2011 Scion xD Review

Scion's least-inspired model does the job, but doesn't fit the part

2011 Scion xD Review

Toyota’s entry-level brand is under fire. After seven years of relatively easy pickings, a combination of poor corporate decision making and increasingly laser-accurate competition, Scion is scrambling. Sales are down sharply and apart from the 2011 tC, there’s little really new until next fall when the cute iQ micro-car debuts, and there’s a real sense that the company is quickly losing its relevancy amongst the youth buyers it’s aimed at.

FAST FACTS

1. According to the latest Consumer Reports reliability survey, the Scion brand is the most reliable in America, with the xD being the highest rated model in the brand.

2. A 1.8L 4-cylinder makes 128-hp.

3. Fuel economy is rated at 27/33-mpg, city/hwy.

4. An extensive list of Scion accessories includes everything from 18-inch wheels to suspension upgrades, to unique interior accessories and a touch-screen Navigation system.

ENTRY LEVEL SCION QUICKLY AGING IN FAST-PACED SEGMENT

Perhaps the vehicle most under fire is the entry-level xD, a poor cousin replacement to the poor cousin xA hatchback that although mechanically identical, couldn’t hold a candle to the original square-box xB in terms of perception. Still, there are very hot products coming from rival manufacturers in this very price-sensitive and trend-creating class, and barring some minor updates in 2010 and for ’11, the xD is already four years old.

The exterior shape hasn’t dated all that poorly. There are shades of Yaris in the profile, but the xD is happy to play its own tune. It shares the same wide-set headlamps and rectangular lower grille that’s now honeycomb with the rest of the Scion family… all the better to fit an intercooler for an aftermarket turbocharger, they say.

SMALL UPGRADES FOR 2011 HINDER RATHER THAN HELP

Changes made for 2011 include a rear spoiler that implies sportier handling than before, and changes to the ride height and shock absorbers that better support that implication. The xD is not an overt performer, especially with its 16-inch all-season tires on steel wheels, and relatively modest brakes (including rear drums).

The tradeoff for the new cool looks, though, is a jiggly ride, especially on broken pavement. Maybe Scion’s trying to attract all those old Honda Civic owners bouncing around on cut springs?

POWER AND FUEL ECONOMY STILL QUITE GOOD

Either way, the xD does nip through traffic quite well for its size. The 128-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder isn’t especially athletic, but it is more powerful than the small cars coming from Ford and Mazda. The standard five-speed manual is definitely the one to choose since spending the extra dough on the four-speed automatic is a real buzz-kill. The slush-box is slow to shift, blunts the already meagre acceleration and is just no fun. Either way, the xD gets acceptable fuel economy numbers – 27/33 mpg (city/highway) – which is equal to a Honda Fit, but worse than a Fiesta.

However, the xD’s boxier shape has some positives. It’s easier to see out of, and despite the huge rear pillars, the blind spots are not terrible. Cargo room is generous for this class, although the Honda Fit is perhaps a thousand times cleverer. It also feels well built, like it’ll pass into fourth-generation college student car very easily, and survive burnouts and hand-brake turns and all the other stupid stuff we did when we were young.

EVEN BASE MODELS COME WELL EQUIPPED

The one thing the little Scion has going for it is its relative value. While a starting price of $14,900 is middle of the pack, it’s certainly not a stripper model… there’s standard power windows and locks, air conditioning, a good Pioneer stereo, expensive side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, split-folding and reclining rear seats, and a full load of safety systems like ABS, traction and stability control, six airbags, and active front headrests. And that’s it. Other than choosing model, color and transmission, you’re done.

Until you get your hands on an accessory catalogue. Scion offers over 40 different style, convenience and performance parts that owners can roll right into their monthly payment. Everything from a rear spoiler and carbon-fiber B-pillar appliqués, to TRD-branded brake pads, shift-knobs, sway bars and exhausts can be had. Larger wheels are another obvious choice, and there are three choices for larger 18-inchers. While the standard 160-watt Pioneer head-unit is predictably good, the upgraded Alpine premium audio system adds a touch-panel screen with optional navigation.

One Scion exclusive in this class is that all models get their first two services – at 5,000 and 10,000 miles – performed for free at the dealership. While that might only add up to a couple hundred dollars saved, when you have the youngest average owner age in the market, that equals a lot of take-out or bucks better spent at iTunes.

THE VERDICT

So is the xD worthy of praise and recommendation? Not without some big consideration of what else is out there. There are too many smart, sharp, satisfying vehicles now on sale in the xD’s backyard to recommend it without serious consideration. Unlike the xB – or even the sexy 2011 tC coupe – the xD is not the emotional choice in the Scion showroom.

RELATED READING

2011 Mazda 2 Review 2011 Ford Fiesta: First Drive 2010 Honda Fit Review 2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 LT Review 2009 Toyota Yaris

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