(first posted 5/3/2013)
(I only did a few actual car reviews during my four years with TTAC. One can’t exactly get press cars in Eugene, so it was a case of taking a dealer car on a test drive. I decided I wanted an Xb in April of 2007 for my next car, by which point there were already none left at the dealers. The new gen2 hadn’t arrived yet, but from little information there was about it, I already knew I was going to be better off with a gen1, and I found a cherry used one. I got to know the Scion specialist at the dealer, who knew I wrote for TTAC, and he called me when the first one came in and let me take it for a long drive. I was a bit shocked; it seemed retrograde in almost every respect except for a few, certainly in the categories that had made the xB so endearing and unique. So I spit out a review as soon as I got home, and it ran the next day, pretty much the first actual review of the gen2 on the web. Needless to say, it was pretty controversial, and it went viral. It’s not the typical, objective review (what would you expect?), and it has to be seen in the context of the times, when GM was tanking, and Toyota was riding high. – PN)
Having wrested the title “world’s largest car manufacturer” from General Motors, Toyota’s already committing some of the same mistakes that brought GM down. The all-new 2008 Scion xB is a blot on Toyota’s relatively unblemished copybook. It bristles with classic GM-think: dumb it down, fatten it up and cheapen it out.
The original xB was a brilliant design, an instant cult-classic, as unique and iconic as the original VW Beetle. The “toaster” elicited the same emotional responses as the old bug: children, young drivers, and the young at heart loved it. More traditional folks often hated it. It’s a controversial, polarizing but original design, and a highly practical one. The gen1 xB is barely longer than a Mini and almost as much fun to drive, with the accommodations of a Tahoe, and yielding thirty-plus mpg.
If the gen1 xB evoked images of a lacquered bento box lunch, the new xB evokes a big, sloppy hamburger wrapped in greasy paper. Toyota’s drive to assimilate into the American heartland is relentless; its Texas Tundra brand BBQ sauce-stained fingerprints are all over this little porker.
The xB has gained 650 pounds, a foot in length, and three inches in width. Obviously, there’s a price to pay at the gas pump for that corn-fed heft. EPA numbers are down almost 25 percent for the city cycle (’06 adjusted), from 28 to 22 mpg.
That xB’s extra 12 inches are totally wasted; it all goes to making the hood longer. More room to mount a set of Texas steer horns? And since height is reduced, the XB actually loses usable passenger space.
The throne-like seating position has lost four inches of leg room. Headroom has also diminished. Ditto the back seat, where my 6’4” frame once sat in limo-comfort, with a good four inches of clearance to the front back-rest. Now my knees graze the horrendously cheap-feeling fabric of the front seats.
The xB’s front seats might as well have been lifted straight out of a 1971 Chevy Vega. Where the old xB thrones were nicely bolstered and contoured, with a nubby textural two-tone fabric, the new ones are molded blobs covered in a dreary monolithic black fabric. Even the Chevy Aveo’s seats put these to shame.
Toyota must have scored a volume deal from GM for vintage interior molds; the door panels are now harder than a trigonometry quiz. The xB’s lamentable polymerization also includes the upper arm-rest surface where my elbow likes to rest. At least the Vega had a little cushion there.
The xB’s interior package suffers mightily from the reshaped dimensions, the new seating position and the new model’s higher belt-line. The xB’s superb view– favored by many of its elderly patrons– has been cruelly reduced. Now one sits deep and low, Hummer style, peering out gun-slit windows. And less of them: the rear three-quarter windows have disappeared.
The cute, perfectly positioned, oval-shaped analog instrument cluster that once perched atop the xB’s artistically shaped and textured dash has been replaced by four small oval, orange-lit displays. They’re buried low and deep in the middle of the ponderous dash. The nervously-flashing digital speedometer is yet another 1980’s GM throw-back.
The new XB has the Camry’s 2.4-liter 158hp engine. It’s a competent and smooth-enough mill that makes the new xB a somewhat faster vehicle, but a less engaging one. The old XB’s little 1.5-liter engine had an eager willingness and mechanical presence that made every trip to the pizzeria fun, especially with the stick.
In another GM-esque move, the Camry’s five-speed automatic didn’t make the bean-counter’s cut; the xB’s old four-speed slushbox soldiers on. Buyers opting for the manual tranny now row their boat with a shifter that protrudes from a large extension from the bottom of the dash– which only enhances the perception of lost interior real estate. The gen1 xB offered van-like leg room, a boon in these console-constricing times. Equally annoying, the vague-acting clutch pedal sticks up higher than the brake pedal.
The new XB is faster, but the fun (and challenge) is gone. The new-found heft and softer ride takes xB handling from Mini territory right to into Camry Land. And we all now how engaging and exciting THAT is.
The xB’s electrically-assisted steering lacks the crispness and linearity of the former hydraulic unit. There were times I swear I could feel the electric motor on the other end of the steering column muttering back at me under its breath– in a way that reminded me of my fifteen year old son.
Is there anything good to say about the new, ostensibly improved Scion XB? Yes. It now comes with cruise control and more air bags.
In short, the xB has become nothing more than a low-content five-door Camry. It’s Toyota’s el-cheapo ($16,230) version of the Chevrolet Malibu Maxx.
In fact, the new xB doesn’t deserve the Scion moniker, which established the brand’s U.S. reputation as a provider of affordable automobiles with original style, efficiency, quality, innovation and fun. Maybe Toyota could get a deal on the Oldsmobile name from GM.
Postscript: The gen2 xB is an interesting case study. The gen1 (Toyota bB) was original designed strictly for domestic consumption, an urban rolling lounge for young Japanese who had little or no space at home. When the Scion brand was launched, the bB was federalized to meet US regs, but nothing about was oriented specifically to the US market. It was a gutsy gamble, and one that paid off handsomely, as the gen1 xB sold very well during its three model years (2004, 2005, 2006), and was the car that put Scion on the map.
The gen2 xB was the exact opposite: it was designed specifically for the US market, supposedly based on what Toyota thought Americans wanted, and/or the feedback they were getting from xB owners. The result is that it lost many of the original’s most endearing and appealing features. It would have been much better to refine the original just slightly, dropping in the xD’s 1.8 liter engine for the extra power folks were asking for.
The gen2 xB has been a big sales disappointment for Toyota, never selling nearly the numbers that the gen1 did. Six years later, it’s still on the market, but has been eclipsed by the Kia Soul and the Nissan Cube. What Toyota forgot is the lesson that VW learned early on with its original Beetle: ride the momentum of passion and enthusiasm for as long as you can, and don’t change a winning formula; just improve it.The xB had the potential to be a modern-day Beetle; maybe not for twenty five years, but certainly more than three. Toyota cut it short with the gen2 xB, and is not likely to get it back. One wonders if there will be a gen3 xB.
Here’s the COAL on my xB:
COAL: 2005 Scion xB – My First (And Last?) Toyota – Eleven Years Old And Only One Slightly Annoying Issue
An excellent critique and one that really hits home, as I’ve got a 2005 bB. No, that’s not a misprint, I’m assuming its an aftermarket/dealer optional package that I’ve yet to see on another xB in the Richmond, VA area. All the markings on the are JDM bB, only the left side steering wheel and ‘Scion’ rather than ‘Toyota’ badges on the steering wheel and wheels give it away.
I like the little car a great deal. It’s not a sports car, but I can switch between my Porsche 924S and it, run the same roads, and not be disappointed by the Scion. It’s a nicer driver than the Porsche 968 convertible mit Triptronic I test drove yesterday, although its the automatic that killed the 968. There should be a special circle of hell for anyone who puts an automatic in a sports car.
Gas mileage is 32mpg in the daily commute (half US two-lane road, half suburban stop-and-go). Reliability has been good, but nowhere near the “American cars are crap, Toyota is God’s own car” reputation that has been over-bandied around.
Biggest complaints? Lack of a cruise control, and I wish the roof was a couple of inches lower, as there’s a Yakima bicycle rack on permanent installation. Modern racing bikes aren’t a problem, but put a coupe of vintage British 3-speed roadsters up there, and the back starts to twinge.
The first thing I did to mine was add the after-market cruise control. A couple of hours of work well worth it. I can’t bear not to have CC.
My main complaints: too noisy on the freeway for long trips, and an overly-harsh ride to go along with it. We take the Forester on long trips now.
Reliability: 100% perfect, except the clutch issue I brought up here once. That was covered by the warranty, but it’s still not 100% right. Other than that, absolutely zero issues. What have you had to deal with?
Speaking of the Forester (sorry for veering of course) but there’s a very nasty Turbo charged model that looks tasty— going to check it out Saturday am.
I tested and reviewed one too. Blazing fast. Actually faster accelerating than the WRX at the time, because the Forester XT had a lower final gear ratio.
1/4 mile in 13.6 seconds, the same as a hemi Charger in 1969. Yet perfectly civilized. Very tempting.
Wife loves the Crosstrek, but I will be lobbying for the muscular Forester.— very sharp.
@Fastback: If you can fit what you need to in a Crosstrek, I’d go for an Impreza/Impreza Sport hatchback sans fake woo-, I mean, gray cladding and jacked-up ride height.
Another site I fell over recently had video footage of Tiff Needam of 5th gear throwing a Toyota BB around an American race track, I was quite impressed the shoe handled ok,
I forgot to mention, that was a 2008 model.
Definitely could use a sixth gear, but if I’m doing a long trip I hit up Enterprise for a D-class car. I’ve never been bothered with a harsh ride, as long as there’s a tight suspension getting me around the corners faster. If anything, I detest a brougham-like soft ride.
I don’t agree with anything in Paul Nediermyer’s review. I own a 2011 Scion XB and I really like everything about it. I think he had it in for the Second generation from the beginning. The second generation has more power, has a better quite ride than the first generation. He has his opinion and I have mine. Nobody can write such a bad review about a good car without being biased from the beginning !!
I’ve heard, numerous times, that the second gen xB was a result of customer clinics. If so, Toyota obviously has not learned the message that GM picked up on back in the 50’s: Customer’s lie and give the expected, correct answers; saying what they think they should be saying, not what they actually believe.
For those not on to this story: GM did a lot of market research as to what customers wanted in a car back in the early 1950’s. They got the proper answers: Sensible, comfortable, reliable, low operating costs. When asked what kind of car their neighbors would buy, the same surveyed population came up with: Flashy, status seeking, show-offish, etc.
GM decided to build the “neighbor’s” car. Chrysler (obviously doing the same kind of surveying) built the “surveyed individual’s” car. We can see how that worked out.
Real-estate agents say, “Buyers are Liars.” What clients say they want, & what they buy, are often very different. Following the mob too closely, as in politics, can be hazardous.
When we shopped for a family van ca. 2004, we only bypassed the 1st-gen Xb because it my wife feared it would be fatiguing for long trips (cf. Paul’s comment above), & its limited cargo volume with 5 occupants, so we got a Sienna instead. But otherwise I thought it an excellent choice, for I was amazed at its passenger space & loved its around-town pep & agility. The contemporary Corolla, which I test-drove as well, was deathly dull on all counts; hard to believe the same company made both.
disagree. we bought one because you get more car for a lower price than any of the competition. it’s a small utility wagon with a bulletproof Camry drivetrain. Have had zero problems with it. it’s not an enthusiast vehicle but it does what it does very well. the only thing I agree with is that they could have put a pad on the driver’s armrest…but hardly a “deadly sin”.
The deadly sin is branding it a Scion xB. Its actually a Toyota Camry Squareback. Plain vanilla and dull is Toyota. Scion is supposed to be interesting, fascinating and different. This probably hasn’t hurt Toyota, but its done serious damage to the Scion marque.
Scion is like Acura and infiniti just rebages of very ordinary Japanese cars Lexus is the same a nonexistent brand we have the same cars here with the original Japanese badges names unknown outside JDM
Syke is spot on. The second-gen xB is an excellent Toyota, and a terrific buy in its class. It just felt like a really insincere follow-up to the original xB, if you were a fan of that car (as I was).
Like Paul, I was following this car’s launch closely and wrote up a review in college after a Scion ride-and-drive: http://www.epinions.com/content_407005466244
To play devil’s advocate, the car did do some things better than the original. It’s quicker, tracks better, revs lower and doesn’t get blown around on the freeway, and has a bigger trunk. But it’s telling that here in AUS, the car is sold as a Toyota Rukus – and only with an auto.
And you never saw many of them on the road.
As the owner of a Gen1 Honda Fit, I can understand your frustration, and would probably prefer the Gen1 Xbox as well. Not sure why I didn’t look more closely at an Xb, but I certainly would have had to hurry and snag one of the last ones back when I was in that market.
There is nothing sadder than to take a car that customers and owners love and screw it up, taking all of the stuff out that made folks love it in the first place.
While there was also a lot of whining about how Honda “ruined” the 2nd gen Fit, in reality it was changed only slightly, nothing like what was done with the xB. Honda Jazz/Fit is very much the same car in all markets for one thing. They certainly didnt put in an Accord engine for the Americans. I bought a 2010 Fit instead of an xB and shopped the xD as well. Both just didnt do it for me.
I believe that the Gen2 Fit also lost the “relax” position of its magic seats. I have never cared for the looks of the newer one, either. I love our 07, but the newer one has never really appealed to me.
Agree on the gen2 Fit. It’s too…insectile, from the front.
They are now selling the 2nd gen in Australia – but not many of them
I’ve only seen one.
The Daihatsu badge is popular here same car but ex JDM its just the Bb Xb in disguise, Were the first model Yaris based? I drove a Truck City loaner Yaris and it was a chuckable little car ruined by auto trans but otherwise not a bad little runabout,
Ive also driven a couple of Cubes lately the CVT version is simply awful but with a regular auto like our yard hack a good city car and it swallowed 20 metres of 3 inch flexible hose and a Honda pump with ease
Good critique. The general sentiment could be applied to many auto manufacturers. I’m still waiting for a decent replacement for my 1991 Civic tall wagon.
I am a fan of high tops as well here in San Francisco California. When I was in Japan, (at the same time as you wrote your comment) I noticed that several Kei cars, had very high tops, with head room measured in feet! It made sense, in that Kei cars are rather tight, and a feeling of space is brought by the high roof. Speaking of which, will we ever see the high tops again? The Xb first generation was my best bet. It is a pity it didn’t crash well. That really got in my way of buying it. A fellow firefighter, 6’4″ 240 lbs bought one and really liked it. Great review Paul. It encapsulated many of my complaints and previewed the more honest buff magazine reviews (can honest and buff magazine exist in the same phrase?).
Toyota did ruin the Scion xB I also loved the first generation one and how true about the humongous legroom in the back seat. Almost like one of those 1950’s cars with living room couches. Amazing in how little time Toyota killed this awesome car.
This is a misguided critique, though I don’t blame the author – I blame Toyota for calling the subject car an xB.
This is what should have happened in 2008:
– xA is replaced by what is now xD, but the name stays xA
– xB is given the corporate 1.8 (corolla) mill to address concerns over lack of power
– 2nd Gen “xB” is called the xD and sells along side the original xB
The subject car is a fine vehicle (I owned one for about 2 years), but as the author points out, it’s a completely different car than the original xB. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it had been called something different – but as it played out, it offended every single existing xB owner and thus led to a lot of animosity from those very people who were poised to advocate for the brand.
This seems like a good summation of the 2G xB’s problem. It really wasn’t a ‘bad’ car, per se, it’s just that Toyota’s ‘improvements’ (many of which were obviously just cost-cutting) changed the character of the car so much, 1G xB loyalists labeled it ‘bad’, and their persistent howling led sales to quickly founder.
If Toyota had simply called the 2G xB something besides ‘xB’, things might not have turned out so badly. The xB debacle went a long way to wiping out much of Scion’s caché. I didn’t even know that the tC, xD, and xB were all still being produced for 2013, and thought the only new vehicles to be found at US Scion dealerships were the FR-S and iQ.
I’ve seen this over and over again in corporations.
Issue a product that people seem to really like. Often (though clearly not the case with xB 1.0 from Toyota) this comes from a scrappy startup.
Later, get ready to release version 2.0. Get frightened trying not to screw the pooch, which leads to behavior that delivers a turd that screws it anyway.
I think this is very, very hard for companies to avoid as they get bigger.
I’m one of those aging buyers who likes visibility and room (though I have an NA Miata for days when I’m feeling relatively supple) and I was interested in the xB ever since I sat in that capacious back seat at an auto show. Sadly when I was finally in the new car market the real xB was gone and so was the Honda Element, so I wound up buying a Ford Transit Connect wagon to satisfy my appetite for squareness. (The car shown in my avatar is still doing that too, in a much lower way.)
Used Toyotas and Hondas are hard to find here in California without huge mileages or prices (and usually both), but this low-mile xB (http://sfbay.craigslist.org/sby/ctd/3773583886.html) caught my eye this morning on the San Francisco Craigslist. I think it might not fly under the neighbors’ radar, though …
Toyota always manages to ruin things…Too many vehicles that share components and do the same thing. I too really liked the original XB. Great little hauler and kinda fun to drive. Yes, it was a little under powered but it was not designed to win races at the Nuremberg track. The Land Cruiser, Sequoya, Venza, Rav, XA, XB, 4Runner, FJ, etc…
Add the Tundra as well. I have a 2005 and it does everything that my 1994 F-150 did, only better. Now its a giant cartoon truck.
It really is a giant. It is like these kids nowadays who are bigger than ever because we have been feeding them everything fortified with vitamins, minerals, steroids. The new Tundras are like seven feet tall. Massive trucks.
90% of current xB’s I see are taxi cabs in Downtown Chicago.
Since the first-generation xB was simply a federalized version of a car already available for sale in Japan, I wonder if it was not viewed as a very “glamorous” project by Toyota management. It was probably a low-profile project that received only cursory attention from senior management.
When the first xB turned out to be far more successful than anyone had expected, I’m willing to bet that lots of upper managers suddenly wanted to jump on the bandwagon and “help” design the next generation and “improve” it. The second-generation model is the result.
The irony being, Toyota still builds an *actual* second-gen bB that probably could’ve been federalised and sold by the thousands in the US for a fraction of the development costs.
“I wonder if it was not viewed as a very “glamorous” project by Toyota management”
I suspect that Scion has suffered from a serious case of mission creep.
Scion’s original purpose was to get young people into Toyota dealerships. Its mission wasn’t to sell Scions per se, as it was to get younger buyers for TMC vehicles in general.
But TMC created a dedicated staff for Scion and presumably developed specific sales goals for it, which would invariably encourage the Scion team to lose sight of the big picture by focusing on their badge instead of the greater good of the company.
It’s almost as if they were trying to compete with Toyota, instead of enhancing it. A vehicle like that should have never carried a Scion badge; Scions should be small, light, cheap and a bit funky. Perhaps more importantly, TMC should measure Scion’s success by increasing the number of younger customers at Toyota dealerships, not by the sale of individual Scion models.
Plus, didn’t a huge percentage of Scion customers turn out to be 50-something empty nesters? Same result as with the Honda Element. Perhaps this is the demographic they thought they would nail with the new car. Unfortunately, it seems that we 50-somethings don’t always like what automakers assume we want.
Scion has managed to have the lowest average age in the industry. In terms of age segmentation, Scion has done pretty well, certainly better than the Toyota Echo that failed dismally in its mission to attract younger people.
But Scion’s ability to get a younger audience hasn’t translated into a lot of total car sales. Even though a lot of Scion’s buyers are younger, most younger buyers end up buying something else. It would seem that young buyers who specifically demand a youth brand are just a niche within the overall youth market.
In my opinion, Scion should stick to having a couple of cheap-and-cheerful models, and that’s it. I don’t think that Toyota has much clue about what to do with it; TMC ended up imitating GM by forgetting that some brands are supposed to have a limited purpose.
If Scion wanted to pull in more Gen Y customers, they could have commissioned a Scion-themed XBOX 360 and offered a free unit with purchase of a Scion.
Just a thought.
Paul, both of your xB reviews have been spot on with my experience as well.
I love my gen1, and have somewhere between zero and negative interest in a gen2.
I bought my ’04 in ’07 with 92K miles, 5.5 years later it has 192K and still going strong despite the abuse heaped on it.
I’ve added 20 sq ft of Sound deadner, a 3″ shifter extension and a few other mods to make it more to my liking. and am still as in love with it as the day I bought it. When I drive more traditional cars I am amazed at the lack of space, visibility and ease of entry despite them being larger than the xB.
It has had one bad front hit($4k+ damage) and a few small front & rear bumps. I haul a utility trailer with it, have autocrossed it and regularly stuff it full of all kinds of things.
Other than routine maintenance the only problems have been an exhaust system that is falling apart(tailpipe was hit on one of the rear-enders and seems to have caused cracks throughout the system) and keeps blowing out the front donut gasket, and a starter that packed up at 187K.
I’m planning to keep my xB as long as humanly possible. There is nothing out there new our used I’d rather have as a daily driver.
Where did you put the sound deadner, and how much difference did it make?
If I can get the sound own some, this will be my car for a very long time. I don’t drive very much, so I only have 61k on my ’05 now. At that rate, it may outlive me:)
Every time I get in another car, I feel cramped.
I lined the floor, both quarter panels, the tailgate and put a 1′x1′ square o nthe back of the door skin to make them less drum-like (I still want to fully line the area behind the door panel). I also put a strip above both rows of seats to reduce rain noise on the roof.
It seemed to help a lot, though I have not been in a stock xb since to compare. If nothing else it feels and sounds less “tinny” and the double layer over the muffler reduced the drone.
I used Second Skin Damplifer, though they seem to have changed the design of it and I have not used the new style to compare.
I’ve had two 2006 Xb1s, an RS4 that got totalled in a rear-ender and my current two-tone manual. I took the entire interior out of the first Xb and put Dynamat virtually everywhere including the tailgate and doors as well as I could. In terms of quiet I didnt notice much difference pre- vs post or between the old deadened Xb and the new one. The dynamat did make the doors thunk very nicely, however and the car did feel less tinny. It was just a wekend project, not too hard once the rear seat was out. Still I havent even considered doing the same on the new one.
I respectfully disagree Paul. I love my 2012 XB and think they finally addressed some of the things I found lacking in the first xB like power and ride.
I looked at a 2005 xB before I decided to just buy a new 2012. I liked the looks of the first gen xB even though it reminds me of a 1984-1995 Dodge Caravan but I found the car to be cramped. I am 6ft 1in tall and even with the seat adjusted it still felt like I was steering with my legs. The seats were horrible and the car(all stock and no suspension adjustments) felt too low to the ground.
Power? The first gen had no power at all, In Eugene it might be acceptable because folks are respectful and considerate drivers. In Maryland where I live and work folks are rude and don’t know how to drive(just look at 495) that makes the weak 1.5l engine down right horrifying to drive on the Beltway(especially trying to merge)
Handling was horrible also, you could feel every bump in the road(heck you could feel a pot hole 2 miles before you drove over it)
In shot the first gen xB was simply as inspiring and fun to drive as a Yaris.
Now the 08-Present xB with all its faults is a better vehicle at least to me. There is ample room in the car for me and I find the seats comfy(I have back issues and am sensitive to horrible seats) It handles well(it is a sub $23,000 car so you are not going to get Benz like handling in it) and addresses the power issue, that 2.4l with the 1980’s 4 speed trans gets up and goes with ease. I usually get about 25mpg in the city(D.C.(aka the District of Crap) ) and 28-30 mpg on the highway and I beat that car like it was a drum
My 2 brothers report the same type of mileage give or take on their xB’s(both have 2009 xB’s)
I like my XB2 because it is roomy and I can haul loads of things without resorting to renting a truck or coaxing the Volvo 240 to go up a steep hill fully loaded
Yes there are a few WTF’s with the XB2 such as why no 5 speed auto(the Matrix has that) and why the pedal for the clutch on the manuals are so high in relation to the other pedals(given it a ups truck like drive) but the pro’s outweigh the cons for me.
The only real sin the XB2 has is that it should have been named something else that way it would have avoided the issues of comparison. Toyota also should have marketed the car better. Most buyers of Scion’s are in college and are on the go and moving around. It is the only Scion that can transport loads of crap to the dorm(try taking a table and a TV in an tC). It should have been marketed to young families as an alternative to a SUV or a minivan. Unlike the Scion Beretta……Scion tC (all show and no go) at least the XB2 has the ability to be many things(minivan replacement/rolling billboard/taxi/college bound student/hauler of people and things/Home Depot car etc)
I know people like to harp on the fact only 17,000 xb2’s were sold in 2011 but nobody remembers that the 2011 model year for the XB was cut short due to the earthquake in japan. The model year ended on March 11 2011(the day of the earthquake) and whatever XB’s that were left at the port in CA or on a ship saling for the port in CA and what was on dealer’s lots were it for the 2011 XB since it was a Japan made vehicle.
Would I buy the 2nd gen XB again if i had the chance? No but that is not a reflection on the XB but on Toyota. The dealers in MD are useless and Toyota does not seem to want help with warrenty things9like pulling teeth to get them to fix anything) The XB is my last Toyota I will buy due to after sales care
I understand, and readily admit that the gen2 xB is a quieter, smoother riding car, and may well be a good choice for many. I’m a purist, and that’s where my main problem is. Also, I have a stick, and have no problem making my xB go fast (ask my wife). I do lots of passing on our two-lane hilly roads, and am willing to cane it in order to do so. Its actual performance envelope, fully utilized, is not bad, actually. But many drivers expect American-style torque and effortless response.
Find that video Paul you’d be impressed
My Gen 1 Fit was the same way. Although not terribly powerful, with the manual transmission I could make the little cars do things that really surprised people. Once, on a trip into Pacific Rim National Park, I blew by a huge Dodge truck on a very twisty road. I could see the diesel smoke pouring out of his knuckle-dragger stacks as he tried to catch up with me on the (relatively) straight stretches. As soon as a I got to a curvy section, I’d lose him in the mirrors.
A very fun car but also not good on long trips.
HP expectations have gotten ridiculous lately in the US – not too many years ago, those first-gen Fits would have been considered in the ‘pocket rocket’ class.
Big fan of those myself, I test-drove a 2007 Sport package with a stick immediately after a MINI Cooper S, and couldn’t believe how something so much more practical could actually be more fun to drive.
Leon, what you’re referring to as “handling” is what most of the world considers “ride quality”. Handling is how well a car goes around a corner, ride quality is how comfortably it goes anywhere. The gen2 xB has much better ride quality than it’s predecessor, but apparently doesn’t handle as well – which is one of the things that most people seemed to like best about it. Their appeal was that despite the cavernous interior and toaster-like appearance, they were extremely tossable and fun to drive. The 2008+ model isn’t a bad car in any way, but it’s a totally different car with none of the same appeal as the original. Its best sales year so far was its first, where it barely equaled the gen1 xB’s worst sales year. Since then it’s been all downhill…
The gen1 peaked at 61k units in its third model year, so to be selling around 20k/year is a pretty dramatic fall from grace… especially for a car this inexpensive.
As far as the gen1 being underpowered… for most of my adult life I’ve commuted on a different 495 – the one in New York – which is just as bad, if not worse, than the Beltway. I’ve owned many cars that were far slower than the gen1 xB and found all of them capable of dealing with maniac drivers in rush hour traffic. Some of the slowest of them were actually the most fun to drive. Only in very recent history would a 108HP/~2450lbs. car ever have been considered “slow”.
Paul, if you like the xB1 for it’s airy cabin and spaciousness, would you have bought or wanted an AMC Pacer in the 1970s for the same reason?
Never thought of that, but I did drive (regularly) a new AMC Pacer back then, belonging to a girl friend of mine. Six cylinder, three-speed floor shift. Other than the vision element, absolutely no comparison. The xB is a small car. The Pacer is a 75 Impala with the ends cut off, and drives like one.
No comparison. The Pacer was a fishbowl. You’d roast in it without A/C. Also the rear seat was atrocious; the xB rear seat is limo-like. Never mind the driving dynamics. I thought the Pacer was funny when it came out, but had zero interest inn owning one. Call me nuts, but my xB reminds more cars like the Alfa sedans of the sixties, with tall, boxy bodies, and very vertical windows. And it even sounds (and performs) similarly. I like to cane my little box through the gears quite a lot!
Which is the great thing: you can zing through the first three gears, and still not be above the speed limit! How many cars afford that opportunity. Every time I run an errand, I pretend I’m in a rally. So why do cars keep passing me on the right, though?
Ha… I like rowing through the gears too and agree it’s not that much fun in most cars nowadays. My wife’s Mustang will do over 55mph in second gear… what a waste of power. I’d rather have a little fun from 0-60 and use what’s there than have two upper range gears I can’t even run out…
I used to live in downtown Birmingham & loved to rip around SouthSide in a 4-speed ’84 Fiero with all of 88hp. 4.10 gearing made it miserable on the interstate but it was like playing Pole Position (in real life) around town. Such fun it was blasting through 3rd and sometimes 4th gear…
The police didn’t find it that amusing when I carved out a left turn (on green) at an intersection one day….after pulling me over his exact words were, “what do you think this is, the Indy 500?”. I technically didn’t break the law as I was under the speed limit, stayed in the lane, and didn’t break traction so he had to let me go.
May I present the BerlinaBox? I started with an image from classic-and-vintage-cars.com.
Impressive that you called Toyota’s stumble way back in 2007. This review was a canary in the mineshaft.
They did the same thing with the tC coupe. The first gen was just right and sold like crazy the second had more of a bloated and forced look about it, sort of trying too hard.
I already thought the 2nd generation xB appeared fatter and dumber…I had no idea just how much worse it was until reading this. It appears the only thing they “improved” was engine output…something I could care less about if I owned one of these.
I never liked the HHR or PT Cruisers and didn’t want to like “The Toaster” when it came out but couldn’t help it. The corners and angles on these were a pleasant departure from the surrounding bubblecars and I have to admit I think these are good-looking vehicles. What a shame that didn’t last.
At least Nissan hasn’t botched up the Cube yet. It’s another vehicle I have an unnatural attraction to despite my Nissan hatred & extreme 60’s-80’s domestic-hugging tendencies.
If I was in the market for a new vehicle, I’d probably look at a Cube first. Certainly not a new xB or (gag) Kia Soul.
Great points, Junque… The first Gen Xb stood out in stark contrast to the jellybean cars of the time. Scion was supposed to be some young, hip and daring offshoot of Toyota but it it looks like they went the route of the Big 3 after it stumbled upon some trend setting car that everyone wants….making the next gen longer, lower and wider and thoroughly losing the concept and vision of the original design.
I’m thinking of the original Toyota projects that went awry over the years….the FJ Landcruiser……the original 4 Runner based on the SR5 pickup……the MR2 Gen 2 that begat the MR2 Spyder…..the many versions of the Toyota Celica. I have no doubt there is a Gen 2 Scion FRS sports car in the works and I expect the new version to completely get away from what makes this car and it’s Subaru clone so popular with the low cost sports car folks.
Nissan Cube? Please pass the eye bleach.
But if it’s painted a nice colour…..
Granted my ride in your Xbox was short but it was a damned sight nicer than my tercel. Even with the new struts and tie rods.
Don’t ask me where I got this ’cause I can’t tell you. It’s on the QT and strictly hush-hush. But here’s a super-early advance spy-photo of what is strongly rumored to be the confirmed design for the eagerly-anticipated third-gen xB scheduled for 2016.
The Pontiac xB
If enough of us stop buying all of these american BBQ boats and stick to vehicles with coherent, logical, economic, golden-mean designs, maybe someone, somewhere will take notice. I have a 2008 RAWD element which I will take past 400k miles one day.
Great article. Was recently looking for a replacement for my off-lease Equinox, and my wife wanted something roomy but that “didn’t look like everything else on the road, you know like one of those Scion boxes they used to make?” Wound up reading this and decided against the gen 2 xB and bought a used cube instead. Love that.
I always called the 2nd XB the Camry Wagon we didn’t get here LOL
The bigger engine and Cruise Control were welcome, of course, and I’ve driven them and they are “fine”, but the way Toyota let them wither on the vine was just stupid. They had the parts to update them but just didn’t! The Camry grew the 2.4 to 2.5 but the XB never got it. The 4-spd improved to 5, then 6 speeds but the XB never got them. Just asinine, like they were DARING you to buy one. When I bought my Camry I identified the 2010/2011 as the sweet spot due to having the 2.5L, the 6-speed and LED taillights (that they took away the following year, the idiots) and my beautiful Black XLE has been incredibly reliable and wonderful to drive for years now. Still looks NEW with 280k miles. If a same-year XB had the same features I’d happily own one, too.
Footprint CAFE killed almost all of the small and affordable cars. Adding a foot to the xB probably allowed them to keep it on the market for a few more years as the noose tightened on accessible mobility.
The “footprint CAFE” applied to light trucks. The xB was classified for the EPA as a compact station wagon, not a light truck.
There were plenty of small cars available after the EPA rules changed: Chevy Spark, Toyota Yaris, Scion iQ and others, Ford Fiesta, etc., etc…. Small cars became less common because the market shifted away from them, not because of the EPA.
Starting in 2011, the CAFE standards are newly expressed as mathematical functions depending on vehicle footprint, a measure of vehicle size determined by multiplying the vehicle’s wheelbase by its average track width. A complicated 2011 mathematical formula was replaced starting in 2012 with a simpler inverse-linear formula with cutoff values. CAFE footprint requirements are set up such that a vehicle with a larger footprint has a lower fuel economy requirement than a vehicle with a smaller footprint. For example, the fuel economy target for the 2012 Honda Fit with a footprint of 40 sq ft (3.7 m2) is 36 miles per US gallon (6.5 l/100 km), equivalent to a published fuel economy of 27 miles per US gallon (8.7 l/100 km) (see #Calculations of MPG overestimated for information regarding the difference), and a Ford F-150 with its footprint of 65–75 sq ft (6.0–7.0 m2) has a fuel economy target of 22 miles per US gallon (11 l/100 km), i.e., 17 miles per US gallon (14 l/100 km) published. Individual vehicles do not have to meet their fuel economy targets; CAFE compliance is enforced at the fleet level.
The last thing the manufacturers want to do is sell cheap cars that increase their company-wide CAFE target. That’s why ‘the market moved away from’ cars that were affordable by people who do the sorts of jobs that provide necessities. The targets also ratchet up continuously, making simple small cars virtually illegal, provided they can’t be sold at a premium to people who don’t need them. Think Miata or BRZ.
As I said before, this certainly did not apply to Toyota’s decision to replace the gen1 xB with the larger gen2 xB. The gen2 came out in May of 2007. That means the decision regarding its size and format were made at least two or more years earlier (2004-2005). This is long before the CAFE rules changed.
I always wanted the first XB to be more like the Honda Element. No carpeting and a more utilitarian interior.
There were changes in US crash standards somewhere in there. Could that be why they redesigned it? They tried a tall Camry wagon (Versa?) that didn’t seem as roomy as it should have been, maybe why it flopped, too.
My brother still drives his Honda Element from the first year they offered all one color. It’s also roomy, stiff, and noisy, but you can’t put your feet under the front seat when in the back, so that’s just for short people. They use a Subaru for trips.
What bothers me a bit about Toyota is as big as they are, they can afford to take some risks to be present in– or even create– some niches to fill in the bread and butter products. They’ve either hedged their bets in partnerships like the Supra and 86, or flat-out retreated from those openings – as was the case with the xB. Unless they inexplicably came to some “Gentleman’s agreement” and ceded that market to the Kia Soul.
While I love having a ES350 parked on “her side” of the garage that aside from regular oil changes and service I’ll probably never have to fear a big-ticket stupid repair for the entirety of its tenure, I miss the Toyota that could be as ‘survive an artillery impact’ reliable but also creative enough to know “There’s just not a lot of MR2’s or two-door Camrys/Solaras to be sold, but with some parts-bin engineering and creativity we can justify the business case.”
A good enough article at the time, Paul. What makes it great is still being so right this many years down the road.
Great article. I saw the prototype Xb at an auto show and waited impatiently to be able to get one. I think they first became available in California and I almost just bought one there and would have driven it across the continent to my home. But I did wait, and the first week it was available in my area, I bought a manual transmission with no options. I later put some Tire Rack wheels ($300 as opposed to the Scion over $1000 as I recall).
The car was close to perfect. Two problems that Toyota should have dealt with. First, if I recall correctly, the sun visors were too short; the windshield was so vertical that if the sun was on the left, I could not cover the driver side window (I did a DIY fix on that one).
More serious was the gearing. I found myself skipping (memory not serving here), I think fourth gear and going from third to fifth; I believe they should have geared differently. At 60 MPH in fifth gear, the tachometer showed 3000 RPM!!!! Never got better than 25 MPG or so. I had to get rid of car at 90 plus miles because A/C and some engine problems; I do not recall now.
I looked at the new Xb. Forget about it! Have been in a few cars since but now drive a Forester. Can get in and out (like with Xb) without bowing my head!!! And I am only 5 foot 9.
If they put out a car like this again, I would love it. I do not think the Soul or Cube had the same room and layout; could be wrong.
Unrelated to the xB, but before we criticize Toyota for being conservative, at least now in 2022, has any seen the specs on the 2023 Corolla Circuit Edition, which despite its name is fully street legal. AWD, 300hp (1600cc 3 cylinder turbo), “forged carbon-fiber roof” (not sure how you forge CF), front and rear Torsen limited-slip differentials, “bulge hood with functional air vents” (Toyota’s words). MSRP is $42900. Of course, maybe it will be as successful as the Corvette LT5, which became worthy of CC but wasn’t a huge market hit … https://www.curbsideclassic.com/automotive-histories/automotive-history-the-chevrolet-lt5-5-7-dohc-v8-a-british-heart-for-an-american-icon/
First gen XBs are getting rarer on the road even here in No Cal, and i think they are at that tipping point where there are more in junkyards than on the highway. But they are iconic and easy to spot unlike the gen 2 versions which pretty much blend in with everything else.
It’s the opposite in my area. 1st gen xBs are more common than second. I think it is because people are more willing to spend money keeping a 1st gen on the road than a 2nd.
Although a co worker of mine has a beat up old 1st gen that he refers to as a POS because of the age and noises it makes. As far as things broken, the clearcoat is pealing and he said he had to replace some coil packs. Which in my opinion is not that bad for a car that age.
As far as self service junkyards, Siennas, Camrys, Corollas are far more common than any Scion, probably because so few were sold compared to other Toyotas.
We never got these in Europe other than as (sort of) the Daihatsu Materia which was no big success, but then we had our own small box-like dual purpose vehicles made by Fiat, Peugeot and Renault. Nowadays even by Toyota – via Stelantis… I wonder if one could “Toyotize” a RAM V1000 by purchasing the badges and some body parts, it would surely make people scratch their heads.
Just a pity that the XB2 cannot benefit from the engine of the jdm model – exact same body except ronder front nose (Corolla Rumion) – which had the 1.8L with cvt .That would have settled his high fuel consumption…but obviously a cvt would have scared away the power-hungry American consumer . Toyota cvt has been around for at least 5 years before it was introduced on the american corolla sedan .All this to say that ultimately a Matrix is a better buy.