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 they’re 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. So what about the Scion xB?
Before you dismiss us as being slightly daft, consider the fact that the xB has been 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 year.
Join us for a ride in the second-generation Scion xB as we ponder the possibilities of it becoming a future collectible.
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 the xB 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.
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. Even though the xB is out of production, Scion dealers remain a great resource for ordering parts and accessories.
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. 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. Yes, we know that 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 rear torsion-beam 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 area 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 interior. The three-spoke steering wheel tilts and telescopes to accommodate different drivers while placing audio controls at the fingertips. Gauges and 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 the 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 rear 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 2105 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 is likely to remain a cult classic for years to come. As we promised in our video, here’s a link to the Toyota Motor Corporation website in Japan including product information on the Corolla Rumion (Scion xB’s cousin shown above) that continues in production for the Japan market.
Should Scion choose to bring another box to its lineup, we think the new Toyota Sienta (above and below) would be a great choice. This van’s styling is designed to turn heads while it also offers three rows of seats.
However, the sliding side doors might keep it out of the U.S. market where swing-out doors like the xB’s remain the preference for smaller vehicles. In Japan, sliding doors are an asset in tight parking spaces where they’re preferred for easier entry and exit to the second and third rows.
2013 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)
Corolla Rumion and Sienta photos from Toyota Motor Corporation
Story, all other photos and videos © 2015 CarNichiWa.com