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Category: $15,000 to $17,000 Front-Wheel Drive Compact Wagon
Who should buy this car: A person looking for a head-turning compact utility vehicle with good space utilization and funky style
Comparable models in this class:

Chevrolet HHR,Chrysler PT Cruiser,Dodge Caliber,Ford Focus,Kia Rondo, Pontiac Vibe,Suzuki SX4, Toyota Matrix

2008 Scion xB Road Test Review

Bigger, quieter, roomier, more powerful, less boxy.  Presenting the Scion xB, version 2.

When the original xB was introduced to the American market in 2004, it brought with it, a new Toyota brand name called Scion.  Two models were introduced to kick off the brand, the Scion xA, a small 5-door wagon, and the xB, a box on wheels.  These were followed a year later by a slick coupe called the Scion tC, which turned out to be the most popular Scion of all.

Because of the controversial styling of the xB, Scion execs expected to sell twice as many xAs as xBs.  It turned out to be the other way around.  The boxy look and utilitarian package was an instant hit.  Many buyers used the xB's slab sides as a blank canvas to show off their artistic skills.  Others picked from tons of accessories that were available in order to make the xB their own.

Now, just 4 years after that initial introduction to the US market, Scion completely redesigned the xB from the ground up.  The clean utilitarian (read boxy) look of the original xB is mostly gone.  In its place we have a softer, less chiseled look with an exaggerated front overhang, bulbous fender flairs and extremely wide C pillar.  If you never saw the original xB, you would still consider the 2008 Scion xB boxy, but put them both side by side and the word 'boxy' just doesn't have the same meaning for the new xB.

As it was with the first Scion xB, the look will be polarizing.  You will either love the styling or hate it.  Very few people will choose to purchase this car without styling being a big factor in their decision.

It remains to be seen whether the original xB admirers will accept the new look or cause the resale value of the first generation xB to skyrocket.  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, we had a chance to sample the new xB and form our own opinion of this breadbox on wheels.

For 2008, the Scion xB is a larger vehicle in every respect.  Wheelbase is stretched by 4 inches to 102.4", while overall length has grown by a foot to 167.3 inches.  While the height remains virtually the same, the xB is almost 3 inches wider for more elbow room and it tips the scales at a stout 3,020 pounds, up from 2,395 for last year's xB.

In order to move that extra 625 pounds with ease, the new Scion xB engine has grown from 1.5 liters to 2.4 liters and from 103 horsepower to 158 horsepower.  Acceleration has gone from somewhat anemic to rather brisk.  This is essentially the same 2.4 liter engine that motivates theScion tC so well.

With the added weight and larger engine, you would expect fuel economy to suffer and it has.  The new xB is rated by the EPA at 22 mpg, city and 28 mpg on the highway.  The previous xB got 31 city and 34 highway.  Now bear in mind that fuel economy on all 2008 vehicles is rated using the new EPA testing method that more closely reflects real-world experience whereas vehicles with model years prior to 2008 use the old test procedures which were hard to match out on the road.

If the new 2008 Scion xB were rated using the old EPA test method, the mileage figure would be 25 mpg, city and 30 for the highway.  This is still lower than the 31 & 34 rating for the 2007 xB, but this is the sacrifice you make for the extra room, weight and power you get in the '08 model.

If you really want the smaller size and fuel efficiency that was available on the old xB, wait for the smaller2008 Scion xD, which will be available sometime in August 2008.

Let's take a closer look at the new xB.

The new look was penned by the Calty Design Studio in California specifically for the American market and American tastes, whereas the original xB was designed for the Japanese market as the 2000 Toyota bB, than was adapted for the US market in 2004, midway through it's life cycle.

The 2008 xB interior has a more relaxed atmosphere and is considerably more comfortable in just about every way.  The xB still uses a centralized instrument panel that groups the gauges in the center of the dash close to the base of the windshield.  This is really not a bad position, but takes a bit of getting used to.  While you have to turn your head slightly to see your speed, it is easier to refocus your eyes from the road because the speedometer is further away than normal. 

There are 4 overlapping round gauges in the cluster.  The first is a digital speedometer with large numerals that are easy to read without the need for reading glasses.  To the right is a conventional round tachometer, followed by a fuel gauge, then a temperature gauge.

The biggest change is noticeable at night where the area in front of the steering wheel is completely dark.  It is hard to understand what I mean until you try it for yourself.  Normally, the lights from the gauge cluster silhouettes the steering wheel, but when the gauges are in the center of the dash, the area in front of the driver is completely dark and you can't see anything in front of you below the windshield.  Nothing wrong with this other than it just seems weird until you get used to it.

The tilt steering wheel contains standard audio controls for volume, station select and a mode button to allow you to switch between AM, FM, CD and Satellite (if equipped)

Below the centrally located gauges is the audio system flanked by two large round air conditioner outlets, giving the appearance of a typical boom box.  Below the boom box are conventional climate controls and, following down a bit further, still part of the dash, is where the shifter lives.

You have a choice of either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic with a manual mode.  Both transmissions are well matched to the power delivery of the 2.4 liter engine.  Despite the automatic only having 4 speeds, it is extremely smooth and seems to always be in the right gear at the right time.

The driver's seat is very comfortable and supportive and is adjustable for height.  There's a folding armrest on the right side of the driver's seat, but none on the front passenger seat.

The back seat is split 60/40 and is able to fold almost flat for cargo.  There is a tray under the rear seat cushion for storing small items.  The rear cargo floor is flush with the hatch opening for easy loading and unloading.

Overall, the 2008 Scion xB was a pleasant car to drive.  On the road, the xB felt like the larger vehicle that it was.  The engine was smooth and responsive with more than enough power for any normal driving need.  At full throttle, engine sound was moderate without sounding harsh or strained

The ride was geared toward comfort with good noise isolation.  On rough pavement, The body structure was solid with no body shake of any kind.  There was also no wind noise at normal highway speeds.

Because of the soft springing, there was some noticeable lean during hard cornering, but not to a point where it felt uncomfortable or difficult to control.  Steering was reasonably responsive, but nothing that could be described as sporty.

The $15,650 Scion xB is a well equipped vehicle right out of the box (pun intended).  Upscale features like Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control, anti-lock brakes, front seat side and front and rear curtain airbags, power windows, door locks & mirrors and air conditioning are all standard.

The standard sound system is a 160 watt Pioneer unit with iPod connectivity and a mini jack port.  The only factory option is the automatic transmission ($950).  Check below for a more complete list of standard equipment.

The Scion brand is all about customization and individuality.  To that end, there is a long list of accessories that can be ordered with the vehicle or installed later by the dealer.  These include things like special wheels and tires, upgraded audio, 4-in-1 interior lighting with cup holder illumination, Scion navigation system, satellite radio, among many, many others.

Will the new xB be as popular as the original?  Only time will tell.  Like its predecessor, the xB is all about being controversial, the original xB was known for its boxy shape, the new one, no doubt, will be known for its funky style.  The 2008 Scion xB is still a practical box on wheels that speaks the language of youth.

Whether you are young and have a desire to express yourself with a unique, but practical set of wheels, or simply a young-at-heart empty nester that is tired of emptying your pockets at the pumps for a big honking SUV you no longer need, the 2008 Scion xB might just be the answer you are looking for.

Standard Equipment
(partial list)

  • 2.4 liter 158 horsepower 4 cylinder engine

  • 5 speed manual transmission

  • Four-wheel anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist

  • Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control

  • Cargo area under-floor storage

  • Front sport bucket seats with fabric upholstery

  • Drivers seat with adjustable height

  • Drivers seat mounted armrest

  • Tilt steering wheel with audio controls

  • 60/40-split, fold flat rear seat

  • Storage tray under rear seat

  • Headrests and three-point seatbelts in all five seating positions

  • Driver and front passenger sunvisor with mirror

  • Center console

  • Choice of three wheel cover designs

  • Chrome exhaust tip

  • Remote keyless entry

  • Air conditioning

  • Cruise control

  • Power door locks, outside mirrors and windows with one-touch auto down on drivers side

  • Side mirrors with turn indicators

  • Deep orange instrument panel illumination

  • Multi-information display

  • Digital clock and speedometer

  • Tachometer and trip meter

  • Driver and front passenger dual stage airbags SRS

  • Front seat-mounted side airbags

  • Front and rear side curtain airbags

  • First-aid kit

  • Intermittent front wiper

  • Multi-reflector halogen headlamps with projector lamp for low beams

  • Pioneer 160-watt maximum power AM/FM/CD head unit (MP3/WMA and satellite-tuner capable) with iPod compatibility, six speakers, Scion Sound Processing, a user-customizable welcome screen, and Sound Retouch digital equalization for clearer MP3/WMA-CD sound

  • Auxiliary audio input and iPod jacks

  • Roof mounted antenna

  • Rear privacy glass

  • Rear window defogger

  • Rear wiper

  • Tire pressure monitor system

Major Available Options

  • Automatic transmission

Partial list, available from the port of entry or can be dealer installed

  • Pioneer Premium audio system

  • Scion navigation system

  • Subwoofer

  • Sirius Satellite Radio

  • XM Satellite Radio

  • 4-in1 interior light kit with cup holder illumination

  • Autodimming mirror

  • C-pillar storage

  • Carbon fiber engine cover

  • Cargo cover

  • Cargo liner

  • Cargo net

  • Carpeted floor/cargo mats

  • DVD headrest monitors

  • Illuminated door sill enhancements

  • Interior trim upgrade kit

  • LED interior under dash and cup holder illumination

  • Overhead console box

  • Remote engine start

  • Scion security

  • Shift knob - Razo

  • Shift knob - OBX Racing Sports

  • Sport pedals

  • 16-inch alloy wheels

  • 17-inch alloy wheels

  • Carbon fiber window trim

  • Exhaust tip by Valor Manufacturing

  • Fog lights

  • LED rear tail lights

  • Rear bumper appliqu

  • Rear spoiler (color-keyed)

  • Tail light enhancement

  • Upper grille enhancement

  • Wheel covers

  • Wheel locks

  • Ashtray kit

  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel (gray)

For more information on the Scion xB, visit

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