The Scion brand has turned to face some strange ch-ch-changes over the last model year. The bento-box-on-wheels xB was re-fashioned for American tastes, exchanging hip Nipponese style for porky gangsta chic. And now the xA, the mini-minivan-shaped thingie that somehow (unfortunately) captured the spirit of the orthopedic Toyota Echo, has been axed. In a break with ToMoCo’s tradition of maintaining model names, Scion has decided to replace the xA with the xD, a mini-CUV-shaped thingie with bad ‘tude. Go figure.
I suppose the best thing that can be said about the xD’s looks is that they’re not nearly so bad in person. The four-door’s evil Pokemon bumper isn’t quite as offensive as it appears in photos. The teeny rear window isn’t really as small as an Electra-Glide’s windscreen. The flame-surfaced sides aren’t as dopey as a Bimmer’s. And the overall effect isn’t nearly as revolting as it could be.
That said, the xD’s grossly distended C-pillar, which links it with the hideous xB, is worse than it appears. Why Scion decided that this visual obstruction should be the brand’s new visual signature is beyond me; unless they’re secretly in cahoots with the insurance industry. I digress.
The xD’s interior is surprisingly swank for one so affordable. Thankfully, the dash ditches the xA’s heinous center display for a more user-friendly central speedo; albeit one housed in a plastic surround reminiscent of a Kohler urinal. The xD’s climate control dials were lifted straight from the Camry, but their tactility doesn’t induce instant recoil. Even better, all the hard bits are sparkly and shiny. And the xD’s sporty-looking chairs are firm and supportive, despite their cuddly-soft covering.
More to the target demographic, the xD’s standard Pioneer-branded audio system offers wheel-mounted iPod connectivity (take that VeeDub). For an additional $389, you get six sick speakers and wikkid graphics. Pony-up $1950 for the Alpine sat nav audio system and you’re looking at backlit blue buttons, touch screen, hidden DVD player– enough bling to satiate all but the crunkest of pimps. While that’s well over 10 percent of the car’s purchase price, the F&I guy’s got a deal for you…
On paper, the interior of the xD is smaller than the xA it replaced. Yet it manages to feel bigger inside. That’s because the rear seats are well off the floor and set back farther into the trunk, affording rear-seat passengers the kind of legroom xA passengers dreamed about/prayed for. You can slide the xD’s rear seats forward from the hatch, adding an extra four to five inches of length. The seats also fold flat, providing plenty of cargo space for college-bound rug rats or yard sale-haunting retirees.
Start ‘er up, put the pedal to the metal and you’ll know why this car costs $16k. The xD’s 1.8-liter, Corolla-sourced engine squirts out 128-horses. First gear is woo-hoo fun, second gear is a crushing disappointment, and third and fourth are totally forgettable. To help compensate, Toyota offers an automatic setup whereby you can quickly downshift into third gear for passing. At which point the four cylinder mill starts thrash talking, providing nothing particularly helpful in the way of oompf. Hey it’s the thought that counts.
The steering is light and nimble, if predictably numb. The xD rolls through corners like a drunken frat boy, but there is little understeer (a non-speed-related bonus) and dealer-sourced sway bars and a handful of other performance mods will make it, uh, better. Anyway, get a grip (so to speak). At its heart, the xD is an economy car for economy-minded buyers. And that leaves only one real beef with the car’s “performance:” the astonishing amount of wind and tire noise whilst underway. This baby needs some Lexus DNA, stat.
The xA’s 2300lb. curb weight and minuscule engine deliver 27/35 miles per gallon (EPA new method, automatic transmission). Big bruddah xD weighs 300 lbs more, and sports a larger engine, leaving drivers with a slightly less miserly 26/32. But if you like extra grunt– OK, any grunt– it may be worth sacrificing the extra gas for your pleasure.
In driving for the cheap, urban hipster segment with the first round of Scions, Toyota managed to nail the cheap, middle-aged set square between the eyes. The xB and xA were hits with the gray-hairs, selling in surprising amounts to people who just wanted something small and versatile with great gas mileage. Now that the new xB and xD thoroughly alienate that set of purchasers– due to their shoddy gas mileage and menacing sheetmetal– what’s left?
Most of the cool kids are driving Hondas, after all. But the xD is an amazingly cheap deal. In base trim, the xD doesn’t feel that cheap to drive (take that, Versa). In the end, it speaks better to Scion’s target audience than the xA ever did, even if its more aggressive demeanor disappoints prior fans.