2008 Scion xD Review – It looks like a…

Expert Reviews Scion

Overview Consumer Reviews
Scion xD Photo Gallery Scion xD Specs

By Kurt Gensheimer


  • Unique Styling
  • More powerful engine
  • Long list of standard features
  • Longer list of aftermarket options


  • Unique Styling
  • Still fuel efficient, but not like xA
  • Snowplow understeer
  • Lifeless Toyota handling

Ruling: Regardless of what ridiculous appearance analogy you can muster, the xD offers incredible value and personality for the money.

For automotive journalists, it seems the most exciting part of reviewing a Scion is coming up with an assemblage of knee-slapping analogies as to the car’s appearance. The selection ranges anywhere from Whirlpool on wheels, rollerskate, and UPS truck crossed with a garden shed to a rolling doorstop, midget bullet train, melted stack of pancakes and petrified excrement.Of course, CarREVIEW.com’s take on the new 2008 Scion xD would not be complete without this author’s obligatory analogy, so here goes… It looks like a Hungry, Hungry Hippo choking on a marble.

But apparently the folks over at Toyota think a Hippo in need of the Heimlich is much more attractive than a jellybean. The jellybean, AKA Scion xA, sold half as many units as Toyota assumed. It seemed consumers like the UPS truck/garden shed look of the xB much better. So back to the mad scientist design lab went Toyota to concoct the replacement for the xA, the all-new for 2008 xD.

Driving Impressions

Although the xD is based on the Toyota Yaris platform, it sports a few advantages over its fuel-miserly brethren as well as its xA predecessor. The xD has beefed up 200 pounds over the xA, now weighing in at 2600 pounds. And along with the beef comes brawn in the form of a 1.8 liter VVT-i 4-cylinder that puts out 128 HP and 125 lb. ft. of torque, nearly a 25 percent improvement in performance over the xA. But of course, this added beef and brawn comes at a fuel appetite cost – dragging the xD’s economy down to 27 city/ 33 highway for the 5-speed manual. Although not unimpressive by any means, it’s still markedly lower than the xA’s 31/38 performance.

On the road, the added weight of the xD makes it feel far safer and more significant than the xA, its Yaris relative and competitors like the Honda Fit. The seating position is high, much like an SUV, and unfortunately the handling is lifeless, much like an SUV. The xD suffers from snowplow understeer and typical dull Toyota handling characteristics. Although scrawnier, the xA was definitely more fun to drive.


One of the consistent highlights of the Scion brand is its build quality. Yes, the interior may be stripped–down and simple, but you can see and feel the quality in every component from the plastics to the upholstery. For the money, consumers get a very well-built machine that has Toyota quality and reliability behind it. In addition, standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front active head restraints.


The xD is oddly characteristic from the outside, and it keeps the theme on the inside as well. The instrument cluster is extremely basic. There’s one circular gauge which serves as the speedometer and tachometer. Much like watching a timepiece rotate in fast-forward, the cluster can be somewhat difficult to read, but it doesn’t fail at being unique – and at least it’s directly in front of the driver where it should be. Another feature we enjoyed playing with was the xD’s real-time MPG gauge. We found ourselves coasting, soft-footing and doing other distracting – if somewhat dangerous – driving simply in the name of seeing 99.9 MPG pop up on the screen.

The audio options on the Scion are excellent. There are three total choices – two offered by Pioneer and the flagship, navigation-equipped Alpine. Like most cars in its class, the xD offers an auxilary input jack for MP3 players, but it chomps down on its competitors with jaws of a plastic, mechanized hippo by offering a specific iPod interface which can be operated by the head unit.

However, where the xD falls short on the inside is in the cargo space department. With rear seats up, 11 cubic feet is available, and with seats down, it expands to nearly 36. Not bad for most young, active lifestyles, but small when lined up next to its competitors.


Well, well, well. Here we are again on the topic of styling. This is a very interesting quandary for most buyers. It’s not unlike finding your lifelong partner – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some view the Scion styling as heinous, but it’s low MSRP, long features list and reputation for quality help warm them up to the disagreeable design. Others view the styling as straight-up pimp, and all the other qualities are just bonus. So it’s pretty simple. If you’re under the age of 30, either you love the Scion styling enough to buy it, or you hate it enough to still buy it.


An obvious strong point for the xD and all Scions for that matter. With a $14,550 base price and standard equipment like 16 inch steelies, A/C, cruise control, power everything, tilt wheel, and a Pioneer six-speaker system, value is evident. Throw in aftermarket customized options like alloy wheels, spoiler, LED exterior lights, interior mood lighting and a gaggle of shift knobs, the xD is a hard car to beat in the value department.

Who Should Buy It?

It’s obvious that the xD is aimed at young entry-level buyers who have discerning audio, fuel efficiency and cargo requirements with a need for styling and a customized appearance that won’t get mistaken for their parents’ econobox.


Inane analogies aside, the xD is a marked improvement in many departments over the xA predecessor. It’s stripped down, rudimentary and boring in the handling department, but the xD offers exceptional build quality, the right standard features potential buyers look for and further entices them with an everlong scrolling list of aftermarket options to individualize their ride.

Oh, and if you have a good analogy for the xD, please, share your brilliant wit with us by posting a comment.
















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