Although Toyota introduced its Scion division to the U.S. market in 2002, it didn't make its way to Canada until late 2010.
The delay happened because the company wanted to see how things went in the States before it took the trouble of introducing Scion to the relatively small Canadian market and Generation Y-ers – who were, and still are, the primary target for these vehicles – a demographic that had apparently not reached its full potential in Canada by 2002. Toyota didn't want to go through the effort of setting up dealerships, building an advertising campaign, bringing in service personnel and all the rest to address a market that didn't exist.
The company's fears were groundless. By the time they got to Canada, Toyota had sold more than 700,000 Scions in the United States, and the Generation Y-ers that the company had been courting so energetically responded enthusiastically and positively.
Three models were initially available: xD, xB and tC. The xB was – and is – the most popular and ushered in the "hip to be square" trend also found in the Honda Element, Nissan Cube and Kia Soul.
Basically a mobile box, with four doors and a hatchback, the functional xB was powered by a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The back seats folded down to reveal 308 litres of cargo volume.
The xB was utilitarian without being bleak and, although it was aimed at physically active Gen-Yers, it also appealed to anyone that needed to move stuff or people around on a regular basis. By way of comparison, when Honda introduced its Element, a few years before, it too was ostensibly aimed at active Y-ers who cycled, surfed, boarded and skated as part of their lifestyle. It ended up being the vehicle of choice for aging baby boomers and garage-sale trolling grannies, and the xB, despite Toyota's marketing insights, seemed destined to enjoy the same fate.
But what was interesting about the xB – and all Scion models – was its pricing structure. The price quoted by Toyota was all-in, and included standard features such as air conditioning, cruise control, power door locks, tilt-telescoping steering, power windows with one-touch up/down feature on the driver's side, Bluetooth and a full whack of safety features.
You could also order leather interior with heated front seats, an engine block heater, upgraded stereo, glitzy 18-inch alloy wheels, lowering kit, heavy-duty clutch and so on. These extras, however, were classed as accessories, not options. Whatever.
As well as being highly functional, the xB offered decent – but not exceptional – fuel economy: 9.5 litres/100 km in the city and 7.2 on the highway for both the manual and automatic transmission versions.
One safety recall is on file with Transport Canada and it's more of a bureaucratic snafu than a safety issue. Some of the optional alloy wheels may be mislabelled regarding air pressure and load limit. Dealers will set this straight.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has this one too, with three technical service bulletins as well. These involve possibly malfunctioning front seat-belt pre-tensioners, a service update for the "crankshaft position sensor" and a precautionary bulletin regarding Toyota's infamous stuck gas pedal imbroglio. No complaints from owners.
Consumer Reports really likes this one, and it gets top marks in every category but one: squeaks and rattles. No surprise there – the xB does ride a little hard. Says C.R.: "Good visibility and compact dimensions make the xB a great city car." It gets this organization's top marks for used-car prediction and rates a "Good Bet" designation. Comments from owners: "paint could be slightly better quality," "large blind spots when backing up" and "seats are very comfortable, back seat is very roomy, rear cargo area generous."
Market research firm J.D. Power is equally positive. The 2011 xB gets this organization's highest marks for overall performance and design, and a "better than most" grade for predicted reliability. High points include comfort level, performance and interior design, while areas that don't measure up include style, fuel economy and overall quality. Some comments from owners: "Handles well in snowy conditions," "at highway speeds road noise drowns out radio" and "it feels very roomy for a smaller vehicle."
No surprise then that the xB has held its value well. From a base price of more than $18,000 in 2011, it has held steady in the mid to high teens. Expect to pay about $1,000 more for the automatic transmission version.
2011 Scion xB
Original Base Price: $18,270; Black Book: $15,775-$16,825; Red Book: $14,225
Engine: 2.4-litre, four-cylinder
Horsepower/Torque: 158 hp/162 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed manual and four-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 9.5 city/7.2 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Honda Fit, Suzuki SX4, Nissan Cube, Ford Transit, Chevrolet HHR, Kia Soul, Kia Rondo, Volkswagen Golf wagon, Toyota Matrix
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