The xB safety standards include ABS brakes with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Brake Assist, stability/traction control, dual front airbags and three-point seatbelts for all five seating positions.
The xB's 1.5-liter free-revving DOHC four serves up its modest 103 hp and 101 lb-ft of torque as enthusiastically as possible, thanks to a Toyota's Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) system. While the optional AEM cold-air intake and Borla cat-back exhaust systems won't turn the xB into any sort of tarmac terror, they'll enhance the engine's deep-breathing capabilities enough to drop the xB's 0-60 mph times into single digits with the standard five-speed manual transmission. Choosing the do-it-yourself unit over the four-speed automatic brings a tangible gain in the fun-to-drive quotient, particularly if you add a short-throw Quickshifter kit. But the greatest numerical satisfaction for typical budget-constrained xB owners is likely to come from its stellar 31/34 mpg EPA fuel economy figures (31/35 mpg with the automatic).
Traveling in xB style has its own unique charm, even if it means tabling any performance fantasies. A strong, rigid unit body imparts a surprisingly solid feel, and a semi-command seating position affords good sightlines in all directions. While flicking your eyes right instead of down to monitor speed and fuel levels requires some reorientation, it soon becomes second nature. Less so the xB's gaggle of micro-scaled radio buttons, although the new-for-2006 volume knob is at least one small step toward proper corrective action. Once dialed in, the six-speaker audio system merits props for volume and fidelity, with or without the optional Bazooka subwoofer. Those occupying the rear quarters should find much to their liking, as well. In addition to plenty of sprawl space, the seatbacks also provide a two-position recline feature.
The xB makes fairly impressive use of its econo-car-derived chassis bits. Front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam axle are nicely trimmed by anti-roll bars, and despite some on-center vagueness, the power steering provides decent feedback. Pressed enthusiastically into a corner, the xB pushes progressively. However, its low-slung architecture works hand in hand with the stability system to maintain a measure of poise with nary a hint of "tippiness." And serious factory-engineered handling bits are as close as one's local Toyota/Scion dealer. ABS disc/drum brakes with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Brake Assist circuitry provide the xB with reassuring stopping power. Rounding out the mix is a standard tire pressure monitoring system.