More Expert Reviews
|2008 Scion xB
|2008 Scion xB
- More powerful engine
- More cargo space
- More standard features
- More mainstream
- More boring
- More hefty
Ruling: More is less, especially in this author’s futile attempt for wordplay.
Some things in life have such endearing characteristics that no matter how much you want to hate it, you can’t help but love it. Take for instance the Pug – a scrawny mutt with no neck and a face that looks like it got bashed flat with an iron skillet. The first time I laid eyes on it I thought, Who could ever find that thing cute? With its bulging eyes, incessant snorting and ungraceful waddle, I found it to be one of the most heinous-looking dogs ever created. But as time went on, my dislike for the animal was replaced by – not love – but an appreciation. Sure it was still ugly, but that’s what made it unique. It stood out from the crowd. It’s ugliness became its greatest asset.
The first time I saw the xB, my sentiments were comparable to the Pug. Who on Earth could find that car attractive? Would somebody actually cruise Sunset Boulevard in a rolling refrigerator without being completely mortified? Although my initial disdain for the xB was fierce, after seeing them every day for a few years, just like the Pug, an appreciation for the xB grew.
Now that I have finally accepted the appearance of the original xB, wouldn’t you know it, Toyota decides to do a complete redesign. Like a Pug that ate waaay too much kibble, the new xB is longer, wider and heavier to the tune of 12 inches overall length (4 inches in wheelbase), 2.8 inches in width, and nearly 600 pounds in additional heft, which has got to be some kind of record for model redesign weight gain.
Our test vehicle was a 5-speed manual base model in a snazzy Black Berry Crush Metallic color, which was generously provided by Stevens Creek Scion. I couldn’t believe it, but at first glance my styling preference was with the original xB. For 2008, Scion rounded the edges in an attempt to soften its appearance. They definitely succeeded in softening the xB’s look, but like the Pug, its appearance is what made it special.
Once inside, the xB was noticeably more spacious than its predecessor. It was also noticeably more powerful too. Although the xB has picked up 600 additional pounds of heft, it has also picked up a more gutsy 158 horsepower/162 ft. lbs. torque VVTi 4-cylinder engine – the same engine found in the zippy tC. This was a much-needed upgrade considering the old wheezing 103 horse powerplant couldn’t even stumble out of its own way on the interstate. But this upgrade in power and weight has come at a fuel economy penalty of about 5 MPG.
Even though its got rounded edges, don’t let the Scion fool you, it’s still boxy. But even for a rounded-off rolling refrigerator, the xB handles quite well. It doesn’t seem to mind the occasional corner throw, but don’t ask too much of it on the twisties. Not that you would, I mean, seriously, it’s a Whirlpool with wheels.
The xB is Ashford and Simpson approved. Solid. Solid as a rock. Tight body panels, great insulation for quiet highway driving, comfortable seats, quality plastics that don’t get brittle and break – expect the same quality you would get from a Toyota. Add in the standard features which include A/C, power doorlocks and windows, satellite-ready stereo with CD player and iPod integration, four wheel anti-lock disc brakes and traction control, all for a paltry base price of only $16,270.
Then of course there’s the options and aftermarket accessories which reads longer than a five-year-old’s Christmas wish list. Upgraded Pioneer stereo system, front headrest DVD players, 19-inch wheels, cold air induction kit, carbon-fiber doo-dads, chromed whozee-whatzees and lowering springs don’t even put a dent in the exhausting list of what’s available.
What the xB lacks in exterior looks, it makes up for on the interior. The seats are supportive and comfortable, have quality cloth fabric and the driver’s seat even has a captain’s chair armrest for gettin’ your lean on when cruising the boulevard low and slow. Although I like the look of the gauge cluster, I still don’t get the Echo/Prius practice of putting them in the dead center of the dash. It may look different and unique, but it’s a big pain in the assay. And the digital MPG gauge is nice, but why not take a cue from Mazda and put the digital readout inside the RPM gauge to consolidate? That way you can put the gauge where it belongs – in front of the steering wheel.
The shifter sits high on the center cluster which gives it a video arcade feel, which is not necessarily a bad thing if Scion were to have made that cluster useful. However, underneath the tall, minivan-esque shifter console there is no storage space, no cool cubby-holes; just a 12V power outlet. A waste of space, in my opinion.
With the longer and wider dimensions of the new xB, interior cargo room is up dramatically. With the rear seats folded, the 2008 model has 70 cubic feet of space compared to only 43 in the predecessor. The xB has moved from Honda Fit territory and graduated into the realm of the Honda Element and Chevy HHR.
Perhaps the coolest standard feature inside the xB is its iPod integration. A jack underneath the center console allows you to plug in your iPod and run the controls straight from the head unit. Although I found operation of the head unit a bit confusing, with a little time and practice, it makes for much safer iPod operation while driving. Not that anyone would do that, of course. Because, you know, that’s unsafe and whatever.
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