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First Drive: 2011 Scion xD, xB and tC

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Review and Photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Scion xB

I’m a marketer’s worst nightmare: I appreciate a creative ad, but rarely pay much mind to what’s actually being advertised. Therefore, when it comes to my thoughts on the philosophy behind Toyota’s Scion line – that the brand is less about the cars themselves and more about having a part in shaping the future of the Generation Y demographic, largely marketing its vehicles specifically to these potential buyers – I don’t really get it.

But though I may not understand Scion’s marketing tactics, it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the cars themselves, and the xB is a good example. In the current line-up, the xB slots in between the smaller xD hatchback (which began its life in a previous generation as the xA) and the tC coupe. The current xB is the second of its kind, having been redesigned for 2007 into a larger, more powerful, and slightly less nerdy-looking box on wheels. The basic spec includes a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine, generating 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque and a five-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic is optional.

2011 Scion xB
2011 Scion xB
2011 Scion xB. Click image to enlarge

A little background: the first Scion vehicles went on sale as 2003 models in California, followed by a stateside, nationwide launch the following year. The 2011 model year marks the brand’s official introduction to Canada, though many older models have been privately imported into Canada already.

The xB, and its xD and tC stablemates may not look like Toyotas, but the xB’s 2,600 mm (102.4 in.) wheelbase gives away its strong ties to the Corolla and Matrix. On the road, the xB feels more like the Corolla, with a firm, but comfortable, ride (as opposed to the Matrix, whose too-stiff suspension I’ve never been able to warm to); this Scion felt nearly identical in its suspension and steering to a 2010 Corolla XRS I reviewed last winter. My tester’s manual transmission had a similarly easy shifter (the baseball-sized carbon fibre shifter is an $85 extra) and a light clutch that nonetheless provided enough feel to be fun.

2011 Scion xB
2011 Scion xB. Click image to enlarge

Despite being a generation behind in terms of Toyota’s four-cylinder engine technology (the larger 2.5- and 2.7-litre motors are more modern and efficient), this car’s 2.4 is a decent powerplant. It’s smooth and eager to rev, and generates good torque between 1,500 and 2,000 r.p.m., where you’ll often find the motor in a second-gear rolling start. That grunt also comes into play when shifting up through the gears in acceleration: the widely-spaced ratios would lead a less powerful engine to fall off its powerband with every shift, but there’s enough meat between 2,000 and 5,000 r.p.m. that this doesn’t happen, no matter whether you’re in a hurry or not. Even if this isn’t the most exciting engine in the world, it makes good power up top as well, so that merging onto a busy highway doesn’t involve taking your life into your hands.

2011 Scion xB
2011 Scion xB. Click image to enlarge

Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption estimates for an xB with manual transmission are 9.5/7.2 L/100 km (city/highway); my tester averaged 10.0 L/100 km city driving.

Cruising at 100 km/h in top gear spins the engine at about 2,600 r.p.m. That’s reasonable, but the louder-than-stock exhaust (my tester had a TRD muffler, one of the accessories that can be ordered through the dealer) made for annoying engine noise at cruise.

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