Where have you gone, Toyota Echo?
Wherever it is, stay there. Please. For as the 2008 Scion xD demonstrates, Toyota is once again good at building small, cheap cars that are fun to drive, roomy enough for most people and cost, well, okay, maybe we should just not bring that up…
The drive certainly doesn’t feel cheap. There’s enough room inside the cabin to breathe, and while it’s a world of low rent, black plastic, it has a nice finish on it, feels pretty nice and…well…you do get what you pay for. In this case, outside of the plastic materials and semi-shoddy fit and finish (okay, we were driving a pre-production vehicle), the material on the seats was nicely stitched and durable. Under that material, however, was a seat that felt lacking in structure and stiffness, one that would quickly get tiresome on long, traffic-clogged drives. Elsewhere inside, the graphics and lighting was cool, and the instrument panel featured a single speed/tach gauge with an intriguing “blocker” in the middle, dividing the two read outs. It made for clear and easy-to-see control watching. There was also something like 57 cubbyholes and gloveboxes, though we can’t understand Toyota’s reasoning for putting pop out cupholders under the side vents: it’s awkward and unnecessary, given the amount of center space available.
Not that you’ll notice the bad stuff. The xD is actually a fun car to drive, about 128 monkeys more fun in the barrel than the outgoing xA. That’s right: you don’t need huge horsepower to have fun, and Toyota’s 1.8-liter four banger (128 horsepower) sure proves it. The real fun, in fact, starts when the engine sweats a little on high rpms: step into the throttle and the engine responds briskly. With the optional stability control, the xD stays planted pretty nicely. Without it, the tall stance of the vehicle leads us to believe that aggressive driving would be a tipsy experience.
That’s tipsy — right up there with the price. At almost $17,000 for an appropriately equipped xD, this entry-level subcompact ain’t cheap and treads into larger/nicer/more fun vehicles from Honda, Nissan, and more. Of course, it is a Scion, which means something when it comes to street cred, and, most of all, means that there’s no longer an echo when a shopper arrives at that empty space in Toyota’s lineup.