2008 Scion xD

James Tate
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The Scion xA always seemed to hide in the shadow of its big brother, the xB, which received all kinds of accolades and garnered many buyers. The boxy xB cost only about a thousand dollars more than the xA, had the same mission statement, and, as a bonus, was chic.

The xA is now called the xD, and it's no longer competing for quite the same customer as the xB. The xB has grown to be more of a real car, while the xD is as tiny and fuel efficient as you'd expect from something that Toyota calls an "urban subcompact." At 2625 pounds, the xD is light, but it's some 285 pounds heavier than the outgoing xA.

The xD is built on the same platform as the Toyota Yaris, but it looks better than the hatchback Yaris, with two more doors, flared fenders, and a lowered stance. The xA's bubbly look has been all but shed for a boxy yet rounded physique.

All of the xD's square edges don't help with wind noise, which at speed competes with road noise that's translated through relatively wide 195/60HR-16 tires. At speed isn't somewhere you want to be, however. Above 65 mph, the suspension is floaty, a characteristic that is highlighted during quick lane changes.

But the xD suddenly makes sense when you're crawling through city streets at five o'clock in the afternoon. A good stereo, high-quality glossy black plastic trim, and reclining rear seats make the cabin downright pleasant for both the driver and the passengers. Scion has even abandoned the center-mounted gauge cluster for an innovative combination speedometer/tachometer, which it dubs a "concentric meter." It's sometimes difficult to read the counterclockwise sweeping tach, but that's less important to an xD buyer than the lighted cupholder option. And with the available driver's-side armrest, rush hour might even be tolerable.

When you accelerate through the gears of the xD's five-speed manual transmission, a harsh boom resonates through the cockpit despite a smooth, new 128-hp four-cylinder engine. It's quick--the sluggish xA has been replaced by a car with the most horsepower in its class. The xD we drove felt as if it would walk away from a Honda Fit in a drag race.

To complain about things such as the torsion-beam rear suspension and the rear drum brakes is to forget the mission statement of the xD: putter around town with five people aboard and a few things in the back, getting about 26 mpg while doing so. A mission no longer shared with the xB may be just what Scion needs to make the xD sell.

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