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Monday, May 13, 2013

Scion xB


The Scion xB is a small "tall box" car, offering seating for five and almost van-like utility. It competes with cars like the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul, but crossovers like the Nissan Juke, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson. For more information on the current model, including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2013 Scion xB. The xB was the first in a new 'genre' of...


The Scion xB is a small "tall box" car, offering seating for five and almost van-like utility. It competes with cars like the Nissan Cube and Kia Soul, but crossovers like the Nissan Juke, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai Tucson.

The xB was the first in a new 'genre' of vehicles when it launched in the U.S. nearly a decade ago; that original version was only sold from 2004 through 2006, and the current model--launched in 2007 and now long in the tooth--grew into a compact car. The new xB has never been as beloved as the quirky original, though it continues to sell for Toyota's youth brand, Scion. The new car retains the xB's characteristic boxy looks, and it's affordably priced to appeal both to first-time car buyers and their empty-nest parents.  

The revised xB hasn’t achieved the buzz and cool factor of the early xB, nor have its sales reached the same levels. Scion has continued to issue at least one xB “Release series” special model every year since 2004. These limited editions offer unique paint in bright colors and matching interior trim, plus combinations of options and accessories that set them apart from garden-variety xBs. Each Release series model carries a badge showing its limited-edition serial number.

That first small, slab-sided 2004 Scion xB subcompact “box” was really the car that launched Scion, Toyota’s youth brand for the U.S. market only. The new brand targeted Generation Y buyers (born between1980 and 1994) as a way to address the gradual aging of Toyota’s core buyers. To the company’s surprise, the xB outsold the more conventional Scion xA five-door hatchback by almost two to one, and it quickly became the vehicle buyers envisioned when hearing “Scion.”

The first generation xB sold from 2004 to 2006 was based on the Toyota bB, a Japanese-market model using Toyota Echo/Yaris mechanicals that the company did not expect to export to the States. It came in only one body style, with a plethora of options. But its quirky looks quickly garnered attention for Scion, and buyers loved its combination of interior space and small on-road footprint. The 108-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine (offered with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission) was hardly a road rocket, but that wasn’t what the xB was all about. Instead, buyers could customize the xB using not only an extensive array of factory options, but an even longer list of dealer-installed accessories that meant no two xB models were ever quite identical.

Over time, the success of the first Scion xB spawned a wave of boxy imitators in different sizes, including the Honda Element, Nissan Cube, and Kia Soul, though that smaller first xB generation likely competed more directly with subcompact hatchbacks from Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, and Nissan. Some enthusiasts suggest that one day the first-generation cars will be prized by collectors for their quirkiness.

Today's Scion xB is essentially similar to the model introduced in 2007, though it was lightly revised for 2011, gained a size. Compared to its predecessor, it was a foot longer and fully 600 pounds heavier, and its 158-hp, 2.4-liter engine was larger and more powerful to handle the bigger, heavier car. The array of optional equipment and dealer accessories stayed as long as ever, though, but its fuel-economy ratings fell as well.

For 2012, the company had added a standard Pioneer audio system (a 200-watt unit remains an option). It includes iPod / USB connectivity, an auxiliary-in jack, and a subwoofer RCA output for adding external amps, as well as Bluetooth and HD Radio.

For 2013, Scion gave the xB a subtle exterior and interior retouch, with a new glossy-black lower grille, and a few other exterior changes. New bronze and chrome accents, and a new seat fabric, were the extent of the interior changes. The goal is to make the xB look a little sportier—including a black rear diffuser and LED accent lighting.

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