2012 Scion xB
Base price: $17,030
As tested: $21,522
MPG: 22 city/28 highway (Regular unleaded fuel)
- Offbeat looks, affordable price
- Loaded with safety features
- Roomy, with a responsive engine
- Polarizing style
- Dash layout not for everyone
- Unimpressive fuel economy
By Jim Prueter
It has been four years since we tested Toyota’s Scion xB, the edgy, square vehicle with a love-it-or-loathe-it style. We last took it for a spin shortly after the second-generation model was redesigned and introduced for 2008.
Then, last year, the 2011 xB was restyled again according to the folks at parent company Toyota, which caught me by surprise since the manufacturer typically generates more fanfare about a new product well before its release.
Forgive the oversight, but when our new 2012 xB arrived, we were certain the folks from Scion had sent the wrong model. Scion did slightly revise the front and rear bumpers, headlights, and taillights, and tweaked the new honeycomb pattern grille, which appears to have shrunk, giving way to a larger maw-like lower opening. Otherwise the xB maintains its no-apology boxy, fashionable look, coming just one way — a four-door, five-passenger wagon with a rear liftgate.
On the exterior, the previously single backup light on the bumper has been replaced with integrated backup lights in the new taillights; the wheel arches are blistered; and there’s a standard wiper on the rear glass.
Inside, there are larger front bucket seats with additional bolsters in a new geometric pattern fabric; a sliding armrest has been added to the center console for increased driver comfort; and xB finally gets a much-needed tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Also for 2012, Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming is now standard along with a new base and premium stereo setup.
The horizontal dash has gauges set in the middle so nothing is directly in front of the driver. Though it may look weird, the four orange-lit gauges provide ample information including the time, fuel economy and range, outside temperature, and other noteworthy details.
The interior room remains one of the stronger features of the xB with excellent driver and passenger space. If you’ve never been inside an xB, you’re going to be surprised by the generous amount of room, about the same as in a mid-sized Camry. The front seats fold back flat, and second row seats, split 60/40, also effortlessly fold flat with the pull of a lever and sit high for ease of ingress and egress. There’s storage room under second-row seats and plenty of interior bins and storage space, especially if the buyer selects an optional overhead console.
Seating position affords a commanding view of the road, but it takes some time to adjust to the distance from the upright windshield, which seems as if it would take a nine iron to reach it from the driver’s seat.
While the xB uses the same 2.4-liter, four-cylinder, 158-horsepower engine since its 2008 model redesign, we thought our xB this year was noticeably peppier. Acceleration was good, smooth, and steady. We recorded a 0-60 time of just over 8 seconds.
Though the xB won’t be confused for a performance sedan, it handles better than expected thanks to the front struts, a torsion-beam rear suspension, and electric power steering. Body lean in sharp cornering is noticeable given its high roofline profile, and the xB is overall easily maneuverable, defying its box-on-wheels looks.
Ride and comfort is excellent especially with the addition of the more contoured front seats. We were also impressed with how quiet the cabin was at highway speeds. Wind noise was at an absolute minimum.
The engine uses regular gas, and a five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic is optional. We averaged 25 mpg during our weeklong test, disappointing for a vehicle in a class where 30 to 35 mpg is normal.
In short, the xB is a blast to drive — fun, agile, and with a silky smooth automatic transmission. Brakes are big, with all-wheel discs on the four corners. They’re also equipped with an antilock braking system, electronic brake force distribution for balance, and Brake Assist, which adds more braking than you’ll probably need.
Standard features include an impressive air conditioning system, cruise control, 160-watt Pioneer audio system with iPod and auxiliary connection, power windows/locks/side mirrors/steering and brakes, turn signal indicators on the side mirrors, halogen headlamps, 16-inch wheels, remote keyless entry, and full wheel covers. Plus, the steering wheel comes with redundant audio controls.
Options are plentiful and mostly added at the dealership. Among them are 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels, a variety of performance upgrade parts, fog lights, a rear spoiler, remote ignition, ambient multicolor lighting, a selection of shift knobs, an auto-dimming mirror, headrest-mounted DVD entertainment system monitors, satellite radio, a premium Pioneer audio system with a compact touchscreen faceplate, additional RCA outputs, and Pandora Internet radio connectivity when used in conjunction with an iPhone. A back-up camera, navigation system and a large touchscreen interface are also available, but a sunroof is not.
Options on our test car included a rear bumper branding appliqué, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) rear sway bar, sport muffler, 19-inch alloy wheels and tire upgrade, Alpine premium HD radio, iPod-ready CD deck, and illuminated door sills.
Safety features include driver and passenger dual stage airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, front- and rear side curtain airbags, Vehicle Stability Control (VBS) and Traction Control, and a first aid kit. In fact, the 2011 Scion xB was a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, though it has not been crash tested by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Overall, the xB still a terrific, cool looking small car, especially with the optional TRD 19-inch wheels and tire upgrade included on our test car. It’s comfortable, agile, fun to drive, loaded with safety features and looks unlike anything else on the road. But competition in this class of vehicle is significantly steeper than when the xB was last restyled for 2008. Now, it isn’t the fuel sipper it once was and among the worst in its class.