The ultraboxy xB was the car that really launched Scion in the United States. Its funky, straight-out-of-Tokyo anti-style resonated with the young and hip, and a new Toyota division was born. With the car's first redesign, however, the xB grew and changed in some unfortunate ways. Significantly larger and embarrassingly heavier, the xB lost its edginess. The xB was never a ball of fun to drive, and the new model retains the previous version's numb electrically assisted power steering and rather stiff ride. Handling is decent, but it could never challenge a Mini Cooper--or even a Ford Fiesta. Buyers seeking better handling can spring for various TRD (Toyota Racing Development) chassis elements, including lowered springs, performance shocks, a rear antiroll bar, and a front strut-tower brace, but the items are not cheap. The four-cylinder engine is now a rather substantial 2.4 liters and makes 158 hp, but the extra oomph is negated by the car's nearly 600-pound weight gain. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; the optional automatic is only a four-speed. The xB's interior retains its odd, center-located gauge cluster, but the seats were improved last year and a center armrest was added. The steering column tilts and telescopes to help drivers find a comfortable position. Getting into and out of the xB is easy, and interior space is very generous, particularly in the rear seats--there's even an available rear-seat DVD player. Luggage space behind the rear seats is limited, but fold those seats down, and you get a large, practically shaped cargo hold.
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