- Written by Patsy Oliver
An auto review for the average driver ... Each week, The Tribune will feature a different automobile, test driven by me, the average driver. Stop by our office, 18525 West Lake Houston Parkway, if you would like to see the latest car or go for a ride! Well, what can I say, my son called it "the lunch box" and a friend said, "You're driving the toaster?" That's the shape of the Scion xB ... and I think that it was no mistake on the part of the folks at Scion. Scion's own press materials read, "We've stated in the past that we'll probably always have a box in the Scion lineup, but our owners told us they wanted a bigger box." I guess "thinking outside the box" can sometimes put you right back inside it. I certainly felt inside the box when I entered the xB. This is either a look that you really like or you really don't. I can honestly say that it's not a look that does anything for me, but the Scion was a fun drive. I noticed right away that the younger crowd was more drawn to the design. The heads that turned were in the 18-to-25 demographic. Aside from its looks, I was surprised at the power the little 4-cylinder engine delivered. Scions, from Toyota, don't come in different body styles -- "mono spec," as they call it. Customers choose the color and either an automatic or standard transmission. There are, of course, options (or as they call them, "accessories" that can be added, such as security, a spoiler, navigation, wheel upgrades, audio upgrades (including satellite radio), DVD headrest monitors, and many more. Standard on the xB are air conditioning, iPod jacks, chrome exhaust tip, front bucket seats, cruise control, AM/FM/CD with iPod compatibility, tilt steering wheel, and too many more features to list. A neat standard feature is the storage compartment under the rear seat, which can hold laptops, maps, sunglasses, or whatever a passenger or driver might want to stash there. The instrument panel is centered in the dash, a concept that I'm not sure I want to get used to. The 60/40 split rear seat will fold flat for extra cargo space. For those familiar with its predecessor, the new xB is definitely "a bigger box." The wheelbase was increased by four inches, the overall length by a foot and the width by about three inches. Scion says the added length gives it "a more comfortable ride." I'm not sure how the ride was before, but I found it to be pretty good. I did think that road and engine noise were a bit more noticeable than what I like. At first glance, I suspected I might be constantly worried about tipping over on a turn, but that was not the case. It actually felt quite stable and handled very well. The safety features include driver and front passenger airbags; seat-mounted side airbags in front; front and rear side curtain airbags; stability and traction control; anti-lock brakes; headrests in all seats; child seat anchors and tethers; a tire pressure monitoring system; and a first-aid kit. Gas mileage is 22 city and 28 highway miles per gallon, per the new EPA rating system. The bottom line is good. By that I mean that its base price, $16,270, gives you a lot of car for the money. If the four-cornered look appeals to you, take one for a ride -- it might be just the box you've been looking for.