2008 Scion xB

One of our top three significant debuts at the Chicago show.Yes, it's ugly. Yes, it's funky. And yes, we kind of sort of hate the way it looks. But none of this changes the fact that the Scion xB will probably sell like gangbusters. The '08 xB is significant because it replaces a car that defined a genre--one whose resale values continue to be through the roof--and while the new xB may not be our cup of tea visually, it's sure to be a sales success. The xB is Japanese innovation, classically executed.

Toyota says that it asked xB owners what they wanted, and gave it to them. We disagree - from the looks of it, Toyota's R&D department did some research and figured out what made the original xB such a huge success. And then got rid of it.

Okay, that's a bit harsh - but what we (and buyers) loved so much about the xB was its anime-quality toughness at two-thirds scale. Unlike the slow-selling xA, the xB never looked modern, it never looked soft, and it certainly never looked bubbly. The new one tries to look all three of those, and ends up losing all of the original's charm.

But, I digress. It's not all bad. The 2008 xB rides on an all-new platform, and is numerically better in every way: It's twelve inches longer, three inches wider, and rides on a wheelbase that's four inches longer. Its rear discs are two inches larger. It holds eight cubic feet more stuff. And the best news is that the underpowered 1.5-liter four has been replaced by the tC's 158-hp 2.4-liter, solving our biggest complaint about the old model.

The new xB goes on sale late spring and rides on sixteen-inch wheels. Transmission choices are a five-speed manual or four-speed, manu-matic. There are no options, and all xBs come standard with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear curtain airbags, and front side airbags. Power everything - brakes, steering, windows, mirrors, and locks - are along for the ride, as is an iPod jack that displays song titles on the Pioneer audio system.

So on paper the new xB is better in every way. It's bigger and comes with a 53 percent increase in horsepower. It's too bad that it's met with a one-hundred percent decrease in coolness.

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