2004 Scion xB Four Seasons Test

Rear Passenger Side View

During its first routine service (you choose a 5000- or 7500-mile maintenance schedule based on monthly miles), a nail was pulled from the right front tire and a patch installed. (It would hold for a few months until it blew, forcing a roadside tire change that exposed the difficulty of hauling the jack out from under the driver's seat.) Kitman then sent the xB on the road with one of the musicians he manages, for hipster wisdom.

Singer-songwriter Peter Salett and guitarist Don Piper pronounced the xB perfect for their two-man tour of the South. "Amps and guitars fit neatly in the back, and the gas mileage (32 mpg average) is a big money saver for us." They noted that from the inside, the upright windshield made it feel like a regular van, but its overall size made it a snap to park. That same upright windshield stance may have been the culprit for numerous stone chips collected along the duo's 4650-mile, three-week, ten-state tour.

They found the turning radius huge, the front a bit cramped (we all did), but the seats fairly comfy. Both would have liked center armrests and more little cubbies to stash the stuff you need around you on the road. Also, air-conditioning and windshield wipers were found merely adequate in extreme use. They then made a brazen request to keep the car for another few months. We ordered it home immediately, in time for summer road trips to shift into high gear.

Wheel View

Gear is exactly what the xB won't hold if you push the passenger load past two. Elbow room is tight, but rear legroom is so dandy that there were complaints about how difficult it was for the driver to reach back and grab something on the seat without an Inspector Gadget arm. At the same time, there is really no cargo room to speak of with those seats in place. Whining about the space stops the instant you jump out and realize that the xB takes up about three-quarters of a compact-car-only parking spot.

We gave the xB some attitude with spidery eighteen-inch PIAA wheels ($1476), grippy 225/35R-18 Yokohama Parada Spec-2 tires ($464) designed for street tuners, new doorsill inserts ($139), and a whimsical rear roof lip spoiler ($385). Never mind that America's interstate potholes and PIAA's aggressive wheels disagreed with a fatal bang. We don't know what we were thinking. Ride quality was only somewhat marginalized, and turn-in really sharpened, while the skid-pad number improved from .86 to .87 g. But as road test coordinator Jason Bradley pointed out, better tire hookup also increased torque steer. Contributor Ronald Ahrens suggested, "Maybe in the South, this rubber would be OK," and then he hit a pothole in South Carolina that just shattered one of the PIAAs. We gave up and restored the dorky-looking OEM rims.

An aftermarket intake ($335) and exhaust ($279) kit from Scion was more successful, giving the xB a nice growl. Performance improvement wasn't enough to notice.

Scion has been a great success for Toyota. Its average owner is thirty-five years old, and the xB buyer is only thirty-one. Our experience doesn't track. The youngest among us thought it was ugly, while the oldest thought it more interesting. Our creative director's seventy-five-year-old in-laws appreciated its wide doors, tall seats, and great headroom. His wife suggested a Toyota brand for seniors called Scenility.

Rear View Trunk Space

Some 80 percent of Scion buyers are new to Toyota, and the goal of 100,000 Scion sales for 2005 has been raised to 125,000 and could hit 170,000 if production keeps up. It's easy to imagine. Technical editor Don Sherman is right when he describes the xB as "the pinnacle of utility for the dollar" and "very functional if not fun to drive." Although some here felt the xB's appeal to be restricted to its fresh look, there is no denying that the combination of useful space, great fuel economy, Toyota quality and reliability, low maintenance, and super sticker make it more beautiful than the naked eye can behold.

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