By on August 11, 2008

The essense is gone.“Hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum!” I don’t know exactly what that means, but it was that hot in North Texas the afternoon I picked up my 2008 Scion xB. How appropriate that the old Flying Circus reference should flash through my mind; the xB looks like something out of a twisted Terry Gilliam animation. Now that Graham Chapman resides in an urn, all of the Pythons could fit in the xB, although 6’4” tall John Cleese would be uncomfortable in any seat.  But the newly redesigned boxy Scion is more than a surreal comic sketch. Or is it? And now for something completely different…

From its inception, Toyota designed the Scion xB for people that wear their cars rather than drive them. I won’t belabor the stylistic transformation of the Scion’s scion. Suffice it to say, the xB’s breakout proportions and streamlining rob the rig of its cubist innocence. The front of the hood and roof seem crunched in places, and the backwards sweeping headlights contribute to shaping a sinister countenance. Goodbye juice box. Yo gangsta.

How many owners really know what that word means?One gets the sense Toyota tried too hard to bottle lightning with the xB. Scion’s web site features photos of 13 vividly painted and modified xB’s that suggest creative individuality, ala MINI Cooper. Of course, in sensible Toyota fashion, each of these photos also comes with the disclaimer, “Vehicle is for show only and not street legal; modified with non-genuine Scion parts (which void the warranty and may adversely impact performance).” I’m no stylish young dude, but even I know that the kids don’t allow attorneys to crash their raves. Duh!

The overt appeal to the college age demographic is found on the center of the dashboard. For an extra $389, Scion’s Pioneer Premium Audio System gives buyers the same audio features found in the base 160W system. But the Yoof of American can load images and video into the stereo to be played on a small LCD face. Oh, and the more expensive unit’s power button is positioned almost out of reach in the upper right hand corner. That doesn’t seem like money well spent, but what do I know? I remember when radio buttons felt like an old jukebox.

Traditionalists need not applyThe standard six speakers aren’t up to the job (i.e. thumping pedestrian’s chests at forty paces). The bass blasts feel weaker than Hugo Chavez’s threats against Pres Bush. Thankfully, Scion has provided convenient speaker jacks so owners can add subwoofers large enough to agitate pods of orcas frolicking in nearby oceans.

Speaking of false steps, the xB’s interior is plagued by numerous niggling ergonomic errors. Irritatingly enough (and then some), the driver’s seat armrest is placed above the seatbelt buckle. I don’t necessarily mind offset gauges. But the Scion’s are too small; in bright sunlight you can’t read the amber tachometer. Plug-in those subs, and you can’t hear the shift point, either.

Shifting xB’s gears has more in common with an old ’78 Ford F-250 with three-on-the-tree than a contemporary compact runabout. The xB’s stick sprouts from the dashboard; swapping cogs is more an exercise of up and down rather than forward and back. The long travel clutch requires that you lift your entire left leg and stomp down to engage. Heel toe shifting? Forgeddaboudit. Nonetheless, gearshifts snick into place with trademark Toyota goodness.

Just the thing if you moonlight delivering Wonder Bread.The xB is now motivated by the 158hp 2.4-liter powerplant, lifted from the ubiquitous Camry. The Scion’s in-line four-pot is well suited to the xB. Despite the model’s 600 lbs. weight increase (to 3,026 lbs.), the xB’s engine provides class-compliant get-up-and-go. I SAID DESPITE… Faint praise aside, the xB’s extra 55 horses help make the model a far more stable and relaxed high-speed cruiser than its breathless predecessor.

The penalty: Ye Olde Bento box xB got better mileage. Stylin’ SUV refuges will still love the xB’s 25 mpg observed fuel economy (EPA 22/28). Throw the xB through a few corners and these light truck downsizers will feel even more at home. Scion’s rolling brick leans like the Sears tower in a wind storm. On the positive side, the xB’s all-season high-performance 16” Goodyear Eagles resist squealing like John Gotti. Push harder, and the understeer nose plough arrives on cue. The xB’s uber shoes claw at the tarmac until they can’t– at which point they let go and skitter sideways.

Does the \"B\" in xB stand for \"Bloated\"?So here’s the problem: underneath its obvious effort to throw some gang signs at those who know what gang signs are, the reinvented Scion xB has secretly become more like everything else on the road. While there’s nothing about the xB revision that would stop a playa from buying one, or a safety-seeking member of the sensible shoe brigade, the xB has lost its quirkiness and high mpg cred. Send this one over to The Ministry of Silly Cars, stat.

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53 Comments on “2008 Scion xB Take Two...”

  • avatar

    Does a Scion need to be fugly? If the front end body work was sloped downward – they would be forced to mount those headlights lower.

    If they’re still using a stretched Echo/Yaris platform – it’s probably over taxed by the cross-over style body riding on top.

  • avatar

    I liked the original xb better. They need to devolve this model into something closer to the original. Original did have a 1.5 L engine that wasn’t up to the job. If they would offer their 1.8 L engine in a base model with the 2.4 L in an AWD version then they would have something. They got caught up in the “bigger is better” Detroit mindset.

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    yes, but the cube cars starting with the pt cruiser ended up being sold to middle aged peoople primarily. I remember going to a honda dealer and seeing their first cube type car (the element) being driven off by a retired lady school teacher.The dealer told me, that Honda said the car would go to the youth but older women (40-50’s) were kicking the tires. It seems that hauling from the flea market an antique dresser in the back is appealing to this group. But like all of these things, they start fresh and get tired. Chrysler doesn’t seem to know how you update 1940 so they are letting the cruiser die the American car maker’s way of never renewing it and then announcing they will stop building it because the publie no longer buys it. You can’t accuse Toyota of that, but will the (kids) buy these things in enough quantity to matter? Will the more aerodynamic new little hatches and mini-wagons capture the soul of the young? I think the Volkswagen gt, mazda 3, and mini are much more attractive alternatives to someone who wants to live excitingly on a small budget, and get even better fuel economy than these cube type cars.

  • avatar

    No heel toe possible on a manual tranny car???? Must be a pain to downshift smoothly. What is toyota thinking?

    The problems I’ve found with requesting stick in a purchase is you have very FEW configurations to choose from on the lot. Sure you can custom order your own, but I doubt dealers will want to discount much…

  • avatar


    I don’t quite understand your comment: “Sure you can custom order your own, but I doubt dealers will want to discount much…”

    though – others have made this comment too, why cannot the following happen:

    Walk into a dealership (or contact their internet sales manager), gave them the exact configuration (or with a little bit of leway) and tell them you’d give them 500$ profit (and outline your take it or leave it final purchase price), or you would take your purchasing dollars elsewhere, why wouldn’t they custom order the car for you?

  • avatar

    i’m a first gen owner (well winner, i didnt buy the car, but ive choosen to keep it as a daily driver for the past 3 years. and while the 2nd gen is a solid car for the dollar, i feel it does lack some of the funkiness and economy that the first gen has.

    the problem is in the world of different is better, young car buyer market. it doesnt have a radical seating configuration like the fit, while offering solid mpg. the first one didnt have any tricks except for not hiding the fact that it didnt care about it’s looks. and space utility for it’s size and extreme lack of blind spots. due to the space utility, nobody asked for a bigger heavier car, yet that’s what toyota gave us. the first gen would’ve been greatly refreshed with different, i.e. non clear, tailights. the 1.9l dual vvti engine from the xd (or heck even retrofit the 1.5l with dual vvti and low compression pistons for a forced induction option or a 6 spd so it doesnt rev to 4200 at 80mph) and maybe a dash refresh, retaining the center cluster for the speedo, but adding a second cluster in front of the driver with the tach, odometer (a reset button within reach would be nice, and i’m 6’2) or fuel and share the duty of idiot lights with the center one.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    Oh God, has it REALLY came down to this?

    Congratulations, Toyota. You’ve achieved a level of spectacular deliberate ugliness equal to the Pontiac Aztec, and yet somehow avoided the latters chorus of sneering catcalls.

    Way to go!

  • avatar

    improvement_needed I think Scion has the same no haggle pricing that Saturn has. So ordering exactly what you want isn’t going to cost you more, just wait time, since it will be the same price as one on the lot. And from what I under stand practically all the options, except for things like transmissions, are dealer installed options, to make customizing easy and quick for both the dealer and customer.

    Anyone knows more feel free to correct me, or I could go ask the interior designer in our office who has a 2008 tC.

    Does anyone know if they still have the supercharger option for the 2.4 liter engine?

  • avatar

    yes a supercharger is available for the 2.4L, and a limited slip and big brake kit are available through TRD for the 2nd gen xb.

  • avatar

    Don’t let the looks get you or marketing term never judge a product by the way it is labeled.

    The interior is cool and spacious. I test drove one before I bought my 08 Lancer. I didn’t choose it because I was more into family sport sedan than a family sport van.

    Yes there are a lot of goodies for this car.
    TRD parts and aftermarket performance parts.

    The hp is 158 and torque is about 168 lb with 4000 rpm not bad.
    The interior is bigger than a Mazda3

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    Heel-toeing has absolutely nothing to do with downshifting smoothly, which you can do perfectly well with the throttle and clutch alone. It only comes into play while trying to downshift smoothly while simultaneously braking relatively hard, something the Scion audience isn’t going to be much involved in.

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    I badly wanted to like this car. I really, really tried. But the interior was so, so cheap. I couldn’t stand the thought of looking at such a crappy interior every day on my commute.

    So instead, for the same price ($17K), I bought a Ford Fusion. Much better car.

  • avatar

    Scion pricing is NOT like Saturn’s. Scion dealers must have fixed pricing, but the fixed price does not have to be MSRP. They can offer discounts as long as they offer the same discounts to everyone.

    In terms of reliability, these started out a touch rough, with a few exterior trim problems reported on TrueDelta’s surveys. But these only affected early vehicles, and recent ones have required few repairs.

    Additional participants in this research always helpful.

  • avatar

    drifter wrote:
    You can’t expect an objective review of a vehicle that is targeted toward 20-somethings written by a middle-aged dude.

    Oh, god, no. Never trust anyone over 30. Too bad no one ever came up with that idea.

  • avatar

    Frankly, I’m dissapointed the xB could get the same grade as a Hyundai Genesis.

    This thing looks terrible and so does the original. There’s nothing cool about them in my opinion. The tC and the xA are more adorable but this thing makes me want to use it on an F-16 weapons range. Everytime I see one I want to hit it in the back with an RPG.

    I used to see them here in NY but recently, buyers opted for the xA and the xD.

  • avatar

    The main problem is this car is called an XB- It should have been called the TC wagon. As stated before, all the original XB needed was about 15 more horsepower and Scion would selling all they can make. Instead they have a car that really offers nothing unique and is now just another Toyota- a good, boring car.

    Scion screwed up- they state they listened to the original XB owners and created what they asked for. Well the original XB was only around 3 years in the USA- so they must have been asking the guy who bought the first one off the boat.

    The Nissan Cube- due next year, will really highlight the blunder Scion made with this car.

  • avatar

    Nice interior LOL, Toyo Koolaid for da kidz. I suppose next to Dodge Caliber, this looks like a nice car.

  • avatar

    Thank you, Stephan. You stole my thunder about heel-and-toeing, but said it much more eloquently. I think there are a substantial number of people that confuse heel-and-toe with double-clutching, or other rev-matching techniques.

    I think the radio in the xB is a good example of how Toyota tries, but doesn’t quite get, the demographic they are after. The ability to easily add speakers is a good thing, but what they should have done was base the entire system around a DIN mount head unit so that the owner can easily upgrade the audio system to whatever they wanted.

  • avatar

    Proportions look like the Flex’s! And the last-gen’s seats were so much nicer, though the extra power is appreciated.

    Y’all should review the new 2009 Sonata! Same price range, more power, really fuel efficient, and not as ugly!

  • avatar

    I doubt that TMC is shedding any tears over your review. True they took a unique vehicle and moved upscale.Sorry, not upscale, just more refined. But let the numbers speak for themself. Has TMC lost market share? The first XB was coloring outside the lines, this version is much more civilized. Heck, I’d buy it. The local Toyo dealer turns them at astonishing rate. Off subject, but Prius..take a number, write a check, you’ll be served faster. I like the new’s not a trendsetter…. but it’s more better. A good thing that now has manners.

  • avatar

    They still make the orignal xB, except that they changed the name to xD (it is almost the same as the original xB in every dimension, but did trade up to the 1.8 liter engine for a bit more power than the first gen xB’s 1.5 liter).

    The xD seems like a rather good choice for a small cheap four door hatchback.

    If someone needs something larger than the xD then they should look into the Mazda 5, or even the new Toyota Matrix sitting in the same dealership, before they look at the new xB.

  • avatar


    The xD isn’t the same in the most important dimension (for many first gen xB buyers):

    Current xD:
    Passenger Volume
    84 ft3
    Luggage Volume
    11 ft3

    Original xB:
    Passenger Volume
    90 ft3
    Luggage Volume
    21 ft3

    In fact, the xD is more cramped than the already tiny xA. And as mentioned here, you can’t see out of any Scion these days.

  • avatar

    Has TMC lost market share?

    With the Scion, the answer is yes.

  • avatar


    The original xB did manage, with its boxyness, to pull off very impressive interior volume numbers for a car of its size, but the xD still has good interior space where it counts (I’m 6’2″ and I remember fitting pretty well in the front and back at the Chicago Auto Show), and it gets better mileage than the old xB despite having a larger, more powerful engine. Also, the xD adopted side impact seat and curtain airbags, which are very important to me in a compact.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Oh….wrong story…for a second there when I saw the headline, I thought that Toyota management realized the error of their ways and discontinued building this car, and in order to clear the dealer lots of excess inventory, they were giving them away in a BOGO sale….

    But then I remembered, this is Toyota, not GM, and the vehicle in question ia not named Outlook, Acadian, or Enclave…

  • avatar

    This is what happens when you redesign a vehicle and ONLY listen to people who refused to buy the original.

    No real benefits, and the box managed to lose the two things that DID make it desirable to young people:
    -stupid-high mileage for our teeny tiny 20-something paychecks, and
    -hideous, in-your-face, my-mom-won’t-even-ride-in-this-car styling.

    Better luck next time, Scion! In the meantime, enjoy your Boomers…the ones you can grab, that is. I suppose the Camry lineup was due for a wagon, anyway.

  • avatar

    I’ll take the xD, thank you all the same.

  • avatar

    Now what if they were to offer the xB with as a hybrid? Sort of the Prius Box.

  • avatar

    I find it odd that, based on the written review, the car gets 3 stars. That’s the same score given to the Focus, with both scores better than the Cobalt, Amanti, and TSX. And those 3 stars are equal to those given to the H3 and Bentley GTC.

    Who is smoking what?

  • avatar


    I’m reminded of a late-70s Doonesbury cartoon, where someone tries to explain to a pollster that giving an “unsatisfactory” rating to Jimmy Carter is not the same as giving the same rating to Richard Nixon, noting, “One is an expression of dissatisfaction with an incompetent — the other is an expression of loathing for a crook. They’re not the same thing!”

    The Cobalt’s rating (or that of the H3) was intended as a defense of a car a lot of us have trashed a lot, on the grounds that it’s functionally competent, if not at all inspired. The TSX’s rating reflected disappointment with a car that, while not completely without merit, has lost a lot of the charm of its excellent predecessor.

    In this case, I think it amounts to bafflement with a new version of something that was never really a TTAC commentator’s kind of car, but that at least managed to be commendably unique. The new car is more competent in a driving sense than the previous car, but not enough so to make it a credible alternative to more TTAC-friendly cars like the Mazda3 hatchback.

  • avatar

    I hate to praise Chrysler, but the Caliber has this slug beat at least in the looks department.

  • avatar

    I’d guess the inability of performing a heel & toe downshift with an xB wouldn’t be much of an issue with most of the twenty-somethings I know since most of them can’t even drive a stick (much less parallel park).

  • avatar

    Not sure anything but a true sports car is going to rate more than a 3 on this site.

    That being said, it does seem to me that something was lost in the redesign. The original I heard was quite fun to drive and economy minded.

  • avatar

    This isn’t a bad car, but as a few other posters noted, it ought not have been the replacement for the xB. Truthfully, Scion could have sold both this (xE?) and it’s predecessor side-by-side.

    It works, though, as a replacement for the prior-generation RAV/4. With the new one moving (way) up size and power, there was a definite hole in Toyota’s lineup. Of course, they could have achieved the same thing by not upsizing the RAV4 cutting the highway-robbery MSRP of the Highlander.

  • avatar

    One of the nice things about this car is the low load floor. Say what you will about it’s getting larger, it’s effective interior space is still better than most anything with the same exterior footprint.

    I can live with the sky-high roofline, but the eight inches of ground clearance that most cars like this get bugs me. I think Toyota did well in not making this into Yet Another Soft Roader.

  • avatar

    If I wanted space efficiency I’d buy a Kia Rondo, which gets the same mileage but with a V6 and 7-passenger seating for barely any more money. (Actually, I did. But that’s another story.)

    If I wanted looks I’d buy…well, just about anything else. All those Ford Focus haters who swear it’s the homeliest thing on the road just need to take a look over here. I know, styling is a personal thing–but the fact that this thing looks just like the xD and the Matrix (not to mention a 1980 Buick Riviera) pretty much scotches any claim to outrageous individuality. Meanwhile, the dark interior and huge blind spots pretty much scotch any claim to functionality.

    The (few) folks I see driving around in these things look like 20-year-olds stuffed into Hannah Montana T-shirts from Wal-Mart. Ordinary and ridiculous at the same time. The slumping Scion sales numbers, even in the face of a stampede to smaller cars, suggests I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  • avatar

    My friend has a first-gen. It has very good handling, and a well damped ride. You can really toss it through corners and it doesn’t roll like you’d think. The 1.5 is pretty eager just as long as you aren’t going up a steep grade and makes nice sounds. I didn’t like the interior, but you can stash an entire drum kit in it. It’s utilitarian, and it feels right somehow.

    After driving his car, I wanted an xB. No more. This generation looks like it was designed by a committee. If I want a dragster, I’ll buy one. If I want a small van, I want a small van. So I’m waiting on Nissan’s Cube now. Seems like they “get it.”

  • avatar

    I have read that the Gen 2 XB still sells pretty well. Hmmm, the 1st Gen seems to be a better choice. IMO

  • avatar

    Looks mare like an armoured carr than a people carrier – horrible to look at in my opinion

  • avatar

    It’s funny how the dealer experience can really sour you on a brand. When my GF was in the market for a new car we decided to check out Scion. Figuring that since they’re reasonably priced, no haggle Toyotas they would be a great option.

    Unfortunately fixed pricing means “bend over the sink” on your trade. We were offered $1500 on a car that we traded into Honda on a new Civic for $7000. AND Honda came down on the price of the car for less than the Tc or Xb.

    That combined with the atmosphere of something outta the Fast and Furious really turned us off to Scion. I’m sure they’re great cars… if your 18 and it’s your 1st car.

  • avatar

    I’m really happy that TTAC did a “take two” on this car.

    Like others here, I wanted to like the new xB, but it is just too damn silly. There are many improvements over the original, but the dashboard is goofy, the seats are unbelievably cheap and the front end is ridiculous looking.

    A true shame. There aren’t many inexpensive wagons out there that are roomy enough to haul stuff and available with a manual. (and nearly all the small CUVs are auto only).

  • avatar

    It’s funny though. While Toyota is betting on selling many of these entry level cars to 20 somethings, many of my frends (mid-twenties) are considering lease deals on BMW 3 series/ Lexus is300. One buddy is selling his much beloved CRX to do it as he considers it a street racer’s car and feels he is getting too mature for such a car. Nobody wants to be caught dead in the same car that many 18 year olds drive. What Toyota is lacking is a fun vehicle that isn’t just cheap economy. The new subaru based coupe is a start, but there needs to be somewhere for that ‘edgier’ consumer to go now that they have graduated college. A civic si contender perhaps?

  • avatar

    Michael Karesh :
    August 11th, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Scion pricing is NOT like Saturn’s. Scion dealers must have fixed pricing, but the fixed price does not have to be MSRP. They can offer discounts as long as they offer the same discounts to everyone.

    Saturn dealers can, and do, do the exact same thing (provided the discount is the same for all cars of a certain model/trim line/group of options). This works in reverse as well. That is, most Saturn dealers marked up Skys over list when it first came out.

    In fact, it is illegal for the manufacturer (of anything) to insist on a specific price for a dealer to sell the product for. (A recent Supreme Court ruling weakened this somewhat, but it’s still basically the law.) Another example in a different industry is Nintendo. Nintendo, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, attempted to set a minimum price for their consoles, by with holding stock from anybody who refused. Stores sued them and Nintendo lost.

    That is, Scion’s and Saturn’s pricing policies are identical.

  • avatar

    I have to say, as a 2008 xb owner, I like it. I’ve owned many cars, and this is one of the best for me personally. Here are the reasons why:

    1. I have 3 kids. the backseat has a ton of legroom for children and adults.
    2. yes, the interior is not as refined as some other cars, but with 3 kids, I didn’t want a fancy interior that they will probably destroy in a couple years anyway.
    3. Cargo Room. Period. I’m a part time musician and DJ. I can fold down the back seats and put a ton of gear in this little buggy, go to my gigs, and get great gas mileage while I do it. Prior to this I had a truck which sucked down the gas.
    4. Price. These are very practical cars for what you pay for them.
    5. Toyota quality. Yes it has a camry engine, and the Scion XB is still actually made in japan, unlike most other toyotas which are made in mexico or canada. Where do you think the best quality control is?
    6. Looks: no, this wont appeal to everyone, but I like a car that looks different than every other boring car rolling down the road.

    Ok, there are a few things I would change if I could, but overall I’ve been very happy so far with this vehicle. I would buy one again if I had to do it over. I am 45 years old, not a young person this car was designed to be marketed to. It just so happened this could do everything i needed, haul kids, haul equipment, had lots of passenger room, decent gas mileage (avg 28mpg), and didnt break the bank to own.

  • avatar

    forgot to add. Although a lot of folks on this board are bashing the looks of the new xb, I have never gotten so many compliments from folks about a car. I get stopped all the time by folks wanting to know what it is and who makes it, and how cool it looks. I’ve been approached by people of all ages like this. So while it may not appeal to everyone, it must appeal to a great many.

  • avatar

    Toyota basically had a choice between two JDM cars to bring over here as the new Scion xB:
    The updated bB (first gen was the same as the old xB here):
    Or the Corolla Rumion:

    The more I look at that newer bB the more I dislike it, just like the new xB. I think they should have kept the Rumion JDM styling, instead of “scionizing” it: it’s a lot more frank in its presentation, and in some respects still maintains older xB style cues. This new one looks like a guy with eye-shadow. More metrosexual than gangster (atleast IMO).

  • avatar

    It looks like a mini van with a car front end. The box is what defined this vehicle.

    Don’t worry though, Nissan is bringing over a replacement box.

  • avatar

    problem with nissans, is they are junk. Had a pathfinder that had so many problems, we finally had to get rid of it. A buddie’s sentra was also plagued with problems, as well as another friends maxima. I’ll stick to toyota or honda. yeah, you can save a few bucks getting a nissan, but you pay for it in the long run.

  • avatar

    I’ll keep my 05 xB. This new one is fatter, smaller inside, uglier, and uses more fuel. I get 30 MPG in city driving. The article captures the problem exactly – Toyota tried to make the xB be mainstream, which was a big mistake.

  • avatar

    Sanman111 :
    One buddy is selling his much beloved CRX to do it as he considers it a street racer’s car and feels he is getting too mature for such a car. Nobody wants to be caught dead in the same car that many 18 year olds drive.

    How depressing. Maybe your friend should care less about what other people think and more about what he LIKES. This may be the worst reason for selling a car I’v ever heard. Jeez, is 25 the new 14?

    If one of my friends was selling his “beloved” car because of what SOME people MIGHT be thinking about it, I’d check him into a mental hospital. Or slap him.

  • avatar

    I find it very hard to take any vehicle seriously that has one rear back up light (where did the other one go) that makes it akin to a cyclops and no dash in front of me when i’m driving. No instead we are greeted with a land o plastic dash, 1990’s GM dash located wrongly in the center with tiny look alike guages, garbage seat material, high price tag, overweight and downright putrid styling. If my kid brought one of these home for a test drive I would ground him for a month.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    There are many perfectly good cars that have just one backup light. After all, how many do you need? Would four be a help to you, or are you just big on symmetry?

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