|1. Standard Pioneer sound system features six speakers, iPod connectivity, and MP3, WMA and AAC digital music format compatibility.
2. Rear seats slide and recline.
3. According to Consumer Reports, the xD was the most reliable new automobile for 2009, with 83 percent fewer problems than average.
When I first saw the Black Scion xD I’d be spending the next few days with, all decked out with 18-inch flat black TRD wheels and a few other TRD accessories, it was impossible not to smile. For a small front-wheel-drive economy-class vehicle, this 5-door hatchback makes a truly bold statement. I half expected a fedora-wearing, cigar-chewing gangster to jump out and gruffly tell me to “get in.” This is one tough looking compact.
Part of what has made the Scion xB and tC so popular, particularly with younger buyers, is the “blank canvas” they start out as. But unless that blank canvas has a distinctive and appealing shape to begin with, nobody is going to want one, which is exactly what held the xA back relative to its stable mates. But the xD shouldn’t suffer from that problem, since its sheet metal has a sort of Al Capone meets Darth Vader vibe to it, being somehow retro and futuristic at the same time. All you have to do is look at a 1933 Plymouth Six sedan or Capone’s own 1930 Cadillac V16 and I think you’ll see where some of xD’s exterior design cues have come from. And it should come as no surprise that the ’33 Plymouth remains a very popular platform for hot rodding, just like Scion wants you to do with the xD. But at the same time, the front grille, headlights, and taillights all have a very modern style to them. For a Star Wars geek like me, looking at my Black xD from a low head-on perspective conjures up a mental picture of Darth Vader’s helmet.
Inside, the retro hot rod styling cues have been left behind in favor of a completely modern and futuristic look and feel. The xD’s funky dash, gauge cluster, center console, seat design and fabric, and interior lighting could all have been designed by a Playstation3 graphic artist. There’s no shortage of interesting shapes, colors and textures surrounding its occupants, which makes the xD a fun place to be. The main gauge center or ‘Multifunctional Display Unit’ (as Scion calls it) features a particularly attractive central single gauge speedometer/tachometer, though it did take a minute for my brain to adjust to seeing engine speed and vehicle speed on a split circular gauge. There’s also a full compliment of power accessories and options inside, from air conditioning, cruise control and power windows and mirrors, to a tilt steering wheel. The xD also comes standard with a ton of safety features including ABS, stability control, traction control, six airbags including full-length side curtains, and front active head restraints. And of course there’s also the booming 6-speaker Pioneer sound system, which not only includes a single CD/MP2 player but also has an auxiliary MP3 jack and a dedicated iPod port that allows playback control through the factory head unit.
There’s also a ton of aftermarket support and factory support if you want to customize your xD. Scion and TRD have several alloy wheel upgrade options to choose from, a rear spoiler option, LED taillights, a premium audio system with a screen that allows pictures and videos to be displayed, and even an interior mood lighting option with a choice of four colors. TRD also has performance parts available including lowering springs, shocks, and rear anti-sway bar as well as a GPS navigation and satellite radio options.
On the downside, the interior is a bit cramped, with front legroom being noticeably tight for this 6-foot tall driver. The reclining rear seats do offer rear passengers added comfort though, and head room is abundant. Cargo space isn’t as generous in the xD as it is in most other 5-door hatchbacks in its class, but the rear compartment was still deep enough for three stacked duffle bags and a backpack full of heavy camera gear.
With a starting price of $14,550, the 2008 Scion xD 5-door hatchback faces real competition from the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa, both of which also come in under $15,000 in base model trim. Although both the Fit and Versa have more interior space and larger overall dimensions, because of its high waste line, muscular sheet metal, and torquey engine (1.8-liter 128 hp versus 1.5-liters and 117 hp for the Fit and 1.8-liter 122 hp for the Versa), the xD has a more substantial feel to it on the road. Because of their relatively low-cost powerplants, none of these entry-level compact hatchbacks are world-beaters at the gas pump, all three reporting very similar city and highway mileage (27/33 for the xD, 27/33 for the Fit and 24/32 for the Versa).
The Honda Fit does feel like a much more nimble and agile machine in comparison to the Versa or xD. The xD does suffer from the typical numb steering feel that’s common to many Toyotas, and there’s no confusing its handling with anything resembling a sports car, but that’s not the point of a machine as funky as this newest Scion. No, the xD is all about style and personalization in a affordable and economical package. Some may prefer the cutesy styling of the Fit and its lighter feel on the road, but if your inner hot rodder needs an outlet, there’s no better choice under $15,000 than this cyberpunk cool interpretation of a gangster transporter.
Retro hot rod exterior styling
Feature-rich interior with plenty of interesting shapes, colors and textures
Huge selection of factory and aftermarket upgrades and accessories
Front legroom is a bit cramped
Less rear cargo capacity than the competition
Numb steering and soft suspension means you won’t want to drive it like you stole it