The Scion xB is the oldest of this group and the one that started it all in 2004. The first iteration was a direct translation of a Japanese domestic product that helped launch Toyota’s Scion brand. The success of this refrigerator box on wheels took even the Scion product planners by surprise. It looked like nothing else on the road and despite being underpowered and seriously funky looking, was popular with youth of all ages. When it came time to launch the scion of this Scion, Toyota’s did what the do best; applied continuous improvement principles to make the Scion better; at least on paper.
The second generation xB lost some of its uniqueness when it became larger, more curvaceous and more powerful. We reviewed the xB in 2007 and found it to be fundamentally sound but lacking in the original’s personality. I recently spent a week in a 2009 Scion xB immediately after I drove the Kia Soul and it is clear that the trend-setter in the box-with-wheels war has been eclipsed.
The Scion feels considerably less sophisticated than its new competition. It has the most powerful engine but in this case, more power isn’t necessarily a good thing. The torque steer was quite strong and the brakes on our test car were not up to the performance the engine delivered. My first 5-minutes behind the wheel were hair-raising as I hit the brakes upon approach to a particularly lumpy exit ramp near Newark. I overestimated their stopping power and ended up bouncing violently through the corner. I never got used to the brakes and driving in and out of NJ/NYC traffic had a few uncomfortable moments.
Then there was the way the xB went down the road. The ride was very choppy and complaints from my family members were many. My oldest brother appreciated the ease of ingress and egress but after running errands on a Saturday with me, he commented that he felt beaten up. Even the target for this vehicle, my 16-year old nephew, complained about the ride. It is almost as if the suspension engineers decided that a “youthful” ride equated to rattling your kidneys just enough to make it noisome.
Where the xB excels is interior room. If you want maximum interior space, this vehicle wins hands down. With the seats folded down, a dorm room’s worth of accoutrement can fit with plenty of room for a driver and passenger. Headroom is also exemplary with all but the most vertically blessed finding plenty of air north of their cranium.
Another area that sets the xB apart is the ability for its owner to make it his/her own with a long list of options available from the Scion dealer. Ranging from the mundane (wheels, spoilers etc.) to the manic (TRD Cold Air Intake, TRD Shift Kits), there is an accessory available for the xB to customize this box for your personality.
Bottom Line: The first, the biggest but not necessarily the best.
2010 Kia Soul
2009 Nissan Cube