By on July 5, 2004

No dial left behind.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.

Can't see the point?  Try a fresh angleAt that price, pistonheads would be forgiven for thinking that the xB must be an empty style statement: a slow, uncomfortable and nasty-handling tin-can, sold solely on the basis of its eccentricity and much advertised customizability. Nope. The xB is a complete package, offering more-than-merely-adequate poke, superb ergonomics and, gulp, fun.

Make sure no one's looking, cover your eyes and enter the belly of the beastie. The windscreen is widescreen. The driving position elevated. The dinner plate-sized speedo sits on the top tier of the dash, with an inset rev counter and fuel gauge. The idiot lights, clock and odometer cluster nearby. The radio and rotary climate controls occupy the center pod. The window buttons, indicator stalk and lights are right where they should be. And that's it. What else do you need? Nothing. Put that in your iDrive and smoke it.

Nippy is as nippy doesWhile we're at it, let's credit Toyota for being the first manufacturer to realize that buyers at the lower end of the market prefer, no, need premium ICE. The xB's Pioneer unit is MP3-compatible and satellite radio-ready, with three EQ modes. The optional 6-CD player offers 10 display colors, including "lithium". The company's unabashed determination to appeal to Gen Y is also reflected by their decision not to fit a distortion limiter to the 160-watt sound system. Full volume is Hell on wheels, but it's probably a blessing in disguise, as Neighborhood Watch groups will no doubt attest.

If you're dead set on deafening your crew, the xB will accommodate three XXX Large Homies, with Bidness Class leg room. Should street style somehow mutate towards top hats, you're covered there as well. Turf out two cohorts, fold down the rear seats and the refrigerator-shaped van can fit a refrigerator. In short, the xB is a mini-MPV in drag— I mean, with drag

Al a Docious?The xB attempts to surmount its flying brick aerodynamics with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Toyota has blessed the xB's mini motor with double-overhead cams, 16 valves, variable valve timing, multi-port fuel injection, the works. Although the autobox variant ambles from 0 to 60mph in 10.6 seconds, it feels significantly faster. Yes, overtaking requires more forward planning than a military invasion. Sure, highway onramps demand perfect timing and every single one of the xB's 108 horses. But around town, the unrelentingly angular Scion is a seriously willing, nippy little machine.

The xB's handling accounts for much of the van's fun factor. The xB serves-up a pleasing amalgamation of rack-and-pinion steering and a well sorted suspension (with anti-roll bars fore and aft). Aesthetically challenged hooligans can carry a surprising amount of speed into the corners, without surprising themselves. You wouldn't mistake the xB's road manners for a BMW's, but the front-wheel-drive econo-box is a lot more satisfying to drive than many equally commodious, gas-guzzling SUV's.

160-watt stereo with no distortion control.  Toyota says its 'freedom of choice'.  For whom?The xB's brakes are another pleasant surprise. Again, the numbers aren't particularly impressive. Car and Driver reports that the front disc, rear drum set-up can haul the xB from 70mph to rest in 200 feet. At lesser speeds, in the midst of urban conflict, you can give the xB's brakes a proper pasting, confident that the [standard] ABS and traction control system will help prevent a blizzard of insurance paper work. The pedal feel is not bad, you know, considering.

Considering what? That the xB is more of a fashion statement than transportation? Well it ain't necessarily so. Despite Toyota's clever ad campaigns aimed at style-conscious early adopters, old fogies are buying the van in droves. In fact, 51% of xB buyers are over 35. And why not? The xB is an excellent steer that offers utility, reliability and spectacular value for money. Maybe the key to understanding/living with/appreciating the xB's quirky appearance is to be old enough not to give a damn.

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12 Comments on “Scion xB Review...”

  • avatar

    I went from WRX to Civic Si to Xb!

    And loving it!

  • avatar

    I do find that in a bizarrely handsome little thing in person – quite surprising given how awekwardly chunky it looks in some pictures.

  • avatar

    Bought an Xb in 2005 and another (for my wife) the next year after 20 years of VW’s, autocrossing and other forms of mayhem. A wise auto wag once observed that it’s a lot more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly – the Xb is simply a lot of fun. Of course it has roll bars fron and rear – it would behave like a telephone booth on slinkys otherwise. As it is they missed on the ride quality a bit as it is stiffly sprung; they might have traded a little more of the spring rate out in even stouter roll bars. Another apparent miss is in the target market – they were aiming for twenty-somethings and hit a lot of people more than twice that. For me (54) this little car reminds me of the simpler cars of my youth, utilitarian, frugal, and possessed of some fun to drive, largely due to their light weight. It does not talk to me or turn its light on or lock its own doors and I’m grateful for that. The trim – sill extensions and the like – is cheesy and somewhat fragile, but the basic package is unbeatable for the mostly urban driving that I do. It has never dipped below 30mpg regardless of circumstance. In many ways (utility, economy, space/footprint ratio) it is the most European car sold in this market. Dorky was never so beautiful.

  • avatar

    With the new XB it will remain to be seen if Scion can maintain the fun to drive factor along with the great utilitarian minimalist styling. This car also reminds me of my old rabbit in a good way without the mechanical breakdowns. I have consistently averaged over 30 MPG and the car is a blast to drive. It is more fun to drive a “slow” car fast.

  • avatar

    This rotten little vehicle has turned my once-normal family into one of those bizarre collectives where 3 or more relatives own the same make and model of car.

    At first, I just wanted something unique but practical, but then I experienced 50,000 trouble-free miles, the interior of a cargo van, and consistent mid-30’s mileage.

    The real trouble started when I let my sister-in-law borrow it and she told everyone how great it was. Now every Thanksgiving, my driveway looks like a Scion meet. At least we all bought different colors. Curse this charming little toasterbox!

  • avatar

    I still want one of these toasters with wheels. I like the idea that it’s not like every other car out there-different is good. I can now purchase a low mileage 2006 for less than I can most new cars; and I see more of these older xB’s on the road than the new ones-at least so far. I priced a new 2008 xB with decent options, and it prices out at about 24,000-25,000 with major goodies. While that must seem ok to most for a new vechicle, it’s excessive for what a new one really is-a minivan that a elephant stepped on. Scion-remember what made you more than just a son of Toyota and return to your roots. You’ll thank me later for this advice. I don’t charge much either.

  • avatar

    I traded my 02 Passat for a new 05 xB. I had no idea how wise this decision would be. 30 MPG in town and lots of passenger volume (I’m 6’7″) makes me everybody’s new best friend when it’s time to leave the office for lunch.

    It’s the best car I’ve ever owned.

    My kids and their friends still think it’s cool.

    The 08 got heavier, fatter, uglier, and uses much more fuel – what’s not to like? No thanks; I’ll stick with my 05.

  • avatar

    The first time me and my friends saw one of these things on the road we all fell to the ground in fits of laughter busting our guts in the process. It was a box tin can with lawnmower wheels and a lawn mower engine to go along with it. The interior looked insanely cheap, the dash was mislocated in the middle which is distracting, the price was affordable but the mileage is nothing to write home about and the doors sound like hollow tin cans that flex more than Richard Simmons in an exercise contest. Add in a sloth slow bogged down Echo 1.5 liter engine, dangerous high speed handling with the undersized lawnmower tires, bug collector wedge box front end and terrible air conditioning and this sorry excuse for a vehicle really should be in a freak show at the local zoo.

  • avatar
    doug s.

    it is clear that ponchoman49 has never opened and closed a gen-1 xb’s doors, never been inside one, never driven one, (in a straight line, on the highway, *or* around a corner), never had to fuel one.

    my experience after having put 20k miles on my ’04 xb since i bought it 9 months ago. (it now has ~72k miles):
    -solid doors

    -sparse but excellent quality interior

    -fantastic handling, around corners, and at highway speeds up to 90mph. (and, i have been driving alfa romeo’s since 1992, so i know about handling.) more than adequate stock rubber at 185-60-15 on 5″ wide rims; upgrading to 205-55-15’s will improve handling even more.

    -decent enough performance, tho certainly no head snapper. ($1k investment for new intake/exhaust manifolds, cold air intake & cat-back exhaust will certainly improve things.)

    -fantastic maneuverability, at ~20″ shorter than my wife’s mind-numbingly boring 2004 honda civic.

    -fantastic interior room.

    -great gas mileage, as high as 37mpg, never below 30mpg.

    -excellent hvac, even in disgusting heat/humidity of dc area summers.

    -still exceptionally tight, completely reliable. and, it gets driven vigorously. ;~)

    ohnonothimagain & gslippy are spot-on about the 2nd-gen xb’s – big fat pigs, no thanks!

    doug s.

  • avatar

    Scion is marketing to the wrong folks. Fickle teens can’t afford cars now and they don’t want something not “hot”. The new xB is an awesome family car with solid reliability and features. I can fit 3 kids and groceries in my xB with ease, for less than a Corolla or Civic.

  • avatar

    My SO bought an Xb in 2005, mostly based on a test drive and reading this review: We’ve enjoyed it tremendously ever since. Of course we’re the opposite of the target demographic — late 50’s. It’s more fun to drive than it has any right to be, and incredibly useful for hauling stuff and people. You can give it to visitors without a worry, and they can see sight-see stuff in all directions out the tall greenhouse windows. Lots of legroom front and back.

    Yes the doors *sound* cheap but the car is tight, no rattles, nothing has fallen off, and, since it’s a Toyota, no repairs whatsoever in five years.

    The new ones have it all wrong and are uninteresting.

  • avatar

    I think it’s a great find. I’d certainly be tempted to replace my Intrepid with it.

    I think I’d add an E to the front Of the Leganza name, and find some “d’elegance” script

    from A DeVille on EBAY say, and WALAA! you’d have A Daewoo Eleganza d’Elegance.

    THat Looks like a great bargain at $500

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