By Matt Stone
THE BIG PICTURE
Every once in a while, Scion builds special “Release Series” models combining a unique paint color and equipment combination. Our tester was one of them, called the Scion xD Release Series 3.0 (which is supposed to call to mind a software or computer system release, I guess) finished in a rich warm metallic brown called Xpresso, Scion’s own cutesy marketing term combining “espresso” representing the coffeelike hue, and “expressive” which is what every carmaker wants its offerings to be perceived as (something Scion pulls off pretty well). Release 3.0 also includes some tech-looking carbon fiber-like exterior window frame trim, and a lower body kit.
Plenty of room in here, especially for a compact car that is quite comfortable with adequate glass area allowing great all around visibility. The flatroofed, square rigged shape combines the best attributes of a small SUV or a small stationwagon while being cooler than both of them. With all seats in their normal position, the Scion xD functions like a small sedan with a glassed in trunk area. Flop those rear seatbacks down and it’s positively cavernous inside. The instrument panel and dashboard areas have a distinctly tech feel, finished in simple high quality plastics. The car’s body shape means plenty of headroom for everyone without it appearing tippy or tall. Don’t be looking for leather and wood trim; it’s not that kind of car. But overall, it’s a sturdy, modern looking cabin that’s fresh, comfy, and functional.
Indeed – very. There’s room and seatbelts for five, with usable cargo space even with all seats in the up position. As noted, fold them down and you get a mostly flat floor and a big giant rear hatch through which to load in all the stuff in your life that you need to carry (save the couch and the fridge, you could probably move with this thing). With four side doors, the big rear hatch, and a low step-in height, the xB couldn’t be easier to live with or more family friendly; your kids, friends, pets, outdoor gear, and cargo will all love it.
The Scion xD earns solid safety ratings, with a structurally rigid body structure, a full round of airbags, and LATCH system tethers for child safety seats, plus the necessary electronic stuff such as anti-lock brakes, Traction control and Vehicle Stability Control. We also like the turn signal repeaters built into exterior side rear view mirrors, so the folks in neighboring lanes will know what’s on your mind.
GIZMOS AND TECH
Don’t look for a ton of gizmos or non-essential technology in the Scion xD, as it’s a modestly priced car, but the stuff you want and need most is on hand. The Pioneer audio system plays just about anything, and has plenty of speakers and power. It’ll of course play your I-thingy too. There’s no factory-available nav, so you’ll need your Smartphone, Blackberry, or portable Garmin to get from place to place. That’s the story for 2011 models, such as our tester, but Scion ups the xD’s tech factor for model year 2012, which will now include standard Bluetooth and HD radio. Want more stereo punch? On 2012s, there’s an optional 200-watt audio system available to supplant the standard, 160-Watt Pioneer setup.
The Scion xD is easy and fun to drive. Its 128 horsepower four cylinder engine may not sound like the brew for scintillating performance, but it’s plenty zippy and more than adequate for this relatively lightweight car. The TRD exhaust system transforms the engine’s normal metallic fizz sound into a throaty rumble; it may or may not be your speed, but we like it, and your dealer can install one if you wish. Our car was equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission that works in good harmony with the engine. You’d never call the Scion xD fast, but you won’t struggle up an onramp or feel unsafe on the open road or in the mountains. The steering and brakes are light, although there’s still enough feel in them to convey what the road and the car’s suspension are up to. The panoramic windshield and airy greenhouse provide good visibility and keep the cabin light; the only impediment is from the rear seat headrests, which clobber up the back view just a bit. The racy TRD mag wheels and more aggressive tires worn by our tester certainly improve the car’s curvy road handling at a slight ride penalty. You won’t need them unless you plan on some weekend racing, or just like the look and can’t resist. The xD’s aerodynamic profile means low windnoise, and the car is a snap to park and maneuver in close quarters.
All in all, the Scion xD Xpresso 3.0 is cool-looking, holds a ton of stuff, is affordable if you don’t get carried away with pricey extras, gets pretty good mileage, and is fun to drive. Well recommended if you like the styling, and its packaging meets your needs.
Cool looking, practical package that’s affordable and fun to drive.
Offers much of the usability of a small SUV or stationwagon, while avoiding the stigma of either.
Not much not to complain about, just watch the expensive options and bolt-ons. Too bad no factory-offered nav system.