DETROIT - The brand is Scion but the manufacturer is Toyota. Scion's mission is to attract younger buyers, the group that wouldn't be caught dead in a Toyota Camry. So far so good, by most measurements the Scion Xb has been an overwhelming success since its introduction in 2003.
In its new iteration, Scion addressed the gripes of current owners. The Xb is small and boxy. Standing next to the car we could easily look over the top of it. Yet, when we climbed in our first thought was to move in some furniture.
In other words, it was very roomy. Scion designers tried to give the 2008 Scion Xb a lounge like feel and they succeeded. The car's front and back seats were unbelievably spacious. The car was extraordinarily usable.
There were nooks and crannies for all sorts of stuff from cell phones, to notebooks, lap top computers, whatever. The rear seats folded flat, creating a sizable cargo floor and the front seats reclined.
We were particularly impressed with the Xb's multiple personalities. We drove it to Chicago and found its Interstate manners impeccable. The car planted itself well on the road and steering was dead center. Engineers increased the wheelbase by four inches, the overall length by one foot, and the overall width by almost three inches to give the Xb a more comfortable ride.
That comfortable ride was true too of city driving. Here and in Chicago, we found the Scion 2008 Xb an easy drive. It cornered well, and though it was a comparatively small vehicle, we never felt like we were overwhelmed by bigger vehicles. In other words, the scion Xb drove big.
During our week- long test, we only had a couple of gripes. We thought the Scion Xb could use a bigger gas tank. Even though it was rated at a respectable 28 mpg on the highway, its 14 gallon fuel tank required that we refuel as we approached Chicago which is less than 300 miles from here.
We also found the suspension a little harsh, especially going over road joints. But then we discovered that our test vehicle was equipped with a stiffer MacPherson Strut sport suspension. Overall, it wasn't bad.
And our Scion Xb had plenty of pep. It was powered by a 158 horsepower four cylinder engine that made 162 pounds- feet of torque. Mated to a four speed automatic gearbox, our test vehicle had enough oomph to move in and out of traffic without a whole lot of fuss.
But what really makes the Scion is its equipment. Our test vehicle had the light stuff but still, it had everything we needed: an iPod connector and auxiliary jack, satellite radio, a standard 160 watt audio system with one disc CD player, and a digital speedometer and tachometer. We thought the optional sport muffler was kind of pricey at almost $500 and ditto for the $795 16- inch alloy wheels.
No matter, our test vehicle was priced at $18,699. That to us was a great deal on a small, sport, distinctly styled utilitarian vehicle that is the 2008 Scion Xb.