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