Are young buyers ready for unabashedly boxy automobiles? Are they eager to buy scads of factory-offered accessories to dress up and individualize their purchases?
Scion marketers will soon discover the answers to those questions, when the defiantly square-profiled xB and the subcompact five-door xA wagon go on sale. The xB is a production version of the bbx concept vehicle that appeared at the New York International Auto Show in 2002. Scion calls the xBs styling cutting edge with a box shape and sharp edges and notes that the design achieves more space from minimal exterior dimensions.
These are the first two production vehicles from what is considered a new brand, even though Toyota dealers will sell Scion models. Both the xA and xB were unveiled at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show in January 2003 and go on sale in June 2003 initially in California only. Priced below $16,000, both models are equipped with the same 108-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine.
More than most automakers, Scion will target youthful buyers, especially those members of Generation Y who favor customized and personalized vehicles. The xB was developed for youthful trend leaders, says James Farley, vice president of Scion. These owners can be creative by molding it after their own personality via customization. Scion is about providing buyers with a personalized dealership experience, a personalized ordering experience and personalized vehicles. About 40 accessories, including fog lamps, a front-end mask, a rear spoiler, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, body graphics, floormats and auxiliary lighting kits, will be available.
Distribution will be extended to the South, Southeast and East Coast in February 2004, and during that year, a third Scion model will debut. Scion dealerships promise younger shoppers the freedom to explore at their own pace.
While the xA resembles several small wagons currently on the market, the xB takes the boxy look established by the recently introduced Honda Element and sends it a step further. Several concept vehicles in recent years have flaunted a strictly square look, but only the Element has reached production and sale in the U.S. market.
Weighing just over 2,400 pounds, the xB is 64.6 inches tall, vs. the xAs 60.2-inch height. The xB rides a wheelbase thats 5.1 inches longer than the xAs, but its overall length is only 1.2 inches greater. The appearance of the xB is a blend of flat panels and 90-degree angles, which are highlighted by a ground-effects kit. This vehicle also has a slightly lowered suspension, which Scion says improves handling. The door openings are large. Steel wheels on both models hold 15-inch tires.
Seating five occupants, the xB offers tall seat height and abundant headroom and legroom, courtesy of its high stance. The instrument panel is covered in cross-grain vinyl, and audio and ventilation controls have metal-tone trim. The speedometer and odometer are centrally positioned to produce easier readability. Auxiliary controls feature amber illumination. The second-row seats fold flat in a 60/40-split configuration; they can be removed, which then yields a flat load floor. Cargo volume is 21.2 cubic feet.
Standard xB features include air conditioning, keyless entry, and power windows, locks and mirrors. The standard 160-watt six-speaker stereo system plays CDs and reads MP3 music files. Digital Scion Sound Processing lets the driver choose between three audio modes: Neutral, Hear or Feel. A six-CD upgrade system features a lighted display with 10 available colors.
Under the Hood
The xB uses a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 108 hp at 6,000 rpm. Either a five-speed-manual gearbox or a four-speed-automatic transmission may be installed. The company claims that average gas mileage is greater than 30 mpg.
Antilock brakes and Vehicle Stability Control are standard. Side-impact airbags are not offered. All seating positions have three-point safety belts.