Published on Sun, Nov 8, 2009
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
EXTRA DOPEBy Doug Stokes Scions were originally intended as iPod-gen mobility units deliberately set up to be completely unappealing to anyone over 25 years old. And then some of the older folks found out that they fit into the original xB box pretty good and that the little unit fit into their lives pretty good too. That's where this xD comes in, let's call it a mini-crossover and simply note that the styling while blatantly blunt, is understandably utilitarian, yet perky. And in the BRIGHT Barcelona Red Metallic that ours is done up in... "Perky" honestly is the perfect word for it. The first thing that one (at least this "one") notices about the Scion xD is that this machine is relatively compact but that the seating position is tall, way higher than the average small sedan, which goes a long old way in assuaging the feeling of being in a small vehicle on a big freeway.
Scion xD and xB (background) So what, pray tell, oh observant car reviewer, would the second thing be? It would be, and is, handling. At first this Scion feels almost springy, as if the vehicle stability control was helping maybe just a little bit too much for my taste. Granted, I like to think that I'm a semi-Luddite when it comes to almost any kind of driving enhancement that was developed after (hydraulic) power steering and brakes. And then I go right on and gush over the greatness of a well-tuned, electronically-controlled automatic transmission and variable valve-timing (both highly-complicated mechanisms). So, please don't be too scandalized if I tell you that I actually ended up enjoying the way that this new Scion (to use an older term for handling) "drove". There's good people-room throughout. Four doors equals four adults. Check! The differences between this machine and the Scion xB that we drove a couple of years back are subtle. This is the far more technically modern of the two machines, slightly smaller in most dimensions and (if we may split a few hairs) the more wagon-like of the two rolling Wonder Bread loaves. As small and light as this one was, it garnered darn good ratings in the Federal Smash'em'up Derby, er ... Government Safety Ratings. Four stars (five is best) in the frontal ratings for driver and shotgun, and fully five twinklers for both rear seat passengers. We strongly recommend that you never, ever, roll ANY machine, but if you do, this one rates pretty high (4 stars out of 5). Belt up every time please, staying safely inside if you tip a car over is also a terrific idea.
While we're at the numbers, Uncle EPA sez: 26 city/32 highway to tell the truth I was having so much fun with this one that I flat failed to check my mileage, however I, for one, believe everything that the government tells me. In this case, how far off could they be anyway? What I can tell you is that there's plenty of unassuming, but perfectly useful motoring involved here in this utility vehicle that priced out at $17, 463 all up, a number that included well over a grand in options: vehicle stability control: $650, carpet floor mats/cargo mats: $155, Scion security: $469, and something called a Rear Bumper Appliqué for (whoa, how much?) $69. The real point of all of the above (and below) talk about technology and money is how much passive safety (the stuff that the vehicle does FOR you, without you asking) has been fully democratized herein, 4-wheel Anti-lock brakes, for example. A few sort years ago, ABS brakes were a dearly expensive option. Here they are standard, as are Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist. So are the airbags for all four passengers, plus additional side curtain air bags, and smart seatbelts that incorporate an anticipatory accident-sensing locking system. Tire pressure monitors (items that once were to marvel at on high-ticket items Corvettes and Mercedes) are there too. You get a whole lot of tech for a small price, but your personal active safety device (You) is still the same, and, bay far it is still the most important component. None of the above devices can reason. You can.
All in all I really liked the ride and (once I got used to the various "assists" going on) the handling. Toward the end of my week behind the wheel, I started to really challenge (clear) off-ramps and certain interesting (deserted) stretches of road not far from home. I am a trained, card-carrying (Motor Press Guild) dues-paying ($60 bucks a year dues) driver, do as I suggest, not as I do (please). I had two nattering little complaints, neither of which would keep me from recommending this machine, nor my wife from actually wanting to buy one for her own personal use "... Next time." In no particular numerical order they are: 1.) There IS actually a tachometer located in the instrument binnacle. However, finding it to view and attempting to read it are well nigh impossible. The solution is just leave the car in drive and slap the lever down one gear for the off-ramps. 2.) It is, of course, very cool that there's a shoulder belt for both folks who will use the back seat, but the one hanging there from the ceiling like a sleeping bat was a distraction from first day to last for me. Nattering as I said, but this is a hard-bitten, unbiased, straight from the shoulder, review and finding anything wrong with this one was not all that easy. That's it - a truly sweet, truly humble machine that cheerfully makes good on the Scion promise of automotive honesty. Can you say "Scion" without cracking at least a wry little smile? After driving a number of the brand's offerings over the years, I sure can't.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT You don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the fun blows. For more information about Scion products, go to www.scion.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Scion xD Price: $14,650 $15,450, with automatic transmission $17,463, as tested EPA gas mileage rating (city/highway/combined miles per gallon) 27/33/29 manual transmission 26/32/28 automatic Engine: 1.8 liter DOHC 16-valve four-in-line with VVTi Power: 128 horsepower at 6000 rpm Torque: 125 pound-feet at 4400 rpm Transmission: 5-speed manual/4-speed automatic
Drive configuration: Front engine, front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted rack-and-pinion Suspension: Independent McPherson struts front with stabilizer bar Torsion beam rear Brakes: Power assisted ventilated disc brakes (front) Power assisted drum brakes (rear) Dimensions Length: 154.7 inches Width: 67.9 inches Height: 60 inches Curb weight: 2624 pounds (manual) 2668 pounds (automatic)