NEWS

First Drive: 2008 Scion xD

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I got a little worried when I learned the new Scion xD shares its platform with the subcompact Toyota Yaris, a car purely about point-to-point transportation that’s not the least bit entertaining to drive. After a brief drive in Scion’s four-door hatchback, which goes on sale in August, I can safely say the new xD has a much more engaging personality than the Yaris, and it should definitely be on your list if you’re shopping for a small car.

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One of the Yaris’ biggest problem areas is its weak, 106-hp four-cylinder engine. The xD uses a larger 1.8-liter four-cylinder that makes 128 hp, giving the car sufficient power to accelerate briskly in suburban driving. A five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission are offered, with the manual returning EPA-estimated gas mileage of 27/33 mpg and the automatic delivering 26/32 mpg (using the more severe EPA testing procedures that go into effect beginning with 2008 models).

The xD’s suspension has a knack for damping bumps in the road while still providing a sporty driving experience. It steers with a light, sporty touch, but the steering wheel could really use a telescope adjustment to better accommodate different-sized drivers. The fabric seats were comfortable during my short drive, and over-shoulder views aren’t compromised by the car’s large D-pillars. 

The standard 60/40-split rear seat slides back and forth and also reclines, but both of the levers that control these movements are located on the top of each backrest. This makes for awkward adjustment when sitting in the seats; levers mounted near the hips would be easier to use. 

Overall, the xD is a nice package, with air conditioning, cruise control, side curtain airbags, a Pioneer CD stereo and remote keyless entry among its standard features. Pricing information has not yet been released, but it should start at significantly less than the $15,650 base price of the brand’s new xB.

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