The 2008 Scion xB reminds you of what was accomplished by the first 2004 xB, a car so shocking that the entire Scion brand still revolves around it.
Of course, it is true that the conventionally styled tC coupe now out-sells the xB. And you might remember that the company also sells a small hatch.
Since the xB hit the street as a 2004 model, Scion has gained attention for its innovative commitment to personalizing its cars with optional accessories, its no-haggle pricing, and its thriving cultlike segment of borderline-scary owners, yet this is still the company recognized because it builds that funny box car.
So when it came time to design the all-new 2008 Scion xB, there was little chance it would be anything but a box.
Thinking Inside the Bigger Box Odd as it might seem, what you see in these pictures and will begin seeing in Scion dealerships in a week or two is an Americanized version of the box thing. This is to say, the new xB is longer, lower and wider, and it has a bigger, more powerful engine.
The car that became the original 2004 Scion xB was never designed to American tastes. It was purely a product of Japan, where space is at a premium and styles, at least to American eyes, run from cutesy to what-in-god's-name. But this box is built for America, and there is currently no version of the new xB in the Japanese market.
At 167.3 inches, the '08 xB is longer by exactly a foot than the outgoing model. The new version is 3 inches wider than the old one. It rides on a wheelbase that's 4 inches longer. Its 16-valve, DOHC, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is the same that powers the Scion tC and the base-model Toyota Camry, and its increased displacement helps produce a maximum output of 158 horsepower, some 55 hp more than the previous motor.
If you looked only at the specifications, you'd think that the 2008 xB and Chrysler PT Cruiser were essentially the same car — a comparison that will surely make the Scion faithful cringe. But if you strip away the guerrilla-marketing programs and the thumping, bass-heavy music that always seems to accompany Scion events, the xB and the PT serve exactly the same purpose.
Of course, judging by the photographs of the Scion nation that we've seen, all xB owners flash mock gang signs at the camera whenever a picture is taken of them. We don't recall PT Cruiser owners doing any such thing.
No Toy Box With height and width measurements that were nearly identical, the old xB upended so many basic car-design conventions that it became something of a curiosity — a toy. It was adorable to some; silly to others. And so the most telling difference between the old xB and the new one is that the new box is actually some 2 inches shorter in overall height.
There isn't any real function lost in the diminished dimension. There's 100.8 cubic feet of passenger volume compared to the 90.1 cubic feet offered by the old car, and there's still more-than-generous headroom inside for all five passengers. The new xB's greater track and width combined with its relatively modest height of 62.6 inches also help give the car some real stance on the road. Less like a toolbox on coasters and more like, you know, a real car.
The new look is a pretty accurate predictor of the way the car performs. The '08 xB feels more substantial and more stable, and it's ultimately more satisfying to drive than the previous model. It still has a relatively high center of gravity, so body roll is your constant companion. But when a corner arrives, the new xB leans smoothly and progressively as the force of physics makes its presence known, allowing you to pour the car into turns more smoothly than the somewhat tippy original.
The new xB rides on standard 205/55R16 all-season tires, so it doesn't have a huge amount of grip and will not inspire you to push the cornering limit. What you'll find, should the limit appear, is resolute understeer. If you want more grip, your friendly Scion dealer will be happy to offer you a number of optional wheel-and-tire packages that range all the way up to 19-inchers, though we suspect the nose-heavy distribution of the xB's prodigious 3,020 pounds (some 625 pounds more than before) will keep its handling dynamics from changing much.
The Power To Be Pleasant The real revelation in the new xB is the new engine. The former 1.5-liter pea-shooter saw to it that you made some sacrifices for your funky style. In comparison, the new xB's 2.4-liter four-cylinder is thoroughly Camry-ized.
First of all, it's smooth thanks to dual counter-rotating balance shafts. And it has a broad, usable power band with a robust 162 lb-ft of torque on tap, so the xB is finally not as slow as it looks. Should you like, the Scion dealer can arrange to have a supercharger bolted on as an option, which should bring the peak power to 200 hp for a price not yet determined.
The xB's overall driving character is pleasant. Thanks to plenty of acoustic insulation, it's admirably quiet with little road or wind noise. The fairly rudimentary combination of MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion-beam rear suspension delivers a comfortable ride that is never jarring. And the engine never strains while pulling around the xB, despite the new car's weight. The 2008 Scion xB is, in a word, more adult than its predecessor.
Checking All the Boxes Styling and image might define Scion cars more than anything else, but value is a critical part of the equation, too. At $16,230 for an example with a five-speed manual transmission, the xB is certainly inexpensive. The optional four-speed automatic costs another $950.
And the price represents good value, too. The list of standard equipment is unexpectedly long and includes cruise control, power windows, audio controls on the steering wheel, a six-speaker sound system with both iPod-specific and standard auxiliary inputs, air-conditioning, and remote keyless entry. All xBs also come with four-wheel disc brakes (the old model had rear drums), ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, side airbags for the front seats, and curtain-type airbags for front and rear seats.
Of course, you'll also find a few obvious examples of cost-cutting on this car. Old-school plastic wheel covers on steel wheels are standard equipment and make the xB look a bit like a small commercial vehicle. The automatic transmission offers just four ratios for forward thrust instead of the five- and even six-speed automatic transmissions of some competitors. We would opt for the five-speed manual anyway, since it makes the xB feel more responsive.
Don't Forget the Bottom Line In Scion-speak, an accessory is what other companies call options, and they are a very big deal in building Scion's reputation for personalized vehicles as well as a prime contributor to the profit picture of Scion dealers. The most important of these accessories are an upgraded stereo system, navigation system, foglights and floor mats. Most of the rest of the items — both from Scion and a select group of Scion-approved vendors — are primarily cosmetic filigree. Meanwhile, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) offers a host of performance upgrades, including wheels, suspension pieces, an exhaust system and even a limited-slip differential. Go crazy, and you could end up with a quite expensive inexpensive car.
Our only real complaint about the new xB isn't what's changed from the old car, but one of the things that remain unchanged, like the center-mounted gauge cluster, which served no real purpose when Toyota introduced it on the Echo and hasn't improved with age.
Otherwise, the new 2008 Scion xB is quite a nice and practical car. We'd certainly buy it before we would a PT Cruiser or a Chevrolet HHR. Because, let's face it, those cars are square.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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How do people like the 2008 Scion xB? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2008 Scion xB and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2008 xB 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2008 xB.
Review I bought my 2008 XB used, with 26k miles at around 25 months old. It's a 5-speed model, and was at a dealership for a very nice price, perhaps because most people don't drive cars with manuals these days. Most of these Scions are holding their value very well, so it was hard to pass this one up. I'm a 50 year old guy, who's now more interested in a roomy, economical, and reliable car, than one which I hope will impress people. I've owned it for over one year now, and have some good impressions, and some not so good. Driving experience: The car handles and brakes surprisingly well. The suspension is very simple and should prove rugged and reliable. The steering ratio is quick, the turning radius short, and the suspension quite firm without being harsh. The driving position however seems at odds with the handling prowess of the car. From the drivers seat, it just doesn't feel particularly sporty. There are minimal seat adjustments, decent but not well bolstered seats, and a rather high mounted shift lever, with the end result just feeling a bit awkward if you try to drive in too agressive of a manner. While the seats are indeed better than most I found in this price/class of vehicle, it would be nice for a lumbar control or lower seat angle adjustment. The drivers seat will raise and lower, but it's pivoted at the front, thus when raised you tip forward. On the highway it's surprisingly quiet and composed for an econocar. One odd problem I've found is when wearing my size 11 work boots, my left toe rubs on the clutch pedal lever unless I pull my leg back un-naturally, while my right foot can just barely fit between the brake pedal and the center housing to reach the gas pedal. There simply isn't much room under there for an average work boot. My normal shoes don't experience this problem. There's a sizable right rear blind spot, which makes it a crap shoot backing out of an angled parking space, as well as large side view mirrors which obstruct your view to the side. If you tend to drive in nice weather with the window down and your arm hanging out, you may want to begin looking for a decent physical therapist since the window opening is quite high and you'll eventually tear your rotator cuff. Winter driving: The standard tires are round, and that's about it. The traction control works very well, asuming it's working (more later) and it's needed, due to the lame tread pattern of the Bridgestone tires, and very low ground clearance of the car. Many people lower these cars, which should make them a real adventure when encountering a pothole. Speaking of tires, the spacesaver spare is mounted on a wheel, the color of which should be called puke yellow. I reckon that's so you won't be tempted to leave it on for long. There's no discrete vent always aimed at the drivers side window to keep the side view mirror visible on frosty days, so you'll need to aim your dash vent in that direction. The passenger side has a separate vent. Perhaps it's the small wheel wells, but ice tends to form in the front wheel wells and rub on the tires, more than in most cars. Engine: Impressive low rpm punch, acceleration, snort, whatever you want to call it. This thing just plain scoots if you want it to. I do my own repairs, and the normal maintenance items are easy to find under the hood, with the parts that will eventually fail (alternator, water pump, A/C compressor) easy to see and reach. There is some chatter on a Scion forum about leaking water pumps, and mine isn't visibly leaking yet, although there is a pink stripe directly above the pump on the underside of the hood. Gas mileage-wise, I get 23-26 in city winter driving, in the cold state of Iowa, which I feel is fine since my daily commute is only a few miles each way. In warm weather the number rises to 25-28 in town, and up to 35 on a mixture of 55 and 65 mph roads. These figures are when the car is carefully driven however. Transmission: A smooth but long throw hydraulic clutch, widely spaced gear ratios, and a high mounted shifter without a reverse lock result in a car that doesn't ask to be driven aggressively. It took me a few weeks of driving to make nice smooth shifts. People do praise the automatic transmission, but I never drove one. 65 mph occurs at 2700 rpm, which is fairly normal for a car like this, although I do feel the car has the power to be geared higher. Interior: I like the blank dash in front of my face when looking straight down the road. Having the instruments slightly to the right gives you an un-cluttered view of where you're going, which is a good thing. A few of the oddities are slightly annoying however. The only clock is part of the trip computer, which has 8 functions. You can only view one at a time, so if you're watching the gas mileage, you don't see the clock. If you could choose which function to view from the steering wheel there would be no problem, but you can't. The standard radio is actually closer to the passenger than the driver, which is a bit odd, and the climate control's temperature knob is behind the shifter knob when in odd numbered gears. Speaking of the standard Pioneer stereo system, it's impressive. I'm an audio nut from long ago, and can honestly say that unless you're a kid wishing to annoy entire neighborhoods with hip-hop, you won't be upset with the sound quality, assuming you learn how to use the various features of the stereo. Most factory stereos in a car of this price are fairly basic, but this one is a nice surprise. Well done Scion. The interior feels cavernous, with easy access (meeting the approval of my 89 year old Mom), backseat legroom like a limo, and enough hard surfaces to create echos. The center console is a few inches too low to be of any use as an armrest, but its storage area is deep enough to hold CDs. The drivers seat has a fold down arm rest, that gets in the way of the seat belt when up, so that's a minor annoyance. There's a storage area under the rear seats, which is a fine idea, except that whatever you put under there tends to slide around a lot on the hard plastic. I recently loaded a standard sized kitchen range into the rear and closed the hatch, so there is indeed lots of useful space. Exterior: Yeah, it's odd looking, so what? It would be nice to have a key lock for the rear hatch, just in case. The only keyhole on the outside of the car is for the driver's door. The roof is the longest, flattest expanse seen since the early 70's full sized station wagons, which is a good thing since I use an aftermarket roof rack for a canoe or kayak, and the further apart the bars are, the better. The paint seems to be very thin and dainty. It's just too easy to scratch, so you'll be needing a container of touch-up paint, which judging from the price at the Scion dealer, contains precious metals and diamonds. Problems: Being the first year for this model, there are indeed some bugs. Some quite serious and pricy, if they occur after the warranty expires. In my case, my anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control are now kaput due to a known problem with a rear wheel speed sensor, and being two months out of warranty, I'm looking at a 700 - 900 dollar repair. And that's only for one of the sensors. Double that number when the other one fails. It seems as though they aren't waterproof. Scion knows about the problem, there's a TSB on it, but chooses not to issue a recall or an extended warranty on this issue. Since it concerns most of the safety functions of the car, I find that disturbing. There are also issues with the water pump, electric power steering, windshield cracking, and an assortment of creaks and groans to name a few. Overall, I'm basically pleased with the car, but disturbed by the reliabilty concerns. It reminds me of the Ford Fiestas from the late 70's, on a larger scale, but without the simplicity and reliability.
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What options are available on the 2008 Scion xB?
Available Scion xB 2008 Submodel Types: Wagon
Available Trims: Base, Release Series 7.0, 686 Parklan Edition, Scion 10 Series, Release Series 8.0
Exterior Colors: Black Sand Pearl, Super White, Classic Silver Metallic, Nautical Blue Metallic, Sizzling Crimson Mica, Blue Onyx Pearl, Absolutely Red, Amry Rock Metallic, Army Rock Metallic, Thunder Cloud Metallic, Envy Green, Silver Ignition, Stingray Metallic, Blackberry Crush Metallic, Cocoa Bean Metallic, Elusive Blue Metallic, Hypnotic Teal Mica, Murasaki, Polar White, Voodoo Blue
Interior Colors: Dark Charcoal cloth, Dark Gray cloth, Black and Blue Highlights cloth, Black premium cloth
Popular Features: Fold Flat Rear Seats, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Aux Audio Inputs, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, USB Inputs, Bluetooth, Back-up camera, Upgraded Stereo, Alarm, Navigation, Sunroof/Moonroof