Like many aging trendsetters — Madonna comes to mind — the Scion xB has had a few tweaks for 2011 and arrives on the market with a restyled exterior and some new features on the inside. Since much of the xB's competition didn't exist when it first entered the market, it was able to rely on its hip-to-be-square looks almost exclusively. Now, the xB competes against the Kia Soul and those rapping hamsters and the Nissan Cube with its quirky/cool raccoon face.
The 2011 model delivers with changes that are subtle yet edgy on the outside and a few new features that add to the interior's comfort and cool factor. The xB's exterior gets new taillights and headlights, restyled front and rear bumpers, and a new grille. New features like a center console with a sliding armrest, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and more visual panache on the fabric upholstery complete the transformation on the inside.
The combination of these subtle additions and changes makes the 2011 Scion a proudly aging trendsetter that is still interesting to look at — just like Madonna.
The Scion isn't totally family-friendly; it only was able to accommodate me and two of my three children at any given moment. Despite Scion's overtly desired target market of trendsetters younger than age 30, I think the 2011 xB is a workable, fun car for anyone of any age, with no more than two children, a tight budget and a penchant for thinking outside (or inside?) the box.
It's also fun to drive. With its boxy shape and high roofline, I felt like I was driving a cartoon car, which is to say it was whimsical and easy to maneuver around town. However, one of the most disappointing things about the xB is its lackluster fuel economy. The Scion xB gets an EPA-estimated 22/28 mpg city/highway. A car this size that is not meant for hauling heavy objects, or even three children, can do better.
The Scion I tested had a starting MSRP of $16,000. With the addition of 19-inch alloy wheels and upgraded tires as well as an upgraded stereo and a few other options, the total came to a still-modest $21,442.
Most of the people I encounter in my daily life are the exact opposite of Scion's target demographic. They're the Lexus-driving ladies-who-lunch and the Toyota-driving professional moms and dads of toddlers. None of these people even know that Scion is a part of the Toyota family. Thus, everyone I encountered while testing the xB, from my son's preschool teachers to my husband queried, "What are you driving?" with a flummoxed look. They might as well as have started singing the "Sesame Street" classic, "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other."
Despite no one acknowledging the fact that I am indeed cool enough to drive such a car, the xB unexpectedly tickled my fancy in the looks department. The honeycomb grille and black trim gives it a determined face. The roofline is high and the shape is expectedly square. It rides low to the ground, which makes getting in and out a breeze for the kids and for me when wearing trendsetting platform wedges and pencil skirts.
The Scion xB is longer than many of its competitors, which translates into more cargo space and legroom in the rear. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard, though my test car came with the optional 19-inch alloy wheels. I can't imagine anything smaller than that on this car.
The 2011 Scion xB is powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 158 horsepower, which is plenty for cruising around town. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a four-speed automatic is optional. Both transmissions return 22/28 mpg. The xB uses unleaded gas.
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Fair/Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
The Scion has a utilitarian look, with the instruments sitting in the middle of the dash. The center-mounted speedometer and other gauges are red with a black background and look cool at night, but they can be difficult to see in bright sunlight. The center stack is mostly unremarkable, though my test car came with the upgraded Alpine high-definition radio with iPod hookup that played tunes loudly and clearly.
The new center console isn't much, but it does offer a coin organizer, thereby alerting me that loose change is a bigger issue for trendsetters than the need for a variety of snacks, diapers, drinks and wipes for any given car trip. After the coins are organized, there might be enough room for a granola bar, two if you're lucky. The console's lid slides back and forth in an attempt to give you a center armrest. There are a couple of useful cubbies like the one to the left of the steering wheel that fits a smartphone perfectly or the one above the glove box that I'm sure fits something properly, though I couldn't figure out what that was. There are a total of eight cupholders, including the in-door bottleholders, which is impressive for a car this size.
The rear cargo area is large and surprised me by accommodating a bulky red wagon. The 60/40-split backseat is convenient, and with the entire rear seat folded down, the xB has some of the best cargo space in its class.
Fitting two child-safety seats in the xB was a breeze, but adding a third was a definite no-go. With a rear-facing infant seat installed, the front passenger seat gets pushed almost into the glove box, so beware ye of longer legs. Without the rear-facing seat, front and rear passenger legroom is plentiful, and the seats are comfortable enough for children and adults alike to endure longer rides.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
One of the biggest surprises about the 2011 Scion xB was the ease with which I was able to access and use the two sets of lower Latch anchors. For a car that is decidedly geared toward a demographic that doesn't include women of a certain age with three small children, car-seat installation happened in a flash. Of course, it only fit two of the three child-safety seats I need on a daily basis. Find out how the xB performed in MotherProof.com's Car Seat Check here.
Another bonus in the realm of safety is that the 2011 xB has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It aced all of its crash tests and has a standard electronic stability system. That's not bad for this square hipster mobile.
The xB also comes with standard front-wheel drive, traction control, antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, and Smart Stop Technology, a brake override system that reduces engine power when both the brake and accelerator are depressed simultaneously. The xB also has six airbags, including side curtains for both rows.
Get more safety information about the 2011 Scion xB here.