By Steve & Tamami Laser
When it comes to Scion, the fun doesn’t need to stop when the brand goes away. So what better time than now to go out and grab a new 2015 xB from a Scion dealer before they’re gone?
We knew the xB was ready to say sayonara when we asked Scion for a press fleet car to write a review last year. Little did we know that the whole brand would follow it out the door a short time later.
The announcement was made today (see the press release below) that the Scion brand will be discontinued this August and most of the vehicles will be absorbed into the Toyota brand. Two that won’t – the xB and tC – are on our short list as future collectibles. Here’s a recap of the reasons why we think the xB has staying power from our CarNichiWa.com Scion xB review.
Scion xB Review – Check All the Right Boxes and It’s a Future Collectible
By Steve & Tamami Laser
We’ve been around long enough to recognize a pattern in the collector car world. Vehicles that attract cult-like followings when new tend to retain their appeal as they age. We can think of many examples among Japanese nameplates including the Nissan/Datsun Z, Toyota Celica and Supra, sporty Honda and Acura models, plus the Mazda RX-7. What about the Scion xB?
Before you dismiss us as being slightly daft, consider the fact that the xB was an object of desire for years. When the upstart division of Toyota was launched in 2003, the xB served as the iconic flagship of the youth-oriented brand. It was different. It was cool. It was affordable. And it could be modified in a zillion ways.
Scion positioned the xB like a blank canvas begging for personalization. While the automaker offered a wealth of its own accessories, the xB launched a movement that we haven’t seen since the days of the custom van era from the 1970s. The xB was like a shrunken room on wheels, offering just enough space to hang out with friends and party. The “Boogie Van” had been reinvented.
When the second-generation xB was launched for 2008, it was larger, more powerful yet not as edgy as the original. The first generation xB evolved from a Japanese market Toyota where small, square vehicles continue to remain popular today. The second generation was designed with Americans in mind by providing more room inside along with more crunch space outside to better meet impact tests.
Scion kept the momentum going with concept vehicles like this “x Riley Hawk Skate Tour xB” concept that debuted at the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas last year, designed for pro skateboarder Riley Hawk.
Scion said that beyond his skateboarding career, Hawk is a rock ‘n’ roll aficionado with an appreciation for 70s style. “His xB ride combines those three passions through its high-end sound system, space for skateboards and classic orange and yellow striped paint job.” Details like bubble windows, interior woodgrain paneling, an 8-track player and shag carpet make it a rolling, retro hangout spot. (The build was led by Scott Kanemura of KMA Productions.)
It’s been a while since we spent time in an xB, so we contacted Scion to ask for a test vehicle. While the 2015 models are the last of the line, we managed to snag a leftover 2013 xB that remained in Scion’s press fleet. Our tester was dressed in the attractive shade of “Absolutely Red” and equipped with the features that were standard for that model year.
Join us for a ride in the second-generation Scion xB as we ponder the possibilities of it becoming a future collectible. (video © CarNichiWa.com)
Compared to the first generation, the second-generation xB sports an increased wheelbase by four inches, overall length by a foot, and overall width by almost three inches to give it a more comfortable ride.
Let’s take a walkaround look at the xB and check out its cool features that continue to make it an object of desire. (video: © CarNichiWa.com)
The xB gained design elements from Scion’s t2B concept vehicle that was shown at the 2005 New York Auto Show. Exterior styling cues include softer angles between its wide and flat paneling, a high beltline, elongated headlamps that wrap around the sides, inset taillights, rectangular grille, and pronounced fenders. The xB also features tinted rear windows, plus turn signals integrated into the side mirrors.
Scion installed 16-inch steel wheels, shown on our tester above, an inch larger than the previous generation. It’s easy to dress up and personalize the xB with alloy wheels offered at the dealership or countless choices from the aftermarket.
More powerful than its predecessor, the xB has a 2.4-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), the same engine used in the Scion tC of the era. The engine produces 158 horsepower, 55 more than the previous generation xB. As we discuss in our driving video, it’s a good match for the xB’s character.
Scion offers a choice of a 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic with sequential shifting. The 4-speed is a bit dated by today’s standards, yet it mates well with the engine and we found it to be a good combo during our week-long drive. In addition to the longer wheelbase, the xB’s smoother ride can be attributed to its well-sorted McPherson strut front and torsion-beam rear suspension.
Scion says the xB’s design team aimed for a lounge-like interior that met the comfort and lifestyle needs of the customer. The front seats fully recline for increased cargo space or just stretching out. To keep the xB affordable, fancy things like power seats are not available.
For added convenience, the 60/40 split rear seats fold flat, providing a spacious and flat cargo floor, allowing the driver to haul larger loads. The rear seats are comfortable for two adults while both rows offer plenty of headroom. For a small vehicle, the xB has a cavernous cabin that rivals some larger crossovers.
The versatile interior provides 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and an amazing 69.9 cubic feet with the seats folded down. The xB also includes added storage flexibility with a driver’s convenience tray, console box and front door storage. A fixed tray is located beneath the rear seats for hidden storage and can accommodate small items.
Clean lines and metallic accents add extra impact to the xB’s interior. The three-spoke steering wheel tilts and telescopes to accommodate different drivers while placing audio controls at the fingertips. Gauges and a deep orange multi-information display sit centered on the metal-tone accented dash.
Other standard features include remote keyless entry, power windows with driver side auto-down and electric power steering, a series of nifty circular gauges, including a multi-information display that allows drivers to toggle through the clock, outside temperature, instantaneous MPG, average MPG, distance to empty, or average speed. When starting the engine, “xB” flashes on the MID before information is shown.
Our 2013 tester was fitted with the standard Pioneer six-speaker audio system including a 160-watt AM/FM/CD head unit that powers the tweeters, mid-range and full-range speakers. The stock system offered good sound reproduction and was easy to use. Scion offers an upgraded BeSpoke system as an accessory that includes push-to-talk navigation and geo-located points of interest.
The 2014 xB gained a standard Display Audio system featuring a 6.1 inch LCD touchscreen, while the 2015 model added a handy back-up camera.
The 2013 xB comes with six airbags, including driver and front passenger airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. Headrests and three-point seatbelts support all seating positions.
The xB includes the STAR Safety System™ with Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Traction Control (TRAC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
Our 2013 tester checked the right boxes with a base price of $17,750 with the automatic transmission and a bottom line of $18,505 with destination. Base prices increased only a few hundred dollars for the 2014 and 2015 model years fitted with the display audio system.
When we wrote this story, Scion dealers still had a good supply of new 2015 xBs in stock. And with so many sold over the 12-year model run, there’s bound to be plenty of choices available on the used car market.
To its current owners, both generations of the xB are already collectible, with the first generation getting the nod for its more distinctive interpretation of the box on wheels. The second generation xB is a better daily driver in our opinion with its larger and more powerful engine and refined chassis.
So while the xB is gone, it’s certainly not forgotten, and it’s likely to remain a cult classic for years to come. As we promised in our video, here’s a look at the Toyota Corolla Rumion (Scion xB’s cousin) that continues in production for the Japan market. We snapped this picture of a Corolla Rumion on the street in Kyoto, Japan, last year.
Press release from Scion
Scion Brand to Transition to Toyota
Valuable Insights Will Aid Toyota in Attracting New, Young Customers
TORRANCE, Calif., Feb. 3, 2016 – Scion, established as a separate brand in 2003 as a laboratory to explore new products and processes to attract youth customers, is now transitioning back to the Toyota brand. Scion achieved its goals of developing unique products and processes, and bringing in new, younger customers to Toyota. With more than a million cars sold, 70 percent of Scions were purchased by customers new to Toyota and 50 percent were under 35 years old.
“This isn’t a step backward for Scion; it’s a leap forward for Toyota. Scion has allowed us to fast track ideas that would have been challenging to test through the Toyota network,” said Jim Lentz, founding vice president of Scion and now CEO, Toyota Motor North America. “I was there when we established Scion and our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. I’m very proud because that’s exactly what we have accomplished.
“We could not have achieved the success we have had without the incredible support of Scion’s customers, dealers and team members, so supporting them throughout this transition process will be one of our top priorities,” said Lentz.
Toyota’s decision was made in response to customers’ needs. Today’s younger buyers still want fun-to-drive vehicles that look good, but they are also more practical. They, like their parents, have come to appreciate the Toyota brand and its traditional attributes of quality, dependability and reliability. At the same time, new Toyota vehicles have evolved to feature the dynamic styling and handling young people desire.
Scion has consistently been the youngest brand in the auto industry with an average age of 36 years old. At 29, the tC sports coupe has the lowest-average age buyer in the industry. The most recent additions to the line-up, the iA sedan and iM 5-door hatchback, are bringing in new buyers with 70 percent being first-time new car purchasers. Additionally, more than 50 percent of iM and iA buyers are under 35 years old.
As part of the brand transition, beginning in August 2016, MY17 Scion vehicles will be rebadged as Toyotas. The FR-S sports car, iA sedan and iM 5-door hatchback will become part of the Toyota family. The tC sports coupe will have a final release series edition and end production in August 2016. The C-HR, which recently debuted at the L.A. Auto Show, will be a part of the Toyota line-up.
The service and repair process for Scion customers will be unaffected by this change as customers will continue to visit Toyota dealerships’ service departments.
“We appreciate our 1,004 Scion dealers and the support they’ve given the brand,” said Bob Carter, Toyota senior vice president of automotive operations. “We believe our dealers have gained valuable insights and have received a strong return on their investment. During this time of transition, we will work closely with them to support this process and help communicate this change to customers.”
Scion’s 22 dedicated team members, who represent sales, marketing, distribution, strategy, and product and accessories planning, will have the opportunity to take on new jobs at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. in Torrance. Scion regional representatives will assume different responsibilities in their respective Toyota sales offices.
“Scion has had some amazing products over the years and our current vehicles are packed with premium features at value prices,” said Andrew Gilleland, Scion vice president. “It’s been a great run and I’m proud that the spirit of Scion will live on through the knowledge and products soon to be available through the Toyota network.”
Scion Processes – Scion served as a laboratory for products and key sales and marketing processes that have provided valuable lessons for other Toyota brands:
- Pure Pricing – dealers set a price for a car and customers did not need to negotiate
- Mono-Spec cars – providing cars with only two options: transmission and color
- Personalization – offering a large array of accessories to help customers customize their vehicles
- Pure Process – transparent financing process
- Pure Process Plus – an online system so much of the car-purchase process could be completed online
- Scion Service Boost – pre-paid maintenance plan
- Release Series – dynamic life cycle management through special features and options
- Grassroots marketing – initial Scion brand was “discovered” by customers through unique events
Scion Products – Scion has had some outstanding products that have made an impact in the industry including the original “box,” the xB and the FR-S affordable sports car. The tC sports coupe has consistently attracted the youngest buyer in the industry.
xB press fleet vehicle provided by Scion Division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. (Prices and vehicle information for the xB applies to U.S. market models) All information including vehicle features, specifications, prices and availability is subject to change without notice by the automaker.
Press release from Scion
Story, photos and videos © 2015-2016 CarNichiWa.com