2013 (Yeah, I Know) Scion xB

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This will probably be my last write-up of a 2013 model car. Hell, it ought to be – we’re only four weeks away from 2014. 2013 xB lead

It may also be my last write-up of the Scion xB.

Maybe Scion, period.

Toyota’s youth-focused spin-off brand is a bit green around the gills. Sales are down – and Toyota corporate is quietly allowing dealers to drop the Scion brand without penalty.

Reportedly, there is nothing “new” on deck, Scion-wise, until at least 2017 – and that’s speculative. That’s why they sent me a 2013 just weeks away from 2014.

It’s all they’ve got.

If there’s nothing new on deck for 2014, the xB’s probably a goner – and this is not a review but a requiem. The current model dates back to 2007, when it was introduced as a new ’08. That’s six going on seven years now.

Way beyond the past-due date.'13 xB dash shot

Personally, I like the xB. It has snarkiness going for it. It’s fun, it’s simple  – and unlike some of the newer competition (Nissan Cube) it’s not borderline dangerous on the highway.

But the aging xB has a number of all-too-obvious deficits that make it an increasingly hard sell in spite of its likable qualities.

Herewith the anticipatory autopsy:

WHAT IT IS

The xB a “Japanese box car” – the first of its type to be offered for sale in the US, the original model making its debut as an ’04 model. Prior to its appearance here, most Americans had only seen these funny-looking, stubby, tall-roofed little matchbox car runabouts in the background of TV feeds from Japan, where – due to the extremely crowded streets and nonexistent parking slots – such vehicles are extremely popular.2013 xB side view

The first-gen car was an immediate hit – and did much to establish the viability of the Scion brand, which was also all-new that year.

In ’08, there was an update – and the car (which was now larger and heavier as well as less “cute” looking) sold ok, but something was lost in translation. Fast forward to now. The xB is pretty much the same – and floundering.

Newer competitors such as the Kia Soul (base price just $15,495 vs. $17,725 for the xB) are eating its lunch and not even leaving the wrapper.

WHAT’S NEW2013 xB LCD

Late-production 2013s are be available with a touch-screen audio interface in place of the dated-looking (and hard to use) micro-buttoned head unit in older models. There are also minor styling tweaks, including integrated LED running lights.

A “10” (for ten years of Scion) special anniversary edition is also available. The package includes unique 16-inch wheels and a solar-powered illuminated shift knob (automatic-equipped models only).

WHAT’S GOOD

Still neat to look at and fun to knock around in.

Fairly quick – and quicker than several competitors.

Much quicker than the Nissan Cube.

Versatile layout/interior.

Doesn’t take up much space in the garage – or need much space on the street.

Costs about the same as the cute – but clunky – Cube ($17,570 to start).

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD2013 xB interior shot 2

Getting obviously long in the tooth – and not just appearance-wise. Bush-era technology four-speed automatic; five-speed manual at a time when six speeds abound.

Mediocre gas mileage (largely due to the technologically ut-of-date transmissions).

Noisy – and bouncy.

Chintzy-looking interior.

$2,230 more to start than the just-redesigned 2014 Kia Soul ($15,495 to start).

UNDER THE HOOD

The xB’s standard – and only available – engine is a 2.4 liter, 158 hp four, teamed up with either a five-speed manual transmission or (optionally) a four-speed automatic.2013 xB engine

It’s not a hot rod, but it’s hotter – 0-60 – than the base engined Kia Soul (1.6 liters, 130 hp) and the Nissan Cube (which only comes with a 122 hp, 1.8 liter engine). The Scion can break into the mid-eights, while the base-engined Kia and the only-engined Nissan are charter members of the 10 Second Club. It’s a noteworthy difference – and one measure by which the xB is still objectively better than the competition.

Kia does offer an optional 2.0 liter, 164 hp engine capable of getting the Soul to 60 in under eight seconds – best in class. However, it’s an upgrade that’ll cost you $3,500 over the Soul’s base price of $15,495 – and $1,270 more than Scion asks for the 158 hp xB.

The xB does ok on mileage, too: 22 city and 28 highway. This is less than average – but not by very much. The base-engined (1.6 liter) Soul only manages 25 city, 30 highway – and when equipped with its optional engine, this drops to 23 city, 28 highway – a dead heat with the xB. The real embarrassment – for Nissan – is the dismal mileage of the Cube, which despite being the least powerful and slowest of the three only manages 27 city and 31 on the highway (and that’s when equipped with its optional CVT automatic; the numbers drop to 25 city, 30 highway if you stay with the manual transmission).2013 xB automatic picture

What’s interesting – and a little tragic – is that probably the xB could have been the most economical car of the pack if it weren’t disadvantaged by its anachronistic five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions. The five speed manual can fly under the radar, maybe. But the optional four-speed automatic seems almost prehistoric compared with the six-speeds that are standard (or optional) in the others.

All the cars in this class are FWD.

ON THE ROAD

The xB doesn’t lack for power. The 2.4 liter engine pulls pretty hard, actually – and even when teamed with the crickety GHW Bush-era technology automatic, gives a good account of itself.

The downshifts are deep, though. 2013 xB road 1

And the climb back up the tach is steep.

You’re in fourth – top gear, remember – running 45 or so when you roll up behind a slow-poke Clover and need to bust a move to pass him. You floor it. The transmission drops down to third – and stays there, while the tach arcs upward to the engine’s 6,500 RPM redline. If there were a six-speed box behind the 2.4 engine, the drop down to fifth (or fourth) would not be as jarring – nor as noisy.

The RPMs would be lower, sooner.

Third is also what comes up whenever you move the gear shift lever into manual/Sport mode – because fourth is overdrive in this transmission. There are not many gears to play with here. And when you’ve recently spent a week driving a vehicle with an eight speed automatic (the 2014 Dodge Durango I recently reviewed, see here for that) a four speed transmission feels seriously 1990s.2013 xB gauges

But, it does the job – and fourth (overdrive) is deep enough that the revs at highway speeds are not noticeably higher than in a car with a six or seven (or even eight) speed automatic. It’s just the getting to overdrive – and the higher/noisier RPM fluctuations – that’s noticeably different.

The ride is a weak point. It’s very bouncy. But at least it’s not tipsy – which the body-roll-a-plenty Nissan Cube is. The latter, which is also subject to being knocked off course by crosswinds – is really is for city-urban commuting only.

The xB’s a much more highway (and corner) viable ride.

AT THE CURB2013 xB curb 1

The xB’s looks are its blessing – and its curse. There is no “it’s ok.” You either really like it – or you really don’t like it.

Initially, the clumsy-cute-harmless-friendly appearance was sales Viagra for Scion. As it still is – for Kia. The Soul is selling like ecstasy tabs at a rave. But the xB – and Scion – are suddenly no longer as hip as they used to be.

Why?

The market – in particular, the youth market – wants new stuff. And the xB is old. Especially from the perspective of a young 20-something. A recent college graduate – the target demo for cars of this type – saw the current xB knocking around his neighborhood when he was still in high school. In contrast, the Soul (and the Cube) are newness personified.

So, there’s that.

The other problem – for the xB – is that it doesn’t cross-shop well. The base price of the 2014 Soul is $2,230 lower than the 2013 xB’s price – and for young 20-somethings, $2k-plus is a lot of money.

If the xB cost $2k less than the Soul, it could probably get away with having a rougher-hewn, heavily hard plastic interior (not to mention the Bush-era technology four speed automatic) and fewer standard (and available) bells and whistles (the Soul comes standard with heated outside mirrors and Sirius-XM satellite radio and offers driver-selectable steering effort, heated and cooled seats, etc.). But these deficits call more attention to themselves when the car’s price is so much higher than an otherwise similar – but newer and nicer  – competitor such as the Soul.2013 xB radio

On the plus side, you can now get a 6.1 inch LCD touchscreen in the xB – which makes using the standard (and excellent sound quality) Pioneer sound system a whole lot easier – as well as classing up the joint. It is a night and day improvement over the bleak, aftermarket stereo looking head unit that it replaces – but which, unfortunately, it only replaces in the “10” anniversary edition xB. Lesser xBs still com with the ’90s-era aftermarket stereo looking head unit – with its tiny controls and buttons that are hard to see and even harder to use. If I’d been The Decider at Scion, I would have made the 6.1 inch LCD touchscreen standard-issue in all xB’s as a sort of fighting retreat or delaying action intended to maintain interest in the current car while awaiting the new car (assuming one’s coming).'13 xB interior 3

Though the interior feels a bit downmarket relative to the Soul’s, it has some sound functional attributes, such as numerous storage cubbies – and a shelf just above the glovebox. Headroom is generous – and visibility forward and to the sides is good.

Generic/general interest stuff:

The xB, though small, is larger on the outside than the Soul: 168.1 inches bumper to bumper vs. 163 inches for the Kia. Yet the Soul is roomier on the inside: 40.9 inches of legroom up front and 39.1 inches in the second row vs. 40.1 up front in the xB and 38 inches in the second row. These difference are relatively slight and so not a big deal. What is pretty startling, on the other hand, is the disparity in cargo room between the two. The 5 inches longer Scion’s got less cargo space behind the second row – 20 cubic feet vs. 24.2 for the ’14 Soul.

That, cue Paris Hilton voice, is huuuuge.2013 xB trunk

Interestingly, the much smaller (than both of them) Nissan Cube has about the same space for cargo – 11.4 cubic feet – and more legroom up front (42.4 cubes). The second row in the Cube is tight – 35.5 inches – but overall, it’s still more space efficient, all factors considered, than the much larger (it’s a foot longer overall) xB.

Again, the need for an update is all-too-obvious.

THE REST

One of Scion’s “sells” has been a whole catalog of dealer-available/over-the-counter customization options. The advantage with this approach – vs. aftermarket stuff – is that the components have been engineered by the people who made the vehicle, so you’re not taking any chances with safety, function or reliability. No warranty issues, either. 2013 xB badge

You can personalize your xB with any of several wheel packages (all the way up to 19s, which is a monster rim for a little runabout), performance exhaust/muffler, suspension parts, body parts (spoilers, fog lights) and – this is new – a boom box BeSpoke upgrade audio system with RCA jacks and a version of Toyota’s Entune app suite (Pandora, social media) plus GPS and the 6.1 inch touchscreen.

THE BOTTOM LINE

If you can swing a deal on an xB – which you probably can, given Scion’s straits – then it’s definitely worth considering the xB. It’s by no means a bad vehicle – it’s just that better ones are now available.

Some of them for less money.

Ouch.

Throw it in the Woods?

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18 COMMENTS

  1. I have been driving a 2006 xB since 2011. I routinely get 33-37 mpg because I live 24 miles from work and it is mostly highway miles. I got the car from my father who could not drive anymore because of eyesight issues. The car makes a lot of noise when accelerating and also when turning. I like this car better than the revised look of the 2008 and later models. You gave an accurate assessment of the xB. My mileage may be higher because I like to drive 60-65 on the interstates.

    • Hi Herb,

      Thanks for your perspective on this!

      I really liked the original – despite the flaws you mention. But the mileage is exceptional and the tight dimensions make it a great little urban/suburban runabout.

      I hope Scion doesn’t give up on it – though it looks like Toyota may be giving up on Scion….

  2. >> 2.4 liter, 158 hp four, teamed up with either a five-speed manual transmission or (optionally) a four-speed automatic. <<

    So, it's like the box a Corolla comes in?

  3. The 2008 update really ruined this car. The original xB was all about the boxiness, and for some kid with a lip ring, working in a bubble-fueled mortgage company, was easy to buy, and the look said “this time is different.” Then Toyota got nervous and made it curvier (maybe to help with the aerodynamics?), screwing up the distinctive look.

    Fast forward to today. The lip ring is gone, the kid escaped to college for a few years, but now had to move back home. He’s far more interested in finding a job than buying a new car, and with his student loans coming due, won’t be able to buy a new car for a long, long time anyway. Meanwhile his parents are trying to figure out how to pay for his insurance, since they’ll be on the hook if anything happens to him.

    50 is the new 30 is more than a lifestyle, it’s a marketing plan. Forget all you know about the 18-35 YO crowd being the most desirable demographic. They’re the next lost generation thanks to the boomers stealing their future. People with no money and no job don’t buy stuff. Boomers are constantly trying to act like they’re still kids, so all you have to do is wave a shiny object in front of them and tell them some 20 YO kid just bought one (marketing/lying, tomato/tomáto).

    • So Eric G, You think “the boomers” as a generation are responsible for destroying America’s economy? Then your age prejudice is fatally clouding your vision. Check the attendance at the next Bilderberg Group annual meeting. A lot of them are way too old to be boomers. Oh there are plenty of boomers too. And then among the “next generation” coming up, you will find a number of people your age…maybe even younger.

      Global tyrants are multi national, and inter generational. If you can be distracted into blaming everything on the boomers, you are playing right into their hands.

      Finally, few boomers buy Scion xBs. Here in the Snowbird Mecca of Phoenix’s Southeast Valley, most of them choose cars like Toyota Avalons or the Buick Rendevous. The ones who perceive themselves still “sporty” are farting around on Harleys. 😉

      • @Mike – “The ones who perceive themselves still “sporty” are farting around on Harleys. ;-)”

        Being a boomer myself – I love it. Especially the arthritic ones sporting a bad attitude, beard and vest full of patches.

        • @Gary- Yep. But I think that’s more of a “Harley thing,” which is also inter generational.

          And to correct my post above…. Buick’s full sized SUV is now called the “Enclave.”

        • Garysco, they’re bad to the bone till they cut the Harley off and try to walk. Having a Harley at my age is more ludicrous that it ever was. Naw, next bike for me they’ll be seeing an old man get off his dresser rice burner and limp away.

          • Eightsouthman – I love the look on the “kids” faces when I pull up on my Z1000, take my full face helmet off and display the wrinkles. I’m going to keep on riding some form of crotch rocket as long as I’m able. I’d really like to have a nice H2 oil burner, but for the same money I can pick up an even nicer ZX-14. I must say that I find the Kawasaki Concours very appealling as well these days. Even at my age, I could ride that bike from Missouri to Virginia without having to go a Chiropractor each time I got gas and still have fun carving up Eric’s neck o’ the woods. 😉

          • Boothe I was told recently I couldn’t get another bike. My wife said What about your leg? What about it? It’s as good a kickstand as ever and I can park closer to the door. It may hurt the bike won’t know the difference. I have to admit to a buzz going up my back every time I look at the ZX-14. I like that riding position too. I had a cafe fairing on my GS 1000 and I’d lay over the tank and use the rear pegs That was really comfortable and I got to listen to that sweet engine. And with the fairer sex on behind she got to lie down too. I never noticed the sweat till I stopped.

            • Hey Eight,

              That ZX-14 is an animal. So, of course, is the H2. But the ZX doesn’t give you fair warning like the H2 does. At idle, an H2 is as threatening as a cornered rattlesnake. You climb on fully aware what’s in store. Or should be aware.

              But the ZX? It idles not much differently than a standard Nighthawk 750. Certainly not anything to give you pause. So, you throw a leg over. There is plenty of torque on hand, so no need to feather the clutch while keeping the revs up coming off the line. But may the Motor Gods have mercy on you if you crack that throttle more than a third open in first or second – unless you are prepared to live vertically for a few and are adroit at the ol’ one wheel balance. An H2 will do that, too – but the difference is, you’re ready for it. You know that bike’s evil rep. About what happens around 6,000 RPM. The ZX is sneakier – and far more lethal. It has almost three times the hp of a stock H2 750. Reflect on the Newtonian possibilities of 180 hp in a 500 pound wrapper. But it feels reasonable… safe, even. At 120 MPH, an H2 is almost all done – and you feel suicidal for even trying. At 120 on a ZX, you’re just getting into your stride – and it feels like nothing. You need to be running at least 150 before the bike starts to feel like it’s even trying. And at 150, it is still pulling harder than the H2 at 70, WOT.

              As OJ used to say… Look out!

          • @8 – From the 2012 Cycle World Buyers Guide –
            Kawasaki’s awesome ZX-14R –

            ^ Superman’s superbike
            ^ Faster than a speeding bullet
            ^ Prompts childish and irresponsible behavior
            – Prompts childish and irresponsible behavior
            – Scares newbies in the first two gears
            – Scares everyone else after that

            545 pounds dry
            1441 cc 4 cylinder engine
            192 rear-wheel horsepower
            113 foot pounds of torque
            11,000 RPM- red line
            12.3:1 compression

            Out of the box, stock unmodified 1/4 mile on regular pump gas:
            first pass- 9.91 seconds / 149-mph
            second pass – 9.64 seconds / 149-mph
            175-mph in 1/2 mile

            In no uncertain terms this metallic-green ZX-14R proves that the glory of performance motorcycles continues. For just under $15,000, Kawasaki has once again produced the hardest accelerating mass production vehicle on earth.

    • Aww.. c’mon Swamp. How could they possibly drop this cutie?

      /sarc

      Probably the ugliest thing I’ve seen yet.

      “solar-powered illuminated shift knob”

      Now what the hell good is that at night? Sounds like movie producer James Cameron had a hand in it somewhere.

  4. Across the board…in almost every vehicle line it sells, Toyota stubbornly refuses to offer transmissions with as many forward speeds as their competitors. They feel they don’t have to, because their superior quality will entice buyers in spite of their dated drivetrains.

    This is exactly the kind of attitude that started General Motors on their downward spiral.

    • I agree completely, Mike.

      Toyota is whistling past the graveyard. Their rep. for quality/reliability/high resale value, etc., is still good, but it’s not what it was. That is, other brands are now damn good, too. It’s analogous to Volvo. All modern cars are “safe.” Not just Volvos. Volvo needs to give people other reasons to buy Volvos.

      Same goes for Toyota.

      Having both the xB and the new Soul at the same time really highlights the differences.

      Toyota needs a wake-up call.

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