When the Scion xB mini-wagon arrived on U.S. shores in 2007, it was emphatically boxy: a small square box in front, containing the engine; trailed by a larger square box for passengers and cargo. Today’s incarnation of the xB remains boxy, but in a mainstream sort of way. It’s still highly functional, relatively inexpensive, easily customized, and different enough to appeal to drivers who place a high value on individuality.
In three important respects, the xB is a little bundle of surprises. First, its ride and performance are acceptable – maybe even a little better than acceptable. The 158-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine propels the ton-and-a-half xB with authority via a 4-speed automatic transmission. The driver’s seat slides back far enough to satisfy a 6-foot driver’s desire for leg room, at least for short and medium-length jaunts. There’s plenty of room for small items in various trays and containers in front. And even with the driver’s seat all the way back, a 6-foot passenger riding in the rear seat has plenty of knee and head room. All of the seats were well-designed and supportive.
Best of all, the xB has a massive cargo compartment, given the wagon’s small dimensions: about 70 cubic feet with the split rear seat lowered. That’s comparable to the Mazda CX-5 and more spacious than the corresponding compartment in the Mercedes-Benz GLK.
The xB and other Scions come to America pretty much alike; owners can dress them up by adding dealer-installed options. Our test car, finished in Sizzling Crimson paint, had a base price of $17,750. Options brought the sticker price to $23,964. These included Toyota Racing Development 19-inch alloy wheels, $2,150; navigation system, $1,999; and rear spoiler, $421.
A base xB without the add-ons, and with a 5-speed manual transmission, can be had for $16,800.
While the car was versatile and easy to live with, it came with a couple of disturbing traits. First, its fuel economy is mediocre for so small a car: 22 mpg city, 28 highway, or about 25.5 mpg during our week with the xB. Parent company Toyota evidently hasn’t transferred its fuel-economy expertise to the Scion brand. The much bigger, more powerful Mazda CX-5, with similar cargo- and people-carrying capabilities, beats the xB by 2 mpg at both ends. Major competitors, especially the hot-selling Kia Soul, deliver better fuel economy, carry a lighter price tag and may even exceed the xB’s funk factor.
Some of the xB’s controls also could use a little tweaking. We had trouble keying in a destination on the GPS, which repeatedly assured us our place of employment for the last 18 years didn’t exist. The satellite radio cut out more often than most. And some drivers didn’t care for the center-mounted gauge array.
Aimed at a young market, the xB is engineered for durability and reliability. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated it a Top Safety Pick.
Steven Macoy (email@example.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four, 158 horsepower, 162 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 4-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,084 lb.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Wheels: 19×7.5-in. Alloy (optional)
Tires: P235/35R-19 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 11.6 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 70 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 1,100 lb.
Fuel capacity: 14 gallons
Fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular