2011 Scion xD
2011 Scion xD. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2011 Scion xD

You would think Canada has enough small cars already, but Toyota disagrees, as it launches its value-oriented Scion brand north of the 49th for the 2011 model year. Their argument seems valid: Canada has a big appetite for little wheels. It’s odd enough that the U.S. market got Scions before us unlucky Canucks, but even more eyebrow-raising is that the company waited nine years before officially introducing Canadians to the brand’s three-model line-up.

Admission to the Scion party comes for as little as $17,200 for the xD, the subcompact pictured here. You won’t recognize the look based on anything else in the Toyota portfolio, but what’s underneath is nothing new: the xD is built on the same platform as the Toyota Yaris, swapping that car’s little 1.5-litre engine for the 1.8-litre used in the Corolla and Matrix models. That’s a significant upgrade that I’ll get to in a moment, but the xD is also significant for its standard equipment list, which includes 16-inch wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows/locks/heated mirrors, Bluetooth and a Pioneer six-speaker stereo with auxiliary and USB inputs.

2011 Scion xD
2011 Scion xD. Click image to enlarge

To get that kind of kit in a Yaris hatchback, you need to choose the LE with Convenience Package, which brings most of those items, but leaves out the six-speaker stereo (the Yaris gets four), Bluetooth and the USB input. You also get a little more cargo space in the Scion: 10.5 cu. ft (297 litres), compared to 9.3 (263 litres).

And then there’s that bigger motor. The Yaris’ 1.5-litre’s 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque are adequate for the car, and average for the class, but the xD’s 1.8-litre makes 128 hp and 125 lb-ft, which is a big bonus compared to what’s common in subcompacts. In fact, even when hooked up to my tester’s optional four-speed automatic (a five-speed manual is the default), the xD is notably quicker than a Yaris, such as the RS hatch (also automatic) I tested earlier this year.

2011 Scion xD
2011 Scion xD. Click image to enlarge

I’d suggest that the 1.8-litre is the smoother motor, too, but any comment on that will have to be reserved until Toyota sends us an xD that doesn’t have my tester’s optional sport muffler (a $610 extra), which makes the car much louder. I liked this kind of thing when I was younger and no doubt many young buyers will enjoy the sound, but this, to me, sounds a little like my last winter beater, which I got rid of after the exhaust rusted off.

The xD’s official, Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption estimates are 7.6/5.9 L/100 km (city/highway) with the automatic transmission; my tester had a hard time doing better than 9.0 in city driving, despite a motor that should have been mostly broken in, with about 2,500 km on the clock.

2011 Scion xD
2011 Scion xD. Click image to enlarge

My tester also had a $1,070 set of springs that lowered the ride height by about an inch and starched up the ride significantly; its 18-inch wheels, a $1,720 add, not including 225/40R18 tires, ramped up ride harshness over rough roads as well. Little cars don’t tend to do a great job of filtering out the crashes, booms and bangs of rough roads, and the big wheels and low-profile tires certainly didn’t help in this case, and in fact, seemed to contribute to increased tire noise on just about every kind of pavement. The wide tires also contributed to squirmy steering over uneven pavement.

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