Saturday, October 22, 2011
2011 Scion xB
The Scion xB started life dripping with hipster cool. It was a box among curves, a fashionable rebellion from the norm if there ever was one in the automotive world. Driving an xB was like wearing skinny jeans, wrapping a scarf around your neck in the middle of summer and donning a thin-brimmed fedora. Yet just as those fashion trends will inevitably lose their cool, so to speak, the 2011 Scion xB has lost some of its hipster image to time, familiarity and a second generation that sacrificed some funk for functionality.
But just because something's a fading trend doesn't mean it's not without merit. That boxy shape may not be as unique as it once was thanks to copycats like the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube, but being shaped like a box has other advantages. For one, the xB boasts more maximum cargo space than most rivals and even some midsize SUVs. Passenger space is just as impressive; there's enough headroom for you to don that fedora, and the backseat is so spacious relative to the exterior proportions that cab companies in Chicago have added xBs to their fleets. For 2011, a new telescoping steering wheel makes finding a comfortable seating position easier for taller drivers.
Despite losing some of its cool vibe, Scion hasn't abandoned its goal of trying to stay ahead of the game in those areas that matter most to young buyers. The main way to do that: audio systems. Standard on every xB is a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with an iPod interface, a regular auxiliary audio jack, an RCA output for additional speakers and a customizable head unit display. An upgraded system from Alpine adds a touchscreen interface and a knob that mimics an iPod's controls, while a "media expander" improves digital-music quality.
The main drawback to the 2011 Scion xB is its fuel economy. Though surprisingly punchy, the 158-horsepower four-cylinder achieves fuel economy that's the same or better than crossovers like the Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4. The xB is cheaper to begin with and offers similar interior space, so we think it's still a smart alternative to those popular family vehicles. Of course, it's a safe bet the Scion xB was never meant to be mentioned in the same sentence as "family vehicle." For those who shudder at those words and proudly wear that scarf in July, the xB still has undeniable appeal.
The interior of the Scion xB fits with the exterior looks. The driver has a commanding view of the road. That's exceptional if not unique, for a car of this size. The short nose, big windshield, elevatable driver's seat, and far-away dashboard create this feel. You become aware of the distance to the windshield when you reach to adjust the rearview mirror, which is quite a stretch from your shoulder. The glass is nearly upright and doesn't sweep back very much.
There's not much of a stretch from the front-seat passenger's knees to the good-sized glovebox. It's mounted low so it folds down, possibly on the passenger's shins. Above the glovebox there is a long thin tray which might be useful if it had a liner that offered some grip, instead of the hard, slick vinyl.
Charcoal is the only color for the fabric seats, which are comfortable and well bolstered, although they're shapeless and light on padding in the rear. The fabric isn't as sturdy, outdoorsy or cool as that in the Mazda3, but charcoal makes the most of the cloth. The xB seats five. The three kids who rode in the rear seat of our xB didn't have a problem, but three adults would. Two adults wouldn't be uncomfortable though, because you can easily slide your feet up under the front seats.
For rear-seat passengers, there are two cupholders that pop out of the back of the console between the front seats, a bottle holder in each door, and clever trays under the rear seats for storage of flat things like books and portfolios.
That wide C-pillar that enhances the exterior styling creates a blind spot when pulling out onto the highway at a 45-degree angle. Even knowing it was there and trying to peer around it, we managed to pull out in front of a car we couldn't see.
There are no gauges directly in front of the driver, which is a bit weird; but the row of four of them on the dashboard just to the right of the steering wheel makes up for it, because they're good. At the far left is the information display, revealing things like fuel mileage and range. Then comes the clock, which is highly readable; unlike so many, the color is orange and it has an eave to reduce being washed out by sunlight. The digital speedometer is excellent, with big numbers that are, like those on the clock, easily readable. Beyond these are the gas gauge and temperature gauge.
There's a lot of sound dampening material in the xB, and it seems like most of it must be in the firewall. Or else the engine is just quiet. You can't hear much engine noise, maybe because it's drowned out by the tire noise.
We were thankful for the halogen high beams during two fast one-hour runs on a dark, winding and lonely freeway, although we wished the low beams were brighter. And for some reason there's only one backup light, on the driver's side. Is it a Scion styling thing, like one earring or something?
Scion has put special effort into the air conditioning, and it shows. Four round vents on the dash quietly and quickly blast out cold air.
The automatic shift lever comes out of the center stack at a 45-degree angle, an ergonomic improvement introduced by Honda. The door handles, however, show little thought about ergonomics. They're horizontal, thin, barely two inches long, and tapered to a point.
Most of the slim space between the seats is taken by two fixed cupholders, a slot for a cellphone, and the parking brake lever, leaving room for only a small console compartment rearward between the seats.
The 60/40-split rear seats fold flat easily, creating good cargo space behind the front seats. The front passenger seat reclines, and that's good for naps, but with the passenger seat down there isn't any more practical cargo space because it reclines right on top of the folded rear seat, so it sticks way up there. The Honda Fit and Mazda5 remain the standards of cargo space in a small vehicle.
The big news is mostly on the outside, where the xB gets new front and rear bumpers, an updated grille, new headlamps and new tail lamps. The grille now features a new honeycomb pattern and the rear backup lamp is integrated into the tail lamps rather than the bumper.
The xB also comes with 16-inch steel wheels, and customers will be able to choose from three all-new standard wheel covers, which are also shared with the xD. The xB has 10.83-inch ventilated discs in the front and 10.98-inch disc brakes in the rear - which are more than two inches larger than the first generation xB.
Like all Scion vehicles, the xB is mono spec. Customers only need to choose exterior color and transmission type. The xB comes with generous and upscale standard features including power steering, windows, door locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA); driver and front passenger dual stage airbags; front seat-mounted side airbags; front and rear side curtain airbags; Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC); first-aid kit; and tilt steering wheel with audio controls.
All Scion models come with complimentary factory-recommended maintenance services at the first 5,000 mile and 10,000 mile intervals, to be performed by an authorized Scion or Toyota dealership.
The exterior color palette for the new xB includes Super White, Classic Silver Metallic, Black Sand Pearl, Nautical Blue Metallic, Blackberry Crush Metallic and two new paint shades: Army Rock Metallic and Elusive Blue Metallic, although Hypnotic Teal disappears.
The front-wheel-drive 2011 Scion xB is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 that produces 158 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic with automanual control is the xB's lone factory option. In performance testing, an automatic-equipped xB hustled from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. EPA estimates are below average for this segment at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
Throttle response is excellent and steady. You get a lot of smooth acceleration out of just a little bit of pressing down of your foot. The revs climb right up through the numbers on the tachometer, until the transmission upshifts at 6100 or 6200 rpm (even if it's in manual mode). The engine doesn't feel like it's working hard, it feels like it loves every chance it gets to leap between 3000 rpm and 6000 rpm.
Just don't forget that the Scion xB is not a sports car. We passed a truck going uphill on a two-lane, and with our foot on the floor we wished for even more quickness. Or maybe it was the five-speed manual transmission we were wishing for. Or a five-speed automatic.
The four-speed automatic kicks down a lot. This might be an annoyance if the xB weren't so eager about wanting to zoom forward. Every time it kicks down to third, it's happy. Give it a bit more gas at 75 mph on the freeway, and it kicks down to third and tries to get you up to 85, even if you hadn't quite intended to go that fast.
Seventy miles per hour in fourth gear is a comfortably low rev range, so there's lots of room for the engine to play, without screaming. The engine makes its peak torque of 162 pound-feet at 4000 rpm, and you can feel the engine come on there.
The 2011 Scion xB comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In braking tests, the xB came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet -- a solid performance.
The xB has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it earning four stars (out of five) for both driver and passenger in frontal impacts, and a perfect five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the xB its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side-impact crashes. reference:www.leftlanenews.com,www.edmunds.com,autos.aol.com