The Toyota Camry wagon that isn’t a Venza is dying this year. When Paul described the second generation Scion xB as a slice of everything that GM had gotten wrong served by Toyota, he was absolutely bang on with his assessment. Even up to the point of the Americans shunning the superior product from overseas.
The Scion xB, as you all know, was a lightly modified version of the Japan-only Toyota bB. It got left-hand drive, different seats and a manual transmission as an option (Japan had it as an auto-only) and that was pretty much it. When it came to redesign the damn thing there shouldn’t have been any problems. Just take the Japanese bB again and do exactly the same process. You literally have to do nothing else to do but follow the same set of instructions.
Alright, the second-gen bB had lost some of the simple utilitarianism that made it so cool and desirable for the young and the the old in equal measure. Good heavens, it has curves. It also lost a pair of windows along the sides. According to Wikipedia it was designed “as ‘A Car-shaped Music Player’ to hopefully satisfy the preferences of the younger generation.” I apologize, the sound you are hearing right now is me, groaning over yet more #millenial #marketing #hashtag #howDoYouDoFellowKids exercises.
Rather misguided attempts to capture a younger demographic aside, their heart was in the right place, certainly in a better place than the one that came with the fatbox. It was actually smaller in length than the first-gen xB (3.8 meters instead of 3.9) but had a slightly longer wheelbase (2.54 instead of 2.49); width and height were practically unchanged. Under the hood you had a 1.3 and another 1.5-liter engine producing 108 horsepower. Not the same engine mind, just an engine with similar displacement producing similar horsepower and torque numbers. A familiar four-speed automatic was still doing duty.
The front may be not the best angle to look at it, but from the back it was a lot more palatable a design. Dare I say, stylish? Again, at least not worse than what we got.
The interior keeps on the theme of the rest of the car of changing just what was right and not messing with a winning formula. I will say this though, I’ve never been a fan of centrally mounted instruments. I have no idea who was the brainbox that thought of it but I think he probably did it as a cost-cutting measure. I can’t think of any other reason to put the instruments on a place where you have to move your head slightly to look at them instead of just looking slightly down and leaving the place where they should’ve been all along with a horrible expanse of nothing. But I digress…The center pod instruments were given a much needed redesign that made the tachometer of a size that humans could actually see and the parts bin controls were updated to the latest generic Toyota parts. It may not be to my liking, but I guess that’s just part to the charm. Even though I suspect the rev counter on the XB1 is all but invisible most of the time.
The second bB made it out of Japan, just not to the United States. Those of you who watched Top Gear will probably recognized it badged as a Daihatsu Materia in an episode where Jeremy Clarkson compared it to an Ascari A10. Quite favorably actually.
The brilliant thing about the bB is simple: it’s pretty much the same car as the first one. At least, the underlying ideas and concepts are the same. It’s the same size, it has similar engines, similar interiors. Like the xB it’s a blank canvas to which the buyer could pretty much project whatever he/she wanted. I guess it *is* similar to a music player in that way.
But having presented it to you I now have to ask: would it have worked if it had come stateside? Well…yes! Okay, the fact that it was slightly smaller may have put off some people but the young ones (and the not-so-young ones) who wanted a cheap, safe, airy, spacious, fun car with good fuel economy and low running costs that had made them successful in the first place would keep on coming.
And anyway, the chances of it doing worse than the Camry in a drag that we got are very slim indeed. I mean seriously, what were those people thinking?