2011 Scion xB review: Boxing Day

2011 Scion xB

2011 Scion xB

If you say “Scion,” most people will think “Scion xB.” People may know there are other Scion models out there, but the one they know is that square boxy thing that made automotive cubism acceptable and even stylish. The Scion xB, which originally had been thought by journalists when it debuted as a 2004 model as too weird to succeed, has since become an icon, paving the way for the Honda Element, Nissan Cube and Kia Soul, and to some extent, the Ford Flex.

The instrument panel of the 2011 Scion xB is set in the middle of the dash.

The instrument panel of the 2011 Scion xB is set in the middle of the dash.

The second generation Scion debuted with the 2008 model year, and now for 2011 Scion xB gets a mid-cycle facelift.  Most non-Scionistas would notice, but the front and rear bumpers, grille and headlights and taillights were changed, the xB edging yet further away from the original box-it-came-in design of the first generation Scion xB. Inside, Scion changed the instrument cluster and upgraded the driver and front passenger seat, and a new center console with a sliding armrest became standard as did a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Otherwise the 2011 Scion xB is no different from the 2008 and 2009 issue, right down to the 158 horsepower engine and Toyota Corolla-based chassis. Suspension is the same basic MacPherson strut/torsion beam typical in a vehicle with the Scion xB’s $16,950 base price, and the 158 horsepower 2.4-liter four driving the front wheels fits the xB zeitgeist as well.

2011 Scion xB engine

The 2011 Scion xB engine isn’t overendowed with power.

Simply put, the 2011 Scion xB is still dynamically unrewarding. It’s not so much fun-to-drive as it is fun to be in, but that’s tempered by its institutional-grade plastics. The steering wheel, for example, has a soft-touch feel but the surface is slippery. The dash looks particularly industrial–though that’s likely the point–but the dash protuberance that houses the shifter has a particularly unconvincing appearance of corrugated metal expressed in plastic.

Fabric on the door panels matches the swirly pattern on the seats, however, and the new front buckets are notably comfortable. The rear seat has lots of leg and elbow room for two, but while the rear seatback folds for station wagon cargo capacity, the seatback doesn’t fold flat. It’s not quite as easy to slide stuff in as it would be if it went down all the way.

Performance can be filed under “adequate,” with acceleration at highway speeds being an eventual sort of thing. Hustled on winding roads, the 2011 Scion xB goes weak in the knees and the steering light and overboosted.

Fuel mileage for a full tank of mixed driving, including highway and suburban, came to 25.8 mpg. That’s not outstanding but it fits the EPA estimate of 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway neatly, though we’ve found our test environment of hilly roads generally has a negative effect on the numbers.