By Clint Williams
Green Right Now
The Scion xB is a funky, frugal urban utility vehicle with remarkable interior roominess and quirky charm. But this automotive trendsetter – it was the first starkly boxy compact, paving the way for the Nissan Cube and others – could use some updates beyond the minor changes found in the 2011 Scion xB.
A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 158 horsepower powers the Scion xB. The engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The combination provides serviceable uummph for daily driving but fuel economy isn’t what you might expect these days for a car this size. In an era when more efficient six-speed automatic transmissions or continuously variable transmission are common, use of the trailing edge technology costs you at the pump. The EPA estimates the fuel economy of the 2011 Scion xB to be 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 28 mpg in highway driving. We got just over 24 mpg in a mix of back roads cruising and stop-and-go shopping trips.
Compare this to the fuel economy performance of the redesigned Ford Explorer. This larger sports utility vehicle, which comes standard with a V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission, offers an inline four-cylinder engine that uses direct injection of gasoline and turbo-charging to deliver 237 horsepower and fuel economy of about 30 mpg highway. So a bigger – and, to be fair, more costly – vehicle equipped with cutting edge technology delivers better fuel economy than the Scion xB.
If it sounds like comparing apples to oranges, it’s not really because I would suggest that most families shopping for an SUV would find their needs met in the Scion xB. The boxy shape of the Scion xB allows for a stunning amount of headroom and legroom for five passengers. With the rear seats folded down, the Scion xB provides 69.9 cubic feet of cargo space. The 2011 Ford Explorer has 80.7 cubic feet.
The Scion xB is a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and features electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution. The array of airbags includes front and rear side curtain airbags.
New features for 2011 includes a telescopic steering wheel, which makes driver comfort easier to achieve, and a sliding armrest on the center console, a seemingly small thing that makes a big difference.
A big plus for the Scion xB is the sticker price: $16,950. Standard equipment includes power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control and a 160-watt Pioneer sound system with iPod jack. The test vehicle options included an upgraded sound system and 19-inch alloy wheels. The total sticker price was $21,442.