2005 Scion xA

Scion City

By Scott Corlett

As the new millennium approached, Toyota looked to its future and wondered who would fill the void after the last graying baby boomer had purchased their final Avalon.  The company responded in 2003 by launching Scion, a brand with the express purpose of recapturing a more youthful demographic.  Scion’s three-car lineup, the xA wagon, the xB utility vehicle, and the tC coupe—all small framed, well priced, and dressed to stand out in a crowd—has been delivering young buyers, plus a few of the young-at-heart, right to Toyota’s doorstep.  Scion, which is Japanese for Saturn (okay, not really), has co-opted Saturn’s strategy of non-negotiable pricing in an effort to make the purchase process less stressful.  Small, cute, and easy to buy-what more could we want?

We recently spent a week in the 2005 Scion xA Release Series 2.0 Limited Edition wagon tooling around San Francisco—heading to the gym, hauling groceries, schlepping friends—and it was a great little city runabout.  Not too long ago, the only small packages we liked were powder blue and were stamped Tiffany & Co.  However, that was before hot little numbers, such as BMW’s Mini Cooper, emerged and trashed the notion that Americans won’t buy small cars. The subcompact five-door xA follows this trend in stylish downsizing with a lean, lightly garnished body that is only eleven inches longer than the Mini’s.  A road-hugging stance combined with clean lines, a short nose, and slightly protruding wheel wells give it that pretty-but-edgy feel we so like.

Even with its small wrapper, the xA was no pain for four six-footers on rides around town thanks to generous front and rear headroom (tiaras and bouffants-no problem) and great rear-seat-foot space (size-13 combat boots-welcome).  The xA wagon is billed as a five-seater, but fitting three boys in the back is nearly impossible unless they are all really watching their carbs.  The cargo area fits gym bags for all or six sacks of groceries. A dog can travel back there, but unless the rear seat is folded, it had better be a shitzu, not a shepherd.

The xA’s mod cabin is nicer than you would expect from a car with a rock-bottom base price of $12,480.  The textured finishes are pleasing to both hand and eye.  Scion moved the instrument cluster to the center of the dash, which expands the driver’s field of vision.  The center-console controls are easy to reach and to use, except for the Pioneer radio/CD stereo.  It’s MP3-ready and can deliver the sound but, oh, how you have to work to make it sing due to its tiny, poorly labeled buttons.  Scion promises an updated interface for 2006 along with iPod connectivity.

We have established that she is pretty, but can she dance?  The xA’s 1.5-liter 108-hp four-cylinder engine, coupled with the optional, power-sapping four-speed automatic transmission, was taxed by San Francisco’s hills.  But otherwise, in the city, the xA was zippy and agile and rode well over rough pavement.  The xA’s highway performance was a slightly different story.  As is the case with most cars of its class, the xA could use more oomph for passing and merging as well as more precise steering.  But now that gasoline exceeds $3 per gallon, we think we could live with the xA’s modest performance since its average fuel economy was more than 30 mpg, even with our mother-terrorizing, pedal-to-the-floor acceleration style.

The Scion xA is well-equipped with air, anti-lock brakes, power windows and locks, split fold-down rear seats, and front air bags standard.  For this little wagon, we do highly recommend the optional, front-seat side air bags and the two-row, side curtain air bags.  Of course, we like to accessorize, but only the most demanding buyers (do we know anyone like that?) will require more than the standard kit and added bags.  High praise, indeed, for such an inexpensive car.  We think that for city dwellers, young or old, this is one small package you will be happy to receive.

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