Both worked well, although the vents in the dash were different and required a learning curve to get them to point where you wanted or even to shut them off.

Continuing with the dash, there are cubby holes under the large glove box and at the base of the dash. There's a lighted, covered cubby in the center of the dash as well. The light goes on when you enter the car, giving some light to find your way around the xA at night.

The 1.5-liter DOHC four that is under the hood was noisy, especially on acceleration. It's rated at 108 horsepower, which is fine for the 2,380-pound xA. Power reached the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox sometimes had to search for the right gear and was often in a lower gear than I would have chosen with a manual gearbox.

This is the same engine as the Toyota Echo, and the Scion xA is built on the same 93.3-inch wheelbase as the Echo. The overall length of the xA is shorter due to less overhang, especially in the rear.

Cargo capacity is listed at 11.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 32.8 cubic feet with it down. However, there's a "Bazooka Tube Subwoofer" bolted to the cargo area floor that was nine inches in diameter and 18 inches long. It took up half the cargo area with the seats up and made lowering the left seat worthless. I know the Gen Xers Toyota is trying to attract to the Scion will love the deep resonant bass sounds this subwoofer delivers, but they might discover one day that they want to carry cargo and regret the $774 they spent on this thing. As someone who is definitely not part of the demographic, I thought it was a detriment. There's a shade over the cargo area, but it's really not necessary.

Handling was very good on a variety of roads. The front suspension is fairly conventional with MacPherson struts and coil springs, while the rear uses torsion bars. The brakes (discs front, drums rear) were good, but this is a light car, so stopping isn't all that hard.

Our tester had a bottom line of $15,783, which makes it a good value. The base price for the automatic was $13,280, with $120 added for carpeted floor mats, $665 for alloy wheels, $459 for a security system and $774 for the Bazooka sound package. Delivery, processing and handling added another $485.

My first impression of the Scion xA was favorable. The car had good build quality, but it is a Toyota after all. I question the value of that huge Bazooka in the rear, but then again, I'm not part of the demographic. For my music, the standard sound system did a good job.

2004 The Auto Page Syndicate

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Engine Type 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve with variable valve timing.
Horsepower 160 @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 163 @ 4,200 RPM
Fuel Recommended

Regular Unleaded.

Transmission (std)
Transmission (opt)
5-Speed manual transmission
4-speed automatic transmission
Drive Type Front-wheel drive
Tires - Standard

P215/45ZR17 all season tires

Overall Length 174"
Wheelbase 106.3"
Width 69.1"
Turning Diameter 36.1 ft Curb to Curb

Curb Weight

2,905 lbs.
Fuel Tank

14.5 Gallons

Miles Per Gallon EPA city 22, hwy 29
Acceleration 0 to 60 7.5 sec.
Base Sticker Price $15,950 + $515 destination charge

2005 Scion xA

Standard Equipment
(Partial List)

  • power glass sunroof with fixed rear glass roof panel
  • external temperature display
  • alloy 17" rims
  • 4 wheel disc brakes with ABS
  • power mirrors with integrated turn signals
  • cloth upholstery
  • Height adjustable driver's seat
  • split folding and reclining rear seats
  • remote power door locks
  • one-touch power windows
  • cruise control
  • tilt steering wheel
  • air conditioning
  • dual vanity mirrors
  • first aid kit
  • 160 watt Pioneer AM/FM in-dash single CD player with MP3 stereo and 6 speakers

Major Available Options

  • Automatic Transmission
  • Side & Curtain Airbags
  • AM/FM/6-Disc CD Changer by Pioneer
  • XM Satellite Radio
  • VSE Subwoofer by Bazooka Mobile Audio
  • Auto-Dimming Mirror
  • LED Under Dash and Cup Holder Illumination (amber or blue)
  • LED Rear Tail Lights by TYC
  • Hybrid Carpet Floor Mats/Cargo Mat
  • SCION Security
  • Sport Pedals by OBX Racing Sports - Brushed Stainless Steel
  • Fog Lights
  • Rear Pedestal Spoiler
  • Rear Lip Spoiler
  • Ground Effects Kit
  • TRD Performance Exhaust
  • Carbon Fiber Engine Cover by OBX Racing Sports
  • Front Strut Tie Bar by Hotchkis Tuning
  • Billet Oil Cap and Battery Tie Down by AEM (grey or polished)
  • Door Sills
  • Cargo Liner
  • Mudguards
  • B-Pillar Applique by Superior Dash
  • Speed Star Mesh Shift Knob by OBX Racing Sports
  • Speed Star Shift Knob by OBX Racing Sports
  • Classic Leather Shift Knob by OBX Racing Sports
  • Rear Bumper Applique
  • Cargo Net
  • Cargo Tote by Nifty Products

For more information on the tC, visit

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