Full 2011 Scion xB Review
What's New for 2011
The Scion xB gets some key changes for 2011. The exterior gets revised styling, while the interior gets some welcome new features like a telescoping steering wheel, a separate clock, more visually interesting upholstery and a center console bin with sliding armrest. This year's special-edition Release Series is now in its eighth iteration (hence the name 8.0) and features unique Voodoo Blue paint, a sunroof, blue-accented upholstery and a special body kit.
The Scion xB started life dripping with hipster cool. It was a box among curves, a fashionable rebellion from the norm if there ever was one in the automotive world. Driving an xB was like wearing skinny jeans, wrapping a scarf around your neck in the middle of summer and donning a thin-brimmed fedora. Yet just as those fashion trends will inevitably lose their cool, so to speak, the 2011 Scion xB has lost some of its hipster image to time, familiarity and a second generation that sacrificed some funk for functionality.
But just because something's a fading trend doesn't mean it's not without merit. That boxy shape may not be as unique as it once was thanks to copycats like the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube, but being shaped like a box has other advantages. For one, the xB boasts more maximum cargo space than most rivals and even some midsize SUVs. Passenger space is just as impressive; there's enough headroom for you to don that fedora, and the backseat is so spacious relative to the exterior proportions that cab companies in Chicago have added xBs to their fleets. For 2011, a new telescoping steering wheel makes finding a comfortable seating position easier for taller drivers.
Despite losing some of its cool vibe, Scion hasn't abandoned its goal of trying to stay ahead of the game in those areas that matter most to young buyers. The main way to do that: audio systems. Standard on every xB is a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with an iPod interface, a regular auxiliary audio jack, an RCA output for additional speakers and a customizable head unit display. An upgraded system from Alpine adds a touchscreen interface and a knob that mimics an iPod's controls, while a "media expander" improves digital-music quality.
The main drawback to the 2011 Scion xB is its fuel economy. Though surprisingly punchy, the 158-horsepower four-cylinder achieves fuel economy that's the same or better than crossovers like the Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4. The xB is cheaper to begin with and offers similar interior space, so we think it's still a smart alternative to those popular family vehicles. Of course, it's a safe bet the Scion xB was never meant to be mentioned in the same sentence as "family vehicle." For those who shudder at those words and proudly wear that scarf in July, the xB still has undeniable appeal.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Scion xB is a four-door, five-passenger wagon available in two trim levels: base and the low-volume Release Series (RS) 8.0. Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, rear window tint, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, driver seat height adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer and a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack, 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 audio files. A back-up camera and a navigation system can be added to the Alpine setup.
The xB Release Series 8.0 adds to the base car's equipment exclusive Voodoo Blue paint, a sunroof, a four-piece lower body kit and blue-accented upholstery. A unique rear spoiler is available on the 8.0.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2011 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 and a four-speed automatic with automanual control is the xB's lone factory option. 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 2011 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.
The xB has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) saw it earning 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 those on the xB 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 the driver, 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 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, but audiophiles should appreciate their extensive range of adjustability.
For 2011, the previous temperature gauge has been replaced in favor of a separate clock, which used to be buried among myriad trip computer functions. Also new is a telescoping function to the steering wheel; it provides a much better driving position for taller drivers who otherwise will find plenty of leg- and headroom. 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 2011 Scion xB feels fairly stable at highway speeds, although its slab-sided styling makes it vulnerable to crosswinds. Due to a relatively high center of gravity, the xB rolls significantly during cornering, but it feels responsive and confident at lower speeds. Over especially rough surfaces, the suspension transmits impact harshness into the cabin, and road and wind noise are constant companions at high freeway speeds. All in all, though, Scion's youthful target demographic should be pleased with the xB's driving demeanor, as should be older folks simply looking for a space-efficient runabout.