2011 Scion xB Review; No Longer Just A Toaster On Wheels

No longer just a box on wheels, the new 2011 Scion xB is a step in the right direction for the automaker, but all that potential seems to go to waste with outdated equipment and a lack of interior focus.

The boxcar is a modern trend that has been accepted by some and loathed by others. Honda attempted to garner support by stepping out of their normal bubble with the Element, while Toyota created a whole new brand from the ground up for their own boxy toaster on wheels. This company went by the name Scion, while the toaster in question’s nametag read xB.

Scion’s first generation xB was a bit of a quirky mix between a four-door hatchback and SUV look. That’s not to say it looked bad, as that’s all of matter of opinion, but it did garner its share of jokes. For 2011, Scion has dropped the square design and added some curves to the xB’s lines.

With a revamped design inside and out, is the xB still a wildcard in the vehicle pond, or has Scion normalized their most recognizable machine?

The first thing that one will notice with the new xB is the increased size. Scion hasn’t been in America long, but it has taken a liking to the gastronomical culture and puffed it up a bit. That’s not to say it’s a large vehicle, but when Scion swapped the Yaris platform for the Corollas, they enlarged the xB by a noticeable amount.

The 2011 Scion xB still has some wagon features to it and it certainly has the dimensions to be considered a utilitarian feel to it. The xB is twelve inches longer and almost three inches wider, but it’s around an inch lower to the ground than before. The nose appears to be longer and the roofline has a new chopped look to it. The D-pillars are now stainless steel instead of glass, which manages to give the new xB a hefty look over the old model.

The styling of the xB has always been controversial and this new model is no different. The design is more aggressive than before, as the Scion is lower and wider than ever before. On top of that, the flares around the wheel wells and the sills give the xB a performance look, which is one that is doesn’t deserve. The base of the windshield has moved forward but maintains the fairly upright angle, giving the xB a van feel on the inside. The test model comes with optional wheels that fit in well with the overall look of the car.

Step inside the xB and the cabin is, once again, subject to controversy. First things first, the gauges are located in the center of the dash, something which numerous automakers have tried and, in most cases, abandoned. Each gauge is clear and easy to read, but the location of clock shows a lack of quality control over at Toyota. If one wants to observe their instant miles per gallon, or simply look at their current fuel economy, the clock disappears. So, if keeping track of the time is important, buy a watch.

Scion equipped this xB with its optional Alpine sound system, which appears to be aftermarket but don’t fret, this new Scion wasn’t fiddled with by some teenager, as that gray stereo is stock. Although, chances are it will be replaced, as it’s just about useless. In daylight, the sun’s glare can make the screen invisible and the array of buttons can be confusing to decipher. The touch screen itself is way to small to operate under normal driving conditions and even if one could change tracks, the system reacts so slowly that it might not be worth it.

Scion xB

Despite the increase in size, the interior room of the xB doesn’t seem to have grown. Hips and shoulders garner more space, but headroom has been decreased by six inches in the front and four inches in the rear. Front legroom has dropped by six inches, although cargo space is now 21.7 cu. ft.

Where as the old model packed a lowly 1.5-liter four-cylinder, the new 2011 Scion xB comes to the party with a 2.4-liter four pot, which is also used in the tC coupe and the Toyota Camry. The engine puts out 158 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The new xB certainly has some power to it, but it gets up and going it an unrefined way. First of, Scion went back to 1985 to get the four-speed automatic transmission and secondly, getting going requires intense throttle control, as the xB likes to zoom off in a rapid furry that becomes unpleasant after awhile.

The transmission itself has a manual shift option, but it might as well not be there. Taking off in second gear is wonderful, but when the transmission refuses to change up, even when the driver commands it to, it ruins the driving experience. If equipped with a manual gearbox, the xB could be transformed into a sporting little toaster, but with this ancient setup, the Scion is little more than a cargo carrier.

The engine note is pretty decent, which is amplified by the TRD performance exhaust option that was fitted to the test xB. Not sure about the performance aspect of it, but it does give off a fairly good noise.

Scion xB Wheel

On the road, the xB is fairly jumpy and likes to zoom off the line, holding a gear until the redline before changing up. First and second are sporting, but once in third the xB excitement level dies down. That seems odd because fuel economy for the 2011 xB isn’t very good. The EPA estimates that the xB will be able to manage 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. On average, the Scion managed to get 25 mpg combined, which is not even in the same ballpark as it should be. A V6 equipped Toyota Camry could manage better numbers.

On the back roads, the xB is sporting, but it does demonstrate a bit of understeer. The wheel offers up a slim slither of feedback, but nothing to write home about, while the brakes lack any sort of feel. The electronic nannies, such as the ABS, stability control and traction control, are a bit disappointing, as they can be a bit loud on occasions.

The old xB was a controversial vehicle, but at least it stood out in a crowd. This new model tries to fit in, but thanks to an outdated transmission, poor fuel economy and a lack of attention to detail, the Scion xB will once again be an outcast.

This is a true shame, because the xB has so much potential that is never realized. The look is fairly good and a slight overhaul to the interior, engine and transmission would go along way. Like the Scion brand, the xB could be sensational, but there are simply too many aspects of it that holds it back.

Scion xB Rear

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I drove a 2010 Scion xb for Oregon Taxi in Eugene, Oregon for about a year. We put approx. 100, 000 miles on it during that time. It ran virtually 100% of 12 hrs. X 2 shifts x 7 days a week schedule. It got oil changes @ approx. 10 to 12,000 miles. No tune up or repairs other than tires, brakes & an occasional light bulb. Great car for taxi service. I got approx. 23 to 24 mpg average w/ lots of idol time during the 12 hr. shift.
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