Having wrested the title “world’s largest car manufacturer” from General Motors, Toyota’s already committing some of the same mistakes that brought GM down. The all-new 2008 Scion xB is a blot on Toyota’s relatively unblemished copybook. It bristles with classic GM-think: dumb it down, fatten it up and cheapen it out.
Sciontologists are scary people. Who else would re-package a Toyota Echo and sell it to American twenty-somethings? We're talking about a Japanese sub-compact with all the edgy excitement of a five-year-old Readers' Digest (large print edition). You couldn't imagine a more cynical marketing ploy. Still, props to Toyota for having the stones to foist the "new money for old rope" routine on the world's most style critical audience.
The Scion tC and I got off to a bad start; I had the audacity to take it grocery shopping. Hey, it's a hatchback, right? Well, most hatchbacks have cargo covers with a hinge at front and stringy-things that tie it to the hatch lid. Open the hatch and the cover swings out of your way. Not the tC. The tC's cargo cover is a cardboard, plastic and faux-dog-hair affair that has three positions: 1) In the way; 2) totally in the way; and 3) tossed angrily into the back seat.
To access the tC's hatch you must lift up the cover yourself, at which time the plastic clip detaches itself and shouts to the others, "Hey guys, you gotta try this!" The other clips jump in unison and the whole affair crashes down into the trunk faster than you can utter your expletive of choice. Good luck re-attaching it. After five attempts and two dozen expletives, I placed the cover in the aforementioned Position 3. By the time I loaded my groceries, the milk was past its sell-by date.
Toyota claims the xB is "all about attitude". Roger that. Anyone willing to drive a van that causes children to point and laugh– and let's be clear about this: the kids are laughing AT the xB, not WITH it—needs a bullet-proof 'tude. Maybe that's why Toyota markets the xB under its youth-oriented Scion brand: the company reckons that only the arrogance of youth could protect an xB owner from the constant snorts of derision garnered by this, this, thing. And yet…
Unlike the Pontiac Aztek, an SUV so gruesome it turns onlookers to stone, the xB is not a heavy-handed pastiche. Sure, there's a bit of bread van, a touch of funeral hearse, a soupcon of the old mini, a hint of an industrial air conditioning unit. But the xB is what it is, in a non-apologetic kind of way. If you like owning something "distinctive", well, Scion's boxy four-door is certainly that. The xB is at least as visually arresting as a Ferrari, Bentley or Aston— for $14k.