Full 2010 Scion xB Review
What's New for 2010
The Scion xB receives upgrades to its standard and optional audio systems for 2010.
Forget Huey Lewis -- it's the Scion xB that has made it hip to be square in recent years. From oddity to cult favorite, the first box-on-wheels xB was a surprise success for Toyota's youth-oriented brand. Like the tiny original, today's 2010 Scion xB (which is the third year of the second generation) offers the same offbeat image, affordable price and abundant personalization options, yet it also has more power and more interior space to appeal to even more car shoppers. The fact that Scion's competitors have unleashed a wave of rival boxes indicates that the xB's formula has considerable merit.
While the xB is naturally a big draw with practicality-minded buyers, Scion hasn't lost sight of its original mission to be a hip, funky brand for hip, funky youngsters. For 2010, that means improving the standard and optional stereo systems. The factory-installed Pioneer stereo gets a new faceplate that provides a large display screen and a multipurpose control knob designed for use with the standard iPod interface. A new RCA output allows owners to plug in an aftermarket subwoofer.
If that's not enough to satisfy your inner audiophile, the optional Alpine Premium stereo adds a different faceplate with a touchscreen interface and a knob that combine to mimic an iPod's controls. A series of buttons makes switching among the seven different audio sources easy. Also included with the Alpine system is HD radio, a "media expander" that improves the sound quality of digital music files and additional RCA outputs for further expandability. A navigation system and a back-up camera can also be added to the upgraded stereo.
Beyond these changes to the sound system, the xB remains a practical way to be offbeat. The xB's boxy shape and surprisingly sizable proportions provide a maximum of 70 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seatbacks folded, which is only 3 cubes less than the capacity of Toyota's RAV4. Raise those seats and there's enough room in back for a pair of full-size adults. The xB is also quite powerful thanks to a punchy 158-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It's not the most fuel-efficient engine around, though, which is a definite drawback to the xB. Other demerits include distracting center-mounted gauges and a non-telescoping wheel that will likely infuriate taller drivers.
On the whole, the 2010 Scion xB is a compelling choice in the expanding segment of "compact boxes" that straddle the lines between hatchback, wagon and even compact crossover SUV. However, the xB's subpar fuel economy, so-so driver comfort and bizarre gauge layout can't be overlooked. As such, competitors like the Chevy HHR, Honda Element, Kia Soul and Nissan Cube should be explored, as each offers its own brand of practical strangeness. If getting the most space out of a small, economical package is more important than the boxy look, the Honda Fit is probably a better choice. The xB may have made it hip to be square, but it's no longer the only box in town.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Scion xB is a five-passenger tall wagon available in a single trim level. Standard equipment includes 16-inch steel wheels, a choice of three plastic wheel covers, keyless entry, rear window tint, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, driver seat height adjustment, a tilt steering wheel, a trip computer, steering-wheel audio controls and a six-speaker Pioneer stereo with a CD player, a USB audio jack, an auxiliary audio jack, an iPod interface, a customizable display and an RCA output for additional speakers.
Options are plentiful and mostly added at the dealer. Among them are 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, remote ignition, ambient multicolor lighting, a selection of shift knobs, an auto-dimming mirror, headrest-mounted DVD entertainment system monitors, satellite radio, a subwoofer and an Alpine Premium audio system with a touchscreen faceplate, HD radio, additional RCA outputs and a "media expander" that improves the sound quality of digital sound files. A back-up camera and a navigation system can be added to the Alpine setup.
Powertrains and Performance
The Scion xB is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 that produces 158 hp and 162 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while a four-speed automatic with automanual control is one of the xB's few factory options. In performance testing, an automatic-equipped xB hustled from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. EPA estimates are below average for this segment at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.
The 2010 Scion xB comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In braking tests, the xB came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet, a solid performance. Government crash tests yielded four stars (out of five) for both driver and passenger in frontal impacts, and a perfect five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the xB its highest rating of "Good" for both frontal-offset and side impact crashes.
Interior Design and Special Features
We've never been pleased with centrally mounted primary gauges, and the xB's haven't changed our mind. At least the speedometer is an easily read digital display, but it's way over to the right rather than in front of us, and monitoring the diminutive tachometer requires far too much of the driver's attention. While the climate controls couldn't be any simpler, both of the 2010 xB's available radio faceplates are clearly intended for a younger generation used to iPhones and other high-tech gizmos. In other words, they aren't exactly user-friendly. We're also not all that keen on the xB's abudance of hard-plastic interior panels.
The steering wheel is nicely shaped but desperately needs a telescope function for taller drivers, who may have trouble reaching the wheel when the seat is adjusted for proper legroom. 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, the xB is a legitimate fair-weather alternative to compact SUVs.
The 2010 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, but it feels responsive and confident at lower speeds. Over rough surfaces, the suspension transmits ample impact harshness into the cabin, and road and wind noise are constant companions. All in all, though, Scion's youthful target demographic should be pleased with the xB's driving demeanor, as well as older folks simply looking for a space-efficient runabout.
Read our Scion xB Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test