Full 2009 Scion xB Review
What's New for 2009
After a full redesign last year, the Scion xB is unchanged for 2009.
At its core, the 2009 Scion xB is an eminently practical compact wagon. With adequate room for four adults, a cavernous cargo bay and a robust 2.4-liter engine, the xB doesn't disappoint when it comes to daily driving duties. But we suspect few people exclaim, "Oh, it's so practical!" when they spy this Scion. The xB, you see, is the vehicle that made it hip to be square.
The Scion xB is a product of parent company Toyota's strategic effort to win the hearts and minds of younger buyers. The first-generation model was a surprise hit, and Scion redesigned the xB just last year. Though not quite as right-angled as the first xB, the current model is larger in useful ways while retaining the upright angles that made its predecessor so distinctive. The 2009 Scion xB is 1 foot longer, 3 inches wider and 2 inches shorter in height than the previous model. By American standards, this makes it more of a "real car" than an undersized novelty.
Another place where the xB has grown up is in the engine bay. Thanks to a 2.4-liter, 158-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the xB moves out smartly from a stop or around town. But shoppers expecting high fuel economy will likely be disappointed, the culprits being the larger engine size, four-speed automatic transmission (some competing models offer five-speeds) and, at highway speeds, all the aerodynamic efficiency of a toaster (albeit a stylish Michael Graves one from Target).
There are a few disappointments on the inside as well. Ergonomics leave something to be desired, and many of the interior plastics seem a bit low-budget even for this class of car. However, the xB will impress you with its utility. With the rear seats folded down, an SUV-like 70 cubic feet of cargo volume is available; flip the seats up and there's enough room in back for a couple of average-sized adults.
On the whole, the 2009 xB comes recommended. It's affordable, stylish and roomy, and it can be customized easily through Scion's dealer-sourced accessories. But if the xB has a few too many "rough edges" for your liking, you might also consider the Honda Element or more fuel-efficient (but less roomy) hatchbacks like the Mazda 3 or the Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix twins.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Scion xB compact wagon is available in only one trim level. 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 six-speaker Pioneer CD stereo. Audiophiles will appreciate the standard dedicated iPod jack, which allows one to control iPod playback through the head unit controls.
One of Scion's trademarks is dealer-installed customization options, and the xB has plenty. Buyers can add a rear spoiler, 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels, faux carbon-fiber interior trim and interior mood lighting in a choice of four colors. The optional premium audio system allows images and video to be downloaded 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 2009 Scion xB is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 158 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic with automanual control is optional. In performance testing, an automatic-equipped xB hustled from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds.
Given the xB's compact dimensions and four-cylinder power, fuel economy is underwhelming, clocking in at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway, or 24 mpg combined.
The 2009 Scion xB comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Unlike its Scion xD sibling, however, the xB does not have active front head restraints.
Interior Design and Special Features
We've never been pleased with centrally located gauges, and the xB's haven't changed our mind. At least the speedometer is an easily read digital display, although monitoring the diminutive tachometer requires far too much of the driver's attention. Other than the upgraded stereo's uniformly tiny buttons, most controls are straightforward, though some are a stretch for tall drivers. The steering wheel is nicely shaped but rests at a peculiar buslike angle and lacks a telescope function.
The xB's upright posture allows for a roomy cabin with pleasing passenger accommodations front and back. Boasting 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 70 cubic feet with those seats folded down (only 3 cubes smaller than the Toyota RAV4), the xB is a legitimate fair-weather alternative to compact SUVs.
The 2009 Scion xB feels fairly stable at highway speeds, although its slab-sided styling makes it vulnerable to crosswinds. Thanks to a relatively high center of gravity, the xB rolls significantly during cornering; low-speed maneuvers, however, feel quick and confident. Over rough surfaces, the suspension transmits ample road noise and impact shocks into the cabin. All in all, though, Scion's youthful target demographic should be pleased with the xB's driving demeanor.
Read our Scion xB Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test