2004 Scion xB

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2004 Scion xB
Available in 1 styles:  2004 Scion xB 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
$3,617–$8,241
Estimated MPG

30 city / 33 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 4

By 

So maybe it truly is hip to be square. Maybe it's cool to think inside the box.

And maybe the 2004 Toyota Scion is the ultimate snub to the mainstream car companies, the mainstream press and the mainstream audience that watches "Friends," drinks Heineken and wouldn't be caught dead in something so amazingly boxy.

After spending a week in the Scion - the latest, greatest, oddest ride on four wheels - I can only conclude the obvious about Toyota's youth-oriented car: I don't know anything about automotive design.

Pardon me, but I figured when you build a vehicle it has to have curves. Somewhere. I figured it has to have flow. Anywhere. I figured you could never put a car like the Scion on the street, a vehicle that makes a deep freezer look like an hour glass, and create a rage.

Make no mistake, the Scion is all the rage. Not in the Midwest yet. But it's coming. Right now, Toyota has invaded California's cool culture and turned it on its head.

With what, you ask? Good question.

In a simple sense, the Scion xA hatchback, and our Scion xB test vehicle for a week, is a radically styled, five-person mini-SUV. In a more calculated sense, it is a rolling and risky marketing campaign that, if it hits just right, will be duplicated faster than you can say burning CDs.

Now Toyota's not typically known as a risk-taker. The last time it really put a toe over the edge was when it added a second cupholder to the Camry. Scion is a big risk. It's a way to get young people into their cars with, essentially, a stereo on wheels. Parents aren't supposed to get it. They're just supposed to buy it for their Gen Y kids.

Launched last June on the West Coast, the Scion is supposed to compete with all the other "hip" rides that are invading suburbia. Rides such as the Honda Element, Suzuki Aerio SX and all the other fringe makes that are becoming mainstream. Its modeled after the Japanese market and their urban runabouts, cars small enough to squeeze on Tokyo's streets.

Well, Tokyo has arrived. And, Pontiac Aztek, you've never looked more gorgeous.

They're goofy. They're strange looking. But they might be the best value under $15,000.

Built on the same platform as the 1.5-liter Toyota Echo, the Scion is not meant to be anything more than a rolling rock video. It's not about the 108-horsepower inline-four-cylinder engine that is competent on busy side streets but a loafer on the highway. It's not about the cleanliness of the Scion - its a low-emission vehicle that gets 30 miles per gallon in the city and 34 on the highway. It's not about its sharp handling (for a box), tight brakes or great cargo dimensions (21 cubic feet that increases to 43, or the size of a small bed).

It's all about the scene. What can you do to make your Scion stand out - and you stand out in it? Toyota calls that car-as-lifestyle. That means the standard audio system is a Pioneer six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 player pre-wired for satellite radio and sound-processing technology that will ping eardrums. A six-disc changer and subwoofer are optional. Cabin soundproofing is standard.

Mainly, this is a car you can "slam," or accessorize to the eyeballs. Toyota wants to keep you with them, not see you head to the aftermarket shop after you buy it. Scion offers more than 35 aftermarket-style accessories including three styles of alloy wheels, carbon-fiber-style body trim, aluminum pedals, an interior light kit, a roof rack and a rear spoiler.

There's also a Toyota Racing Development performance package that includes 18- or 19-inch wheels, lowering spring kits, a sport muffler and a quick-shift kit with a performance clutch.

Oh, and then there's the car itself.

Taken for what it is, the Scion's actually pretty competent. It comes "mono-spec," meaning an all-in-one package. It starts at $13,680 for base models with a five-speed transmission and $800 more if you want an automatic. That's no bare-bones price. Included in that are air conditioning; power windows, locks and mirrors; anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; remote entry; window tinting; and a great stereo.

On the inside, the Scion is hardly inspiring. It's Plain Jane to the hilt - loads of space, few amenities and all kinds of oddities, including an instrument panel in the center of the dashboard on top of the climate and audio systems. With a straight windshield, straight sides and a straight back, it has loads of room - head, leg, cargo - and the packaging is amazingly efficient. The doors are large and wide.

The front seats and short cushions don't provide much support, but the driving position, with its high and upright seating allows great visibility. The engine doesn't provide much torque in low revs, and although the shifter has short throws, it feels cheap. Cruise control, regrettably, is not offered.

But its value matches its statement-grabbing curb appeal. I had people laugh out loud when they saw it (for the record, they were over 55).

At the very least, the Scion is an affordable way to get your groove on - $18,000 on our model with alloy wheels ($665), body graphics ($758), floor mats ($120), security system ($429), the sound system ($774), satellite tuner ($595) and fog lights ($350). Even at that price, there's still money left over for a few more speakers and a couple of turntables.

Kids will love it. Parents will hate it. And the two shall never meet. Well, Toyota hopes they meet in the showroom. And if some parents can understand the value, even they might buy it for themselves. I would.

You can't put a price on being hip, cool, square - but maybe you can be all three at the same time.

SPECS

2004 Toyota Scion xB

Rating: 3.5

High gear: A new cheap and hip way to travel, the Scion is a rolling statement maker. It's also spacious, stylish and good enough for those interested in a trip from Point A to B - with a good stereo.

Low gear: The small engine suffers on the highway and city streets can expose a rough ride with the suspension. On a long list of standard options, for some reason cruise control is not offered.

Vehicle type: Front-wheel drive, front-engine, four-door, five passenger minivan.

Key competition: Honda Element, Suzuki Aerio SX

Base engine: 108 horsepower, 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder

Transmission: Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission

Standard safety equipment: Four-wheel antilock brakes, front airbags, traction and stability control and brake assist.

Wheelbase: 98.4 inches

Length: 155.3 inches

MPG rating: 30 city/34 highway

Manufactured: Japan

Warranty: Basic warranty is three years/36,000 miles.

Base price: $13,680 (five-speed manual)

Price as tested (including options, destination and delivery): $18,656


    Expert Reviews 3 of 4

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