TUCSON, Ariz. -- A pint-size hatchback wagon -- conformed as a bulging box on wheels with a bulldog-blunt snout, slab sides with a high beltline for the tall cabin holding four doors plus tailgate and a roof floating over the wrap of windows -- whips smoothly through curves on corkscrew blacktop winding through the cactus-spiked Arizona desert west of Tucson.
To tell the truth, our cubistic car romps along the road with a thrifty yet competent four-pack engine spinning four optional 18-inch silver alloy wheels.
The big radial tires dance independently over rippled pavement as the chassis, cast with a broad track and long wheelbase, maintains a flat stance through so many bends in the twisty road.
And in a cozy cockpit one driver strapped into the bolstered bucket maintains a firm hold on the sporty 3-spoke steering wheel while plying the short stick of a 5-speed manual transmission.
To pace this automotive action, a deep-beat rhythm throbs in the cab, thanks to tunes drawn from an iPod and tracked by the upgraded Pioneer audio kit through multiple speakers and subwoofer.
Our way-cool wheel set carries the nameplate of xD for model-year 2013 and conforms as a subcompact 5-door hatchback wagon developed exclusively for Scion in America.
The brand of Scion, derived from Toyota, showcases custom-cool but affordable small cars skewed to the youth market with internet marketing campaigns, low price points yet high content and non-negotiable MSRPs
So just how low do the low price points go?
MSRP for a 2013 xD begins at $15,745. But then add $755 as a DPH (delivery, processing, handling) fee to get the ultimate base price of $16,500 with a 5-speed manual shifter, or apply $800 more to load aboard a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transaxle.
xD appears muscular, despite wee proportions in the form of a cubistic four-door wagon with big glass up front and the tail squared for the hatchback rear door, a broad stance across the face with brief overhangs fore and aft and bulging rings around wheelwells.
xD's beltline on flanks seems rather tall and the roof slinks toward the rear, squeezing aft window glass to narrow -- and quite interesting -- proportions.
Another striking aspect is this car's chrome-free face: It's monochromatic and entirely smooth with the fat lip of fascia set low and tinted to the body color and a narrow horizontal slit for a center grille filled with black mesh, as unusual shapes for the multi-lens headlamp clusters wrap around front corners.
Climb inside to discover that the cabin feels airy and rather roomy, despite xD's subcompact classification.
The cockpit floor dips low so you can step aboard easily, and the ceiling bows high up front to fit tall chair-like seats on the front row. Passengers in the two front buckets sit upright, with their heads positioned high for better visibility though the ring of windows.
A simple design for the instrument cluster employs a large circular gauge which combines the functions of a speedometer and a tachometer.
A bench in back squeezes space for three plus seatbacks which split and fold to expand the aft cargo bay.
The storage area is generous with rear seatbacks folded, tallying to 35.7 cubic feet.
xD stocks high-tech electronic controls like electric power steering (EPS) and an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) plus vehicle stability control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC).
On-board safety equipment includes dual frontal air bags and front seat-mounted side air bags, front seat cushion air bags plus curtain-style air bags concealed in headliners for front and rear seats.
xD's motivation stems from a Toyota 1.8-liter 4-in-line engine with dual cams on top and Toyota's valve wizardry under the label of VVT-i for dual variable valve timing with intelligent control. The plant delivers 128 hp at 6000 rpm with torque of 125 lb-ft at 4900 rpm through the standard manual 5-speed or optional 4-speed automatic transaxle.
xD 2013 qualifies for LEV-II (Low Emission Vehicle II) status and delivers fuel economy numbers up to 33 mpg.
The list of stock content is lengthy with gear such as 16-inch steel wheels and three choices for covers, air conditioning, a remote keyless entry fob, cruise control, power buttons for running windows and door locks and mirrors, tilting steering wheel with audio controls, dual sun visors with vanity mirrors, tachometer and trip meter, digital clock, rear window defogger, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity and a sliding rear bench with 60/40-split folding and reclining seatbacks.
Out of the box there's one sweet audio kit aboard: The Pioneer AM/FM/CD/MP3/iPod/USB audio system adds a subwoofer RCA output and 6 speakers.
And xD offers many accessories which invite a custom treatment. The gear list includes a rear spoiler, remote ignition, auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated door sills, cargo cover, navigation system, a premium sound system with touchscreen interface, satellite radio, plus a carload of performance parts by TRD (Toyota Racing Development) such as TRD 18-inch black or silver alloy wheels.