Full 2006 Scion xB Review
What's New for 2006
The 2006 Scion xB receives a new steering wheel with audio controls, and the Pioneer audio system has a new head unit design and remote mini-jack port for portable music sources. Additionally, the xB wagon offers dedicated Apple iPod connectivity, which delivers iPod display information and allows unit control and recharging through the audio system. In other news, the xB's horsepower rating drops from 108 to 103 due to new SAE testing procedures.
"I don't get it," remarked a middle-aged man passing a row of Scion cars parked on the street. And that's just the point -- more than likely, that same man walked back to his Camry in his "loose fit" acid wash jeans, drove home and gave his teenage son yet another lecture on how raking leaves builds "character" and how System of a Down doesn't play real music but rather "just a bunch of noise." And at the same time, that middle-aged man could probably tell you all about the quality, value and reliability of his Camry and other Toyota products. There lies the dilemma: Toyota realizes that quality, value, safety and reliability are good things, but has struggled with how to wrap all those good qualities into a package that consumers under 30 would embrace.
Enter Scion. With the Scion brand, Toyota is making a credible effort to understand the Generation Y market and give it what it wants without pushing it down its throat. Housed within Toyota dealerships, Scion salespeople are supposed to play it straight with consumers -- this means no-haggle pricing (as at Saturn dealers) and the ability to get a car the way a customer wants it in about a week. And by offering over three dozen dealer-installed options, Scion hopes to give its buyers unprecedented opportunity to customize their Scion cars on the front end. Of their two launch vehicles, the Scion xB wagon is our favorite.
Scion's boxy xB wagon looks like nothing else on the market, save for a passing resemblance to Honda's Element. In addition, it has impressive passenger- and cargo-carrying capability for its size, making it an inexpensive way to lug about friends and gear associated with an active lifestyle. True, it lacks the Element's waterproof seats and hose-down utility floor, but since it's fully equipped in every other way for a base MSRP under $15,000, we'll make do. So what do you get for your money besides a lot of space? Antilock brakes; stability and traction control; air conditioning; a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player; a 60/40-split-folding and removable rear seat; a tachometer; power windows, locks, mirrors and steering; and keyless entry -- in short, an impressive list for an economy vehicle. Throw in a pleasant driving demeanor, and it's no wonder the practical, stylish 2006 Scion xB is a hit with 20-somethings. Nor are we surprised to see more than a few 40-somethings driving them as well.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2006 Scion xB is a four-door wagon sold in a single trim level. Each one comes with ABS; air conditioning; power windows, locks, mirrors and steering; a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player and remote mini-jack port; a 60/40-split-folding and removable rear seat; keyless entry; a rear wiper; rear defroster; a tachometer; and a ground effects kit. There are about 40 dealer-installed options. This list includes a CD changer, satellite radio, a subwoofer, alloy wheels, a roof rack and a lighting kit for the footwells, just to name a few. Those seeking to eke out a bit more performance can opt for a strut tower brace and/or a cold air intake.
Powertrains and Performance
Power comes from a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder with variable valve timing. It's the same engine used in the xA, and it makes 103 horsepower. This isn't a lot, and acceleration isn't particularly spirited. Still, it has enough get-up-and-go for city driving, and it cruises along nicely on the highway. Merging and passing maneuvers require a little more effort, particularly on Scion cars with the four-speed automatic. A five-speed manual is the other transmission choice. Fuel economy is in the 30-mpg range.
The 2006 Scion xB comes with stability and traction control, antilock brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, three-point belts in all five seating positions and a first-aid kit. Side airbags are not available.
Interior Design and Special Features
Being tall (64.6 inches) and boxy has its advantages, and the Scion xB treats its passengers to incredible amounts of head- and legroom. Even when the front chairs are adjusted for a normal-size driver and passenger, those seated in the rear (there's room for three) are still able to stretch out their legs. And stylish as the xB is, these attributes make it a great vehicle for anyone with a baby on board. With the rear seats in use, the xB can hold 21 cubic feet of cargo; fold or remove these seats and the number goes up to 43. Apart from being spacious, the cabin is agreeable in appearance. Lots of hard plastic is inevitable in this price range, but most of it is low in gloss. The center-mounted gauge pod takes some getting used to, but is otherwise unobtrusive.
Although the 2006 Scion xB is built on the same platform as the former Echo (a car we've never considered a good handler), it's amazing what a set of 15-inch wheels and tires and a rear stabilizer bar can do. On the highway, the xB feels nicely connected to the road and offers a reasonably smooth ride. Some wind buffeting is inevitable with its anti-aerodynamic design, but not enough to make it feel unsafe. Driven enthusiastically around twists and turns, the Scion xB is more entertaining than its dimensions and price would suggest.