What's New for 2008
The Scion xB has been redesigned for 2008. Though the second generation of this compact wagon maintains the boxy shape that made the original a cult favorite, the xB's exterior is softer and more rounded this year. More importantly, the xB is now larger, roomier and features a much more robust engine. The interior has been improved as well, highlighted by an impressive array of high-tech audio choices.
"The all-new 2008 Scion xB features a little less funk and a lot more spunk." That certainly sounds like the type of cheesy Grade-A marketing line that an automaker might throw out to describe a vehicle that is more grown-up in size, power and attitude, but we assure you that it it's our cheesy line, not Scion's. After all, this is a brand that's so cool, it even has its own hip-hop music label.
Behind the Scion xB's dare-to-be-square hipness is, of course, the comfortable backing of parent company Toyota. Hatched at a time when Toyota realized it was in danger of losing younger buyers, the spin-off Scion brand first launched with what were essentially rebadged Japanese-market Toyotas. The original xA and xB were well-equipped and affordable small hatchback wagons that could be crammed with dealer-installed customizing features for the Pimp My Ride generation. Looking like a 3/4-scale Chevy Astro, it was the xB and its "love it or hate it" box styling that attracted enough of the former category to become the embodiment of Scion and a success.
The 2008 Scion xB is exactly 1 foot longer than the last box, 3 inches wider and actually 2 inches shorter in height. This creates a more substantial, less toylike appearance, and a more useful overall vehicle. Under the hood, a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine (it's also used in the Scion tC and Toyota Camry) gives the xB 158 horsepower -- 56 hp more than the previous xB. All of this makes the xB a little more grown up, but there's still enough funk present to make George Clinton proud.
To conventional eyes, the xB is not an attractive car -- perhaps less so than the outgoing box ¯ but there are quirky little design details everywhere to ingratiate the xB upon those who dig that sort of thing. Inside, there are more funky details, but the larger vehicle dimensions equate to greater space for passengers and cargo. Materials have also improved along with ergonomics, although that does come with an asterisk. The center-mounted gauges are, in fact, better than the last xB's, but they're still too small, too far away from the driver's line of sight and focus more on form than function.
Beyond oddball styling, Scion's other M.O. is its lengthy list of dealer-installed extras -- especially the audio options. While other carmakers have made MP3 player auxiliary jacks standard equipment, Scion has gone one step further with a regular aux jack and a dedicated iPod port that provides power and stereo head unit control. We haven't had a chance to test the regular head unit, but the upgraded stereo provides a user-friendly interface and large screen to toggle through playlists, performers and songs. With the available navigation system, audio control becomes even simpler (and safer) by utilizing the touchscreen to create crystal-clear functions that mirror those on the iPod itself.
The term "love it or hate it" gets thrown about a lot, especially regarding radically different automotive styling like that on the 2008 Scion xB. There are always a few people who love the distinctive and the odd, and for them the xB is the obvious choice over more traditional small hatchbacks or wagons like the Chrysler PT Cruiser or Dodge Caliber. Only time will tell if the all-new xB is embraced like its funky forbear was, but this more substantial and more powerful box certainly has more spunk (and space) to complement all that funk.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Scion xB is a compact wagon offered in one trim only. Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels with a choice of three covers, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and a thumping six-speaker Pioneer stereo with single-CD/MP3 player with both an auxiliary MP3 jack and a dedicated iPod jack that allows one to control iPod playback through the head unit controls.
The dealer-installed customization options include a rear spoiler, 16-inch alloy wheels, faux carbon-fiber interior trim and interior mood lighting in a choice of four colors. An optional premium audio system has a more user-friendly control interface that allows for downloading images and video onto the head unit display. Other options include a touchscreen navigation system, TRD performance parts, satellite radio and a rear DVD entertainment system with LCD screens mounted on the back of the front headrests.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2008 Scion xB is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 158 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. That last number is significant, as there is now plenty of low-end power -- something the previous xB didn't have too much of. The new xB comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic with automanual control. In performance testing, an automatic-equipped xB went from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. Due to the 2008 xB's heftier size and larger engine, fuel economy is not as good as it was on the previous version, even when taking into consideration the EPA's revised 2008 rating system: The new xB checks in at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway.
The xB wagon comes with an impressive array of standard safety features including antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Unlike the xD, there are no active front head restraints.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Scion xB's exterior styling is strange, so why should the interior be any different? We're seldom keen on the idea of centrally mounted gauges, and the xB is not immune to our distaste. The speedometer is at least a digital readout, but the small and oddly angled tachometer is just silly. (Zero rpm is at 10 o'clock.) This ergonomic oddity is a shame, because the rest of the xB is user-friendly and comfortable. The transmission shifter (with the automatic and manual) is mounted high, as is Scion's new array of available stereo control units, which make complicated and distracting actions like navigating through an iPod easier and safer.
Despite its small size, the xB features a large cabin with excellent backseat space and the most tall-driver-friendly front seat in a small Toyota product. A telescoping steering wheel would be nice, though. With its larger luggage area (21 cubic feet) and wider body, the xB's utility easily makes it a fuel-efficient and fun-to-drive alternative to compact SUVs. For instance, with the 60/40-split rear seat folded, the xB's 69.9 cubic feet of space is only 3 cubes smaller than the Toyota RAV4.
The all-new 2008 Scion xB is a significant improvement over the car it replaces, feeling more substantial and stable than the old box -- particularly at highway speeds. Despite losing 2 inches in height over the past model, it still has a relatively high center of gravity, contributing to constant, but not overly worrisome, body roll. This isn't intended to be a performance vehicle, but the xB is nonetheless quite confident while cornering, with decent steering feel and response. Like most Toyota-family products, the suspension is tuned for a comfortable ride, but it's still sporty enough to please Scion's young hipster demographic.
Read our Scion xB Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test