A week spent in Scion’s most affordable real car
A lot of bang for the buck
Rear seat room
Steering and ride feel
Front seat comfort
A full week of driving
Most of our weekly evaluations here at LotPro.com involve driving around town and occasional trips on the freeway to various destinations in southeastern Michigan. Our time with the Scion xD, however, fell during the annual Midwest Automotive Media Association’s Spring Rally, held at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. As such, we were able to get a much clearer picture of how this Yaris-based people mover performs under a much wider variety of driving situations. And while we didn’t take it out on the track (let’s get real), we did manage to add more than a thousand miles to the odometer (thank you, Toyota).
The xD is one of the most recent models in Toyota’s youth brand as it was named as the replacement model for one of the original offerings, the xA, when it was introduced to the press during media days at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show (back when that venue carried more prestige with auto manufacturers).
During the product introduction, Scion VP Mark Templin noted that, “The xD is a clever new take on the five-door urban subcompact, with style and flair to match its efficiency and utility. The xD’s aggressive styling is wrapped in a small, agile package, while its interior offers impressive details and a spacious cabin.”
The xD sits on a 96.9 inch wheelbase, is just under 13 feet long at 154.7 inches, while its 67.9 inches wide and 59.4 inches high. Ground clearance is 6.5 inches and, despite its squarish appearance, it has a coefficient of drag of 0.32.
Although the word “aggressive” certainly isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when looking at the xD, it is one of the cooler-looking small-box subcompacts.
Like most Scions, with very little in the way of either front or rear overhangs, all four wheels are pushed out to the very edges of the body giving it an almost roller-skate-like appearance. Up front what could’ve been a nearly-vertical fascia has been given some sculpting. The smallish hood has been carved into a U-shape that tapers down sharply in front until it meets the trapezoidal-shaped grill with the narrow upper slit separated from a wider lower air intake by a broad black band that also serves as the front bumper.
Above the grille and at the center point of the leading edge of the hood is an overly-large “Scion” badge, while the large headlamp enclosures been just above the grille opening and stretch backwards nearly halfway along the front wheel arches.
Toyota has managed to impart some style to the rather plain sides with a distinct upper character line just below the beltline. A softer lower character line above the door sills runs between the front and rear wheel arches that frame 16×5 J steel wheels shod in P195/60 R16 Bridgestone Turanza EL-400 02 tires.
The xD’s backside is plainer and features a largish rear bumper having nearly the same depth as the tailgate which is, itself, flanked by narrow vertical taillamps.
Inside the xD features a plethora of hard plastics, although most of the surfaces are nicely grained featuring interesting textures with some particularly nice touches: the door panels feature small cloth inserts above the arm rests that match the seat inserts, while the texture of the central portion of the steering wheel matches that of the dashboard.
The central gauge in the instrumentation pod is a little funky as it doubles as both a speedometer and tachometer. Fortunately, our tester was an automatic so I never had to pay much attention to the tach. The smaller binnacles on either side each house a rather tiny digital readout. The left shows fuel level and the transmission gear selected, while the right serves as a combination trip meter and odometer.
The simple upper center stack is trimmed in silver and contains the upper central air vents and the entertainment system. I say this in the loosest of terms, because although it features both iPod and Bluetooth connectivity as well as HD Radio compatibility, there’s nothing entertaining about trying to decipher how it works – especially while driving. Although it’s a Pioneer unit, it’s manufactured to Scion specs, which means, among other insults, there’s a tiny separate button that turns it on and off and it has no tuning knob. It also features an inexplicably complex and counter-intuitive menu function knob.
Mercifully, the HVAC controls are more straightforward and consist of three rotary knobs: air delivery/AC, fan speed/recirculation and temperature /rear defrost. The lower center console contains the shifter, USB/aux ports, 12 volt power outlet, a small storage cubby, two cup holders, an additional storage slot next to the parking brake and a traction control defeat switch located behind the shifter.
In addition to the storage cubbies on all four doors, there are both upper and lower glove boxes plus a small storage shelf and a latched coin box located below and to the left of the steering column. An additional cup holder is located in a pop-out tray located just below the passenger-side upper air vent on the dashboard.
On the plus side, front seat passengers, as well as two rear seat passengers, will find generous amounts of head and legroom with overall passenger volume of 84.5 cubic feet. There is also an additional 10.5 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seatbacks which, by the way, also recline.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, visibility out the front and sides, except for the large A-pillars, is very good. Looking over your shoulder and out the back is an altogether different story, however, as the large C-pillars hinder views to the side. The rear headrests also rob a fair amount of the rear window’s real estate.
Under the hood
The xB is available with just one engine: Toyota’s 2ZR-FE DOHC, 16-valve, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with electronic dual variable valve timing that produces 128 horsepower at a peaky 6,000 rpm and 125 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. Both a roller rocker system as well as a piston cooling oil jet aid engine efficiency.
On the road
The good news is because of its small size the xD feels nimble and well-balanced both in a straight line and through the corners, its L-arm type MacPherson front struts and torsion beam suspension doing a nice job of minimizing body lean. In addition, the front-disc, rear-drum brake setup does a nice job of bringing it to a halt. I detected no fade and the brake pedal was easy to modulate.
The other good news is that even when equipped with the 4-speed automatic there is more than adequate acceleration. On top of that, fuel economy was also very good. The EPA rates the xB at 27/33/29 city/highway/combined mpg. My own observed fuel economy turned out to be 32.7 mpg.
That being said, all is not perfect – especially in the handling department. Over less than smooth surfaces the ride can get busy and jittery. The xD’s demeanor can easily get upset by minor road imperfections and when it encounters major ones – like the current major road construction going on just north of Milwaukee – things can get downright ugly. Then there’s the noise. Engine, wind and road noise are omnipresent and, as road speed increases, increasing intrusive.
As is Scion’s custom and despite its fairly modest assignment, the xB is available in just one flavor that’s fairly well equipped. In addition to those goodies previously mentioned, standard features include air conditioning, keyless entry, rear wiper, 50/50 split-folding rear seats, power locks, mirrors (with LED turn indicators) and windows.
Safety equipment includes 8 airbags, ABS with electronic brake distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology, vehicle stability control with traction control and, ta-dah, a first aid kit.
The iQ has an MSRP for 2013 of $16,545. Our Blue Streak Metallic/Black special color added $500. This plus a cargo net ($65) and rear spoiler ($385) and a $755 delivery, processing and handling fee meant that our tester checked in at precisely $18,250.
The Bottom Line
As I see it, people purchase small cars for four basic reasons:
Point number one, they’re small. Some people like small cars, while others may need one because a smaller car makes more sense, such as in an urban area.
Point number two, they’re affordable. As a rule, the smaller the vehicle, the lower the price of admission.
Point number three, they’re more fuel efficient. Keeping hybrids out of the equation, as a rule, the smaller (and lighter) the vehicle, the easier it is on your wallet.
Point number four, they can absolutely be entertaining to drive. Given the choice, I’d rather drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.
That being said, the more points a small car can amass, the better it is.
In the case of the xD, it manages to score three out of a possible four points. Unfortunately there are a number of new entries – the Mazda Mazda2 comes immediately to mind – and traditional rivals – including the Honda Fit – that can be had for the same kind of money that are at least as versatile and infinitely more entertaining to drive.
The bottom line is that in its own funky way the xD is a viable option for urban dwellers and others needing a dependable fuel-sipper. But the xD is beginning to show its age and there are a number of other vehicles out there that will probably be higher on these shopper’s lists.