Review: 2006 Scion xB

Seeking to lure younger, hipper buyers into its future owners group, Toyota launched its free-thinking Scion sub-brand in 2004 with the xA and xB. Although both high-value, high-utility offerings share key powertrain and chassis elements with the recently gone and easily forgotten Toyota Echo, the xB wraps them in far more unconventional trappings. Borrowing styling from its Japanese progenitor--appropriately called bB for black box--the single-trim-level xB combines unique visual presence with a generous list of standard features and a huge array of port- and dealer-installed name-brand accessories to facilitate the individualization so favored by its Gen Y target customers.

Angular to the max, the xB's squared-off lines and semi-slammed stance make it instantly recognizable. Defining cues include a slightly petulant front bumper, prominent greenhouse, four easy-access doors, and a large, one-piece rear hatch. While optional wheel/tire packages run all the way to 18-inch Racing Hart alloys wrapped in 215/35 Pirelli PZeros, all xBs come standard with 185/60TR15 all-season rubber on steel rims.

The xB's iconoclastic nature carries on inside, as well, starting with a dash that moves the instrument cluster to center -- well, slightly left of center -- stage. While the speedometer and mini-tach share a common binnacle with the fuel gauge, their cluttered configuration and contrasting fascia treatments clearly favor form over function. The center stack is filled with a small info display, 160-watt AM/FM/CD Pioneer sound system with DSP equalizer, and the switches and rotating dials that adjust the xB's standard air conditioning. The xB's comprehensive "mono-spec" value packaging also includes power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt steering column, and keyless remote entry, plus two cupholders in the console and one dash-mounted 12V powerpoint. Equally important, beneath its young-think veneer, the xB embodies Toyota levels of fit and finish.

Despite compact exterior dimensions, the xB has a remarkably spacious and accommodating cabin. Its slightly elevated front seats provide a panoramic view through the upright windshield, and these buckets offer the comfort and support desired for long-distance cruising. While the xB's 60/40-split rear bench has marginal hip and shoulder room for three, there's more than enough head and leg space for two six footers, be they traveling across town or across country. The rear bay has 21.1 cu ft of easily-accessed space. But flip the seatbacks forward, and that figure more than doubles, creating a flat cargo floor in the process. For maximum utility, the entire seat can be quickly removed. Smaller items can be stowed in the xB's non-locking glovebox, a small covered console bin, open dash trays, and pockets in each front door.

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