Low Fuel Rant - 2008 Scion xB Long-Term Road Test

2008 Scion xB Long-Term Road Test

2008 Scion xB: Low Fuel Rant

September 06, 2007

As stated in our last episode, I'm enjoying the overall experience of driving our 2008 Scion xB much more than I'd predicted. But this morning the Scion has me P.O.'d. Maybe I'm just in a mood because I'm on the road early enough to be inspired by radio rantmaster Adam Carolla during my commute.

At some point during my 50 mile drive to the office the low fuel light winked on. I'm not sure when, exactly, because the dang center-mounted fuel gauge is waaaay out-of-sight, out-of-mind. When I do notice it, the trip odometer is displaying a mere 249 miles.

So the light is on and I've got 40 miles to go. I can still see daylight between the hash mark and the needle, and the fuel gauges in Toyotas I've owned were notoriously conservative. A car like this has to be able to get at least 300 miles out of a full tank, right? I decide to press on.

Closing in on downtown LA, things look more glum. The needle is firmly on "E", but all I know about the area is Skid Row. Our xB has a navigation system, but I don't figure out how to punch up gas station POIs straight away. (The manual later tells me they're conjured via a toggle under the Map View button.) General Motors bests the Scion here by linking their nav systems to the low-fuel warning to automatically issue an on-screen prompt along the lines of "Low fuel. Do you want gas stations displayed?"

With only 10 traffic-free freeway miles to go, I delicately continue - re-reminding myself about all of the crying-wolf fuel gauges I've owned. But now daylight is appearing on the WRONG side of the "E" hash mark.

I make it, with ease as it turns out. The 14 gallon tank takes but 12.5 gallons to fill. The 1.5 gallons that remain (corresponding to the needle position in the above photo) easily represents yet another 35 or 40 freeway miles. OK, I would never run a car that low, but the Scion has been chiding me to refuel for at least the last 40 miles. Let me get this straight: with 75 miles to go, about 20% of the xB's theoretical 392-mile range, I've got a fuel crisis?

And theoretical it turns out to be. Our Scion has been popular, racking up 6,000 miles in 2 months. Through 25 tanks the average fuel economy has been only 23.8 mpg and the average fill occurred at just 230 miles. Only one person has squeezed more than 300 miles out of a tank, and it wasn't me. This incident ended at 289.3 miles and 23.1 mpg.

Hindsight says I should have followed dad's sage advice to always fill-up at a quarter-tank. I might have done so if the fuel gauge wasn't banished to the periphery or if I knew how marginal the range really is. I suppose the familiarity of ownership would make this issue go away. But an overly-conservative gauge such as this only serves to over-emphasize the mediocre range and fuel economy we're getting from our Scion xB.

How about this: why not make "E" mean empty, and why not put the gauge somewhere where its easily seen without the prodding of a warning lamp?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 6,143 miles

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