Both the Scion xB and the Nissan Cube are funky, boxy compact hatchbacks, but the two manage to feel significantly different on the road. The Cube is more relaxed in busy city traffic, but it can grow tiresome on the open highway. The xB, however, drives like a much larger car. I was fairly impressed with the Scion’s demeanor over a 150-mile trip this past weekend. Wind noise is noticeable, but road noise is well insulated, the steering well weighted, and the suspension tuning never comes off as overly harsh, even over Michigan’s broken concrete highways.
A four-speed automatic isn’t my first choice for a transmission. It does a decent job of responding to throttle inputs and hanging onto revs when you’re really asking for power, but the five-speed manual transmission that we recently sampled in an xB is a better choice; it’s nice to have that fifth gear, especially on the highway.
In terms of the interior, however, both the Cube and the Kia Soul have the xB outclassed. I like the various storage cubbies scattered around the dashboard, but their coarse texture is more apropos for an emery board, not a car interior. Toyota is treating the xB to a mild refresh for 2011, but it seems that designers failed to think inside the box-those same plastics appear to carry over into the next model year.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Considered outside of its competition, the current xB is a pretty cool car, what with its Chrysler 300-style chopped-roof, gangster looks. But when you compare it with the even more funky-cool original xB, not to mention the Nissan Cube and the Kia Soul, the current xB falls a bit flat in the looks department, particularly inside the car, as Evan already noted.
On the highway, the xB is quieter and more pleasant than the Cube, though, which is definitely a good thing. The Scion is also spacious and comfortable, so it should please most Toyota customers, who are typically more of the car-as-appliance mind-set than the automotive-enthusiast crowd. And $19K is not a bad price to pay for a subcompact hatch that has some style to boot.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I agree with the previous commenters that the XB is much better on the open road than our long-term Nissan Cube. It feels more solid and the wind does not push it around in its lane as much. The rest of the car lacks some luster, but I think for obvious reasons. This is a car that owners extensively customize with aftermarket products. The creative guru in me went wild for the infinite possibilities of what this car could transformed into. I do think the exterior is much improved over previous version, nonetheless, it screams for accessories and customization. Scion is giving you a good base, it’s up to you to build it into something to enjoy.
Kelly Ryan Murphy, Creative Director
Base price (with destination): $17,470
Price as tested: $18,928
2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine
4-speed automatic transmission
Electronic power steering
Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
Electronic brake force distribution (EBD)
Vehicle stability control (VSC)
Traction control (TRAC)
Tire pressure monitoring system
16-inch steel wheels with covers
Pioneer 160-watt AM/FM/CD with 6 speakers
Auxiliary audio jack
Remote keyless entry
Tilt steering wheel with audio controls
Options on this vehicle:
XM satellite radio — $449
Scion security — $469
Fog lights — $320
Carpeted floor/cargo mats — $155
Cargo net — $65
Key options not on vehicle:
Alpine premium audio with navigation — $1198
7″ LCD headrest monitors — $1599
BLU logic hands-free system — $299
Auto dimming rearview mirror — $229
22 / 28 / 24 mpg
Size: 2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4
Horsepower: 158 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Curb weight: 3086 lb
16-inch steel wheels with covers
205/55R16 89H Goodyear Eagle RS-A all-season tires
Competitors: Nissan Cube, Kia Soul