2008 Scion xB Long Term Verdict

Better, but Not As Exceptional

Arthur St. Antoine –
Jun 18, 2009
Photographers: Jessica Germiller
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When the Scion xB subcompact made its debut in 2004 (along with Toyota's Scion brand itself), America got its first real taste of undiluted Japanese eccentricity. A barely altered version of the domestic-market Toyota bB, sold in Japan since 1999, the xB stood out on American roads like a Bento box in a Texas steakhouse. Tiny, austere, and so unabashedly square it was actually cute, the xB won a loyal following among young (and old) drivers who admired its purity of purpose and uniquely unstylish style. Toyota sold more than 47,000 xBs in 2004; by 2006, that figure jumped to more than 61,000 annually.
Yet like everything American, or Americanized, the xB wasn't destined to remain tiny. The second-gen model, unveiled for 2008, grew by 12 inches in length and roughly 600 pounds. At the same time, it lost the original's neo-architectural physique, instead wearing more conventional sheetmetal fashioned like a melting bar of Lifebuoy. It also lost, it seemed to us then, much of the first xB's charming Japaneseness. The xB had grown up, yes, but in the process it had become a safe, tepid California Roll compared with its predecessor's serving of deliciously horrific sashimi.
Mind you, a good California Roll can be enjoyable, as we quickly learned when a 2008 xB entered our long-term fleet in October 2007. Starting at $16,270, our xB included satellite radio and -- -- a navigation system, among other upgrades. Total sticker: a not-so-compact $21,103. Yet the accolades piled up fast.
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"I owned an original xB," wrote managing editor Rusty Kurtz in the logbook, "and this new version addresses all the complaints I had about the first one. With more horsepower, it can now keep pace with fast-moving freeway traffic. Our long-term tester also has cruise control, something I was told wasn't available even as a dealer-installed option on the first-generation car."
Obviously, Rusty was pleased to have the new twin-cam, 2.4-liter four under this right foot, its 158 horsepower easily outgunning the 103 horses of the original xB. Like the original, our gen-two xB offered a four-speed as the only automatic. Didn't seem to be a hindrance, though. "Normally, I'm a disappointed in modern vehicles that use four-speed automatics, but the unit in this xB is quite nice," wrote Ron Kiino. "It's responsive and seamless, offers useful sport and manual modes, and delivers good fuel economy. I like it over the Corolla XRS's five-speed auto."
The xB's biggest draw, though, was its, well, bigness. "The interior is massive, and it has way more amenities than you'd expect at this level," wrote Allyson Harwood. "Easily passes my hockey-bag check," agreed Mike Royer. "Plenty of room in the hatch for a lot of things." I remember driving to lunch one day with Ed Loh in the passenger seat and commenting, "This xB is so smooth and roomy, why would you buy a Civic?" Ed just stared back and replied, "Good question."
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So if we weren't ga-ga over the new xB's sheetmetal, for sure we loved its extra power, its gigantic-interior-in-a-smallish-exterior magic act, and such niceties as an integrated iPod adaptor (though more than a few drivers pointed out that changing the artist or song using the touch screen first required bringing the vehicle to a complete stop. Those damn lawyers again).
Best of all, after the initial investment, the xB required only the smallest of expenditures to keep us rolling right along. The first 5K service, an oil change and tire rotation, was complimentary. The 10K, more of the same, cost $24.99. Only the 15K cost us some large change, racking up $188.26 for oil, tire rotation, and a new cabin-air filter. In-between, the xB cost us...nothing. No issues, no fixes, no recalls.
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Our observed fuel economy for the full test, 22.9 mpg, was only fair for the class. It's worth bearing in mind that, given its amphitheater interior, in usefulness the xB serves as a larger car. We also drove our tester hard, including one occasion where an intern clocked a good thousand miles attempting to keep up with a Corvette ZR1, a Porsche GT2, and a Nissan GT-R.
As an art piece, xB version 2.0 falls far short of the idiosyncratic original. As a small car, though, it won all of us over. It's even deserving of its own iconic status -- it's just that good. A "safer" xB, then: Unlike its Fugu-fish predecessor, you don't have to brace yourself to drive it.
From The Logbook
"The xB is no autobahn stormer. For our "War of the Worlds" comparo, I took the saddle of the four-wheeled cube and attempted to keep pace with three thoroughbreds on a drive from Los Angeles to Kingman, Arizona. I was not successful. The four-speed became a liability at speed, either buzzing redline in third or lugging in fourth. During our blast across Arizona, the xB drank three-fourths of a tank while the ZR1 consumed a half tank. A quick calculation, however, showed the xB returned 18.3 mpg. Impressive, considering the payload of testing and photo equipment stuffed into the back."
- Carlos Lago
"I find myself liking the xB more and more, and in every way it's superior to the previous gen (with the possible exception of exterior style). The 2.4-liter is sweet, the car is surprisingly quick, and it's pretty agile, too. Great brakes, and much less body roll than you'd expect. I've seen a couple modded-out with rims and the like, and -- I know I may get slammed for this -- I think they look cool."
- Mike Floyd
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Our Car
Base price $16,270
Options Navigation system ($1950), automatic transmission, $950, 16-inch alloy wheels ($795), Scion Security ($469), XM Satellite Radio ($449), carpeted floormats ($155), wheel locks ($65)
MSRP, as tested $21,103
Total mileage 18,999
Avg fuel economy 22.9 mpg
Problem areas None
Maintenance cost $213.25
Normal-wear cost $0
Three-year residual value* $12,662
Recalls None
* Automotive Lease Guide

2008 SCION xB
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
Drivetrain layout Front engine, FWD
Engine type I-4, alum block/head
Valvetrain DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 144.1 cu in/2362 cc
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Power (SAE net) 158 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 162 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Redline 6400 rpm
Weight to power 19.6 lb/hp
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Axle/final-drive ratios 2.74:1/2.79:1
Suspension, front; rear Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; torsion beam, coil springs
Steering ratio 16.0:1
Turns lock-to-lock 2.9
Brakes, f;r 10.8-in vented disc; 11.0-in disc, ABS
Wheels 6.5 x 16 in, cast aluminum
Tires 205/55R16 89H, Bridgestone Turanza EL400-02 M+S
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 102.4 in
Track, f/r 60.0/59.8 in
Length x width x height 167.3 x 69.3 x 64.7 in
Turning circle 34.8 ft
Curb weight 3091 lb
Weight dist, f/r 63/37%
Seating capacity 5
Headroom, f/r 40.0/41.2 in
Legroom, f/r 40.7/38.0 in
Shoulder room, f/r 55.8/54.7 in
Cargo volume behind f/r 69.9/21.7 cu ft
TEST DATA
Acceleration to mph
0-30 2.8 sec
0-40 4.2
0-50 6.2
0-60 8.5
0-70 11.0
0-80 15.1
0-90 20.0
Passing, 45-65 mph 4.5 sec
Quarter mile 16.4 sec @ 82.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 126 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.78 g (avg)
MT figure eight 28.5 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 2300 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
Stability/traction control Yes/yes
Airbags Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
Basic warranty 3 yrs/36,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance N/A
Fuel capacity 14.0 gal
EPA city/hwy econ 22/28 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.80 lb/mile
MT fuel economy 22.9 mpg
Recommended fuel Unleaded regular

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