2011 Scion xB Road Test Review

Frik Els - CAP staff
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The 2011 Scion xB is the most recognizable of the three Scion models now available in Canada. The exterior was only slightly refreshed from the 2010 model year which wasn't sold locally, and the wagon retains its iconic angular look. Of all the "box on wheels" vehicles such as the Nissan cube, Honda Element (RIP) and Kia Soul, the Scion xB's design is arguably the most balanced. Now into its second generation the xB's mix of retro and ultra-modern design is still an eye-catcher, while the competition – even the newish Soul – is already beginning to look dated.

The 2011 Scion xB is explicitly marketed and designed to appeal to the younger generation, but it is also finding older buyers on a regular basis. All Scions are one-specced, but to appeal to the young and the fashionable you can personalize and accessorize Scions in scores of ways. The test unit had 19-inch alloys, a TRD big brake kit, sport muffler and a spoiler fitted for instance.

But at its core, the Scion xB is a practical compact wagon at a good price. That makes it a good choice for young families.

The interior is remarkably spacious and getting in and out of the xB is easy, even for old bones. It is almost airy inside and headroom is more than ample. The large rear roof pillars mean poor rear visibility however. I also struggled to find a comfortable driving position despite the fact that the driver's seat is height adjustable – it almost feels as if you're sitting in a high chair. Back seats also offer lots of legroom. Cargo space is not as limited as you would expect considering the dimensions of the vehicle and the split rear seats fold almost completely flat.

Interior fit and finish cannot be described as more than just what you would expect to get at this price, with cheapish looking plastics used here and there. Base price is $18,270 for the manual transmission
and $19,290 for the automatic transmission. The premium Alpine audio system with colour screen ($535 extra) won't satisfy some of those used to the shiny and slick design of the average iPod either, but there are steering wheel mounted audio controls and the requisite auxiliary and USB inputs.

The transmission shift lever is mounted on the lower part of the dash rather than on the centre console, which is reminiscent of a minivan type of layout. The instrument panel includes a digital speedometer and is mounted high in the middle of the dashboard, giving the dash a unique if not entirely practical layout. Quirkiness aside, overall, the 2011 Scion xB cabin is not a bad space to spend time in.

Suspension is firm and with the large wheels fitted to the test unit, every imperfection and bump in the road is noticeable – and audible. Even though the 19-inch alloys and large brakes turn the boxy xB into a real boulevard bruiser, if looks are not your number one consideration, go for the standard 16-inch steel wheels. It'll save you $3,125 on the price and greatly improve the comfort of the ride.

The xB's 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine protests noisily during acceleration, but on the whole acceleration is quick from a standing start and during overtaking. The 2011 Scion xB is highly maneuverable and
the 4-speed automatic feels sludgy at times and is much less fun to drive than the 5-speed manual transmission. The auto is also guilty of a certain amount of gear hunting. Even though the fuel consumption for the auto is rated the same as the manual, I'm convinced the average driver would tend to use more on the auto because it is so slow to respond when you put your foot down. On top of that, fuel consumption is not class-leading to begin with. Expect 9.5 l/100km in the city and 7.2 l/100km on highways.

In the end, boxy never looked so smooth, and the xB's squared-off shape leads to superb interior roominess and cargo space. The price is good too, if you don't accessorize. While I'm not overly impressed with the 4-speed automatic, it's difficult to deny the xB's full load of practicality and value for money.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Scion, 2011, xB, $10,000 - $19,999, Compact,

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