Over 10 years ago, the sport/utility category was created to accommodate vehicles that couldn't be defined as cars, trucks, or vans. Since then, the market has evolved and now offers several vehicles that don't fit any current classification. Enter the crossover, and the Scion, possibly the oddest vehicle in that new category. It's not a truck, SUV, or car, but it does have characteristics of all three.
The Scion line currently includes two models, the xA and xB, with a third to follow in the near future. Both vehicles use a thrifty 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that provides great fuel mileage of around 30 city/33 highway, depending on manual or automatic transmission. For those who are used to eight cylinders, a motor this small may evoke jokes and eye-rolls. While the inline-four does complain some when accelerating, this perky little hamster of an engine could run a marathon. The 1.5's reliable Toyota components and its efficient design make it a solid match with the vehicle.
Our Camouflage-Green tester came equipped with the automatic; while it doesn't make the xB feel as spunky as the manual does, this transmission still works well with the diminutive engine. Surprisingly, the interior can comfortably hold four tall, husky people, with plenty of headroom for all (five is pushing it). Its cloth seats and few amenities make the cabin feel somewhat bare bones, but the booming Pioneer AM/FM/satellite radio/six-disc changer and Bazooka subwoofer in the cargo area provide excellent sound at a bargain price. The Scion uses an independent MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension, which keep the crossover responsive and fairly comfortable.
The xB is a compact vehicle--almost two feet shorter than a Ford Escape--that can't be used to tow and doesn't have four-wheel drive, but Toyota's hoping it's the ideal vehicle for the young urbanite. In addition, it would be a great people-mover to tow behind an RV. It's boxy like a traditional SUV, without the power you'd expect, but is much roomier than it looks and has interior volume that could compete with an SUV. While this vehicle may not be a sport/utility (or a truck of any sort) by traditional definitions, the market is changing, and with it, the definitions of vehicles themselves. The Scion offers room for cargo or people, the opportunity to customize your vehicle at the dealership, and excellent fuel economy, all at a base price that starts under $15,000 (xB). For anyone considering buying a smaller SUV, the Scion is worth a look.