Like a high school football star who grows up to be a jelly donut eatin’ cop in a small town, it’s just not the same when it grows up, and that’s what the Scion xB did: it grew up and got, well, ugly, pudgy and not even very charming.
The first xBox is better because, though the engine was limp and the car would fairly rock around corners, it was unique and offered voluminous cargo room in a small package. This version doesn’t accomplish that same edgy uniqueness, and feels too big inside. Consider this: it’s not a successful Scion, but it is a damn successful Toyota as it ticks off improved efficiencies such as a more powerful engine, better transmission, more passenger room and a better overall driving experience – albeit one still devoid of much driving pleasure. Steering is numb but effective, the suspension is a bit boatish but nonetheless keeps things mostly trimmed when you travel around a corner. The ride itself is quite comfortable, landing somewhere between soft and econo-box. Noise control has also been improved significantly. Aside from the expected road and wind hums that come from an inexpensive car with less sound deadening materials, the xB actually slices through the air quite easily, like a brick with the edges knocked off. Behind the wheel one is confronted with a tidal wave of black plastic, numerous joints and an instrument panel located high up on the dash and utilizing orange LED. It’s nice, as is the visible range out of the front window: small A-pillars make it easy to see and appreciate a panorama from the front. Visibility is limited in back, however, thanks to wide C-Pillars. Comfort-wise, I wish the seat bottoms offered more support, and it felt like there was too much wasted space inside: lots of air in front and above. This doesn’t mean that hips and shoulders are compromised; in fact, there’s plenty of room, and that’s to be expected, for it’s actually a pretty large vehicle.
And that’s where it loses charm: the xB is too big and too Toyota for the good of Scion. It’s what we old folks think young people will like, where the old xB was exactly what twenty-something car buyers wanted and what we thought was stupid: a box that could be decorated, on wheels and with enough room to move your stuff.