The Truth About Cars » xD The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:00:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » xD Piston Slap: Mazda2 Shopping with an XD …not an :-( Wed, 29 Jun 2011 18:52:42 +0000

Ben writes:

I’m planning a purchase this summer. The two cars I’m looking at most closely are the Mazda2 and the Scion xD. I noticed that the 2011 Mazda2s are spending an average of 109 days on the lot, and the 2010 xD is even worse at 239 days. Your February sales charts and March charts paint a similar picture. They’re both selling terribly, but I’m so far unable to find good deals on either, for different reasons.

The Mazda2 is a new model and one local dealer actually had them marked up by $1,700! The xD on the other hand suffers from Scion’s no-haggle pricing — but, the 2010 models at my local dealer are all marked down, but only by about $400 below MSRP. The huge inventories mean that neither are really affected by the parts shortage — there are dozens of each in stock at dealers in my area. I’ve even read that Mazda2s have up to $2,000 advertised discounts in other parts of the country.

I’m not totally set on either of these vehicles, but I do really like the Mazda. I just don’t think I’d feel OK with paying MSRP for either of these cars. If you wanted to end up in one of these cars before the summer was out, how much do you think I would have to spend, and how would you go about it? The only new vehicle I’ve ever purchased was a Scion at MSRP, so I have no experience manipulating a dealer.

Sajeev answers:

Thanks to my personal writing constraints, my advice is far from timely. But one thing is still true; it’s pretty foolish to buy a new Japanese car until the fall or (maybe) winter. That said, there’s still a chance you won’t need to pay MSRP, especially for a Mazda. I wouldn’t go out on this particular limb if you said Honda, Toyota or Lexus. One other thing to consider, the difference between MSRP and Dealer Invoice is less than $500 on the Mazda 2, and that’s less of the exception and more the rule these days.

Since you like the Mazda2, let’s stick with that. Considering your reference links and the assumptions that go with, finding one for less than MSRP should be simple, if time consuming. Basic research on pricing/options on is mandatory: with the invoice price in mind, its time to find a way to get one for that price, or very close to it. You can decide what that price might be. Invoice plus $200? Invoice plus $50? Whatever.

Generally speaking, there are three ways to save money in this business: dealer discounts/perks, factory-to-customer discounts and factory-to-dealer discounts. The first is straightforward, is usually offset with re-loading of profits from your trade, the value of a financing rate, cost of warranty plans, add-ons like pinstriping, free oil changes, etc. The second is well publicized, and usually to your advantage, but certain times leasing is better than buying with incentives, especially if the vehicle is for a business. The last one is often hard to know, and I usually prefer to maximize a buyer’s return on the first two, and let the dealer give this back to you via competitive bidding amongst themselves.

Here’s the point: shop around. Don’t be afraid to hop on a plane, drive a car back if you find a dealership nearby willing to sell one at invoice, or less. Dealers can and will sell below invoice if a unit (especially if its in a funny color) sits around longer than 60 or 90 days. Work that system and play them against each other. You will come up with a clear winner rather soon, and they might earn your trust for future purchases. Good luck.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always shop by the “drive out” price, and only for the car itself. We’re talking the bottom dollar, bullshit free selling price. Don’t mention a trade in, accessories, financing and never, ever shop by monthly payment. It’s way too easy for a dealer to re-load their losses when you mask the truth with extra variables. Always focus on the price of the vehicle first, worry about the rest later. That will make shopping far easier and less stressful.

Do that and not only will you do better, you will earn the respect (and guarantee their future income) of the dealership. Once you find that special place, of course!


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Review: Scion xD Take Two Mon, 01 Feb 2010 15:02:09 +0000

Big changes were afoot in the Scion back in the summer of 2007, as the brand’s pioneering crop of Yaris-based funkmobiles gave way to a second generation of models aimed at expanding the brand’s appeal to American consumers. Oddly enough, the biggest changes came for a new model with an unchanged name: in a single generation, the the tiny xB went from freaky, fuel-sipping urban runabout to a bloated, Camry-based beast. In contrast, the less-successful xA underwent a far less radical change as it morphed into the xD, saving it from the initial scorn of Scion purists and keeping the brand’s Yaris-based roots alive. Not that the xD has been in any way rewarded for staying (relatively) faithful to its brand’s mission: like the xA it replaced, the xD has never sold better than its larger, less brand-faithful stablemates. Which begs the question: is the xD a bad car, or was the original vision of a funky, urban micro-car brand a dead-end dream?

Surprisingly, this dichotomy isn’t as overly-reductive as you might imagine. After all, the changes made in the transition from the xA to the xD were well-modulated to give American consumers the positive elements of the Yaris platform with the upgrades that could have given the first generation of Scions a fighting chance.

The underlying platform was changed little from the xA, but crucially, the engine was upgraded from a 1.5 liter buzz-box to an altogether gruntier 1.8 liter Corolla unit. Though hard-core purists always enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with American traffic with a mere 103 horsepower, the tiny engines on the first generation of Scions practically required a manual transmission and careful planning to prevent moments of ass-clenching terror on freeway onramps and other high-power-demand driving scenarios. For jaded enthusiasts, these challenges were a revelation in the driving-a-slow-car-fast fun; for the mass-market, this meant popular automatic-transmission models could come across as downright dangerous, even on short test drives.

With an extra 25 horsepower on tap, the xD cures the first-generation’s power-deficit problems, feeling downright rorty in lower gears. The larger engine gives up some of the free-spinning refinement of the 1.5 liter unit, but the rough, raw grunt makes it far more accessible to American tastes. More importantly, the extra performance doesn’t come with the handling and fuel-economy penalties of the Camry-sourced 2.4 liter engine found in the tC and new xB. In fact, even with the very noticeable extra power and 300 lb weight penalty, the xD only gives up a single highway mpg to the xA, coming in at 27 city, 33 highway. 

Indeed, if Scion had simply bunged this engine into the first-generation of xAs and xBs (or better yet, offered it as an option), there’s no telling where the brand might have gone. Especially since so much the first-generation’s charm remains intact. The interior is generally improved over the spartan xA, offering more style and higher-quality materials while losing none of the original’s functional simplicity. Sure, nobs wiggle, buttons jiggle, and the quality appears to be little better than what you can find in late-model Kias, but these are symptoms of the price point and overall an improvement on the first generation of Scions.

Handling is similarly well-preserved, offering crisp turn-in, and firm cornering after some initial lean-in. If the xD’s handling compares poorly to an xA’s, it’s probably because the extra power makes it easier to load up the car’s simple suspension and disturb its composure (a job that’s made easier by the xD’s Toyota-standard numb power steering). On the flip side, the extra power means you don’t have to plan corners out a week in advance in order to find the limits of the xD’s sufficient grip.

Absent any compromises in handling and ergonomics, the benefits of the xD’s power upgrade must be balanced against the its frustratingly unnecessary packaging compromises. Though the xD’s physical dimensions are marginally larger than the xA’s, the extra inches never translate into a noticeable improvement in interior space.

Front leg room is the only interior metric that’s much-improved on the xA, as pushed-forward A-pillars create a more spacious, crossover-like feel up front. Small reductions in headroom go unnoticed, but hip room is down by about 3.5 inches up front and in the second row. The second row’s legroom is also reduced to below 34 inches, eliminating any space advantage in this metric that the xD might have offered over a Yaris (let alone its competitors). Similarly, and despite a larger wheelbase and length, the xD fails to improve on the xA’s cargo capacity, offering only 10.5 cubic feet to the xA’s 11.7. Another non-improvement: the class-leading lack of visibility out of the rear quarters.

When compared to current competitors like the Fit, Soul and Cube, the xD’s packaging compares even less favorably. Though the xD’s extra power makes five-up motoring less terrifying, its compromised packaging eliminates the advantage. Ironically, then, the xD appears to suffer from the opposite problem as the redesigned xB: where the xB became overly bloated in search of PT Cruiser sales, the xA (always the problem child of the Scion lineup sales-wise) had nowhere to go as the designated smallest model of a small-car lineup.

Let’s be clear: unless you regularly roll five-deep, the xD’s packaging won’t be an immediately-obvious compromise. But if you are in the market for a small commuter, two grand less you can now buy a Toyota Yaris five-door that offers a slightly smaller facsimile of the xA experience (without 1.8 power). Or, for the same price as an xD, you buy a Kia Soul which offers first-gen xB-like MPV packaging and xD-like power. Which is exactly what the xD should have offered. Both the Soul and the xD are chuckable and punchy, offering nearly as much around-town fun and frugality and more freeway competence than their most popular competitor, the Honda Fit.

Sadly, more power is all the xD brings to the party. Well, other than the brand-standard dubious set of aesthetics and a now-questionable halo of “Toyota quality.” As just another compact car, the xD is nearly invisible in the market, lacking both the unabashed small-car appeal of the Fit and Yaris, and the practicality of the Soul. The lesson then, is that Scion’s first-generation genius wasn’t in the smallness of its offerings, but in the packaging options it opened in the subcompact class. With the xB swollen out of control and the xD not even trying to offer a distinctive package, it’s no wonder Scion has so badly lost its way.

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Scion xD Scores Last In Euro NCAP Compact Crash Test Thu, 10 Dec 2009 16:03:21 +0000

The Scion xD is known in Europe as the “Urban Cruiser,” and with an AWD option it’s sold as a quasi-SUV. According to a Euro NCAP crash test of comact cars though, the Urban Cruiser offers a lot less safety than you might expect in an SUV. NCAP’s latest round of compact testing saw vehicles from the new Opel Astra and Chevy Cruze to the Peugeot 308 and Mazda3 recording perfect five-star scores, indicating just how safe compact cars have become. And even the video of the Urban Cruiser’s three-star performance lacks the drama of earlier compact crash tests: a failure of side airbags and a weak performance in the new side pole crash caused the poor score. Most embarrassing of all, the Chevrolet Spark (neé Daewoo Matiz Creative) came in second to last, scoring four stars to the Urban Cruiser’s three.

Toyota’s PR has responded to the poor showing, telling What Car?:

In 2009, we received a five-star rating for all three new cars that were evaluated by Euro NCAP (iQ, Avensis and Prius).

We are therefore very surprised that the Urban Cruiser received only a three-star rating from Euro NCAP. As with any other Toyota vehicle, we had submitted the Urban Cruiser to rigorous in-house tests, which indicated that it would secure a five-star rating.

We are currently investigating the Euro NCAP result in detail, in order to understand why there is a difference between our Toyota assessment and Euro NCAP’s rating.

Together with other car makers, we are also discussing with Euro NCAP certain aspects of their evaluation methodology, which might also explain why the rating is lower than we expected.

The three-star rating for the Urban Cruiser has been triggered by the “pole side impact” test. During this assessment, the dummy head area deceleration slightly exceeded the demand value of Euro NCAP.

There is a difference of opinion between us and Euro NCAP on a technical matter, namely peak acceleration of the head area in the Pole Side Impact test.

Our in-house tests, which are designed to meet the highest safety requirements, indicated that the protection provided by the head curtain airbag would be in line with a five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Once again, we remain fully convinced that Urban Cruiser is a safe car.

And compared to past performances in this class, the xD is a relatively safe car. It’s just less safe than… a 1.2 liter Korean minicar. Deal with it, Toyota.

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