It seems as if Toyota's reasoning for its redesign of the Scion xB is that if customers liked the original little xB, let's give 'em more -- bigger vehicle, bigger engine, bigger price. While the 2008 Scion xB loses the original's funky edge, apparently it has gained enough in practical appeal to keep the sales strong. Wheelbase has been stretched by 4 inches, and overall length increases by a foot. Width is up 3 inches, height by 1 inch. Sixteen-inch tires and wheels are standard -- previously, they were optional.
A 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine replaces the original xB's 1.5-liter, 108-horse four-cylinder. Most noticeable is the new engine's extra torque, the measure of pulling power. Not surprisingly, given the extra power, fuel mileage suffers, but less than you might think: Using the EPA's new, more conservative rating for 2008, an old xB with an automatic transmission would be rated at 26 mpg city, 31 mpg highway. The new xB is rated at 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway.
Inside, the xB makes the most of its available space. Four 6-footers will fit with ease. Rear legroom and headroom is excellent. There's 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, just a bit more than the old xB. It's a good thing this new xB has more power, because weight is up a whopping 600 pounds.
On the road, the new xB is certainly more comfortable than the old one, with a smooth ride and an undeniably more secure feeling -- in the old xB, you were smaller than most everything but a Mini Cooper. Safety-side, the new xB has plenty of equipment, including stability control, anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution, traction control, side and side-curtain air bags, all standard.
In fact, most everything is standard -- Scion says the new xB, like the old one, is "mono-spec," meaning they all arrive with essentially the same equipment. Customers choose color and a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. But as before, dealers and distributors offer a long list of features you can buy to "customize" your car, ranging from alloy wheels ($795) to a navigation system ($1,595) to "carbon fiber window trim" ($299). Opt for enough features, and suddenly the car's $16,600 base price (for an xB automatic) can swell to more than $20,000. Our test car listed for $18,339, after the distributor added an upgraded Pioneer stereo ($425), a "security upgrade" $469), and carpets and mats ($155). I could have done without all that -- you already get standard keyless entry and a 160-watt Pioneer stereo.
I miss the old xB's personality, but I certainly like the new xB's room and ride and power. Same name, but a very different vehicle.
Sentinel Automotive Editor Steven Cole Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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