C&D Road Test - 2004 Scion xA and xB

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Jun 5, 2003.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    To the crucial decisions facing youth, Toyota adds one more: bean or box?

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    BY AARON ROBINSON
    PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID DEWHURST
    June 2003

    Bean or box? Boiled down to its bones, that is the question facing the pioneers who stumble into the first Scion dealerships.

    Whoa. Scion? It means "a descendant or offspring." (It's pronounced sigh-on.) And indeed, Scion has sprung from the fertile loins of Toyota as a new cheapie car brand for the young. After all those years harvesting baby boomers with "Oh, What a Feeling!" ads, it turns out their kids won't touch a Toyota, Mom's Toyota, with a 10-foot tattoo stencil (see sidebar).

    So here comes Scion to determine—pardon us, dear William—whether that which we call Toyota by any other name will sell as sweet. The initial two cars hit Scion's 105 California showrooms this month. A third, more sporty car arrives in June 2004, by which time Scion will have migrated to the rest of the nation.

    Meanwhile, the first two cars, the bean and the box, are two of Toyota's Japanese home-market hatchbacks that share the Toyota Echo's chromosomes. They both have strut and twist-beam suspensions and the Echo's 108-hp, 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine, with variable valve timing on the intake cam.

    First, meet the bean. It is the Toyota Ist in Japan and the Scion xA in America, where it leads the freshly printed Scion catalog with a base sticker of just $12,965 on five-speed manual models. The optional four-speed automatic adds $800 to both the xA and the xB.

    The 93.3-inch wheelbase of the xA exactly echoes the Echo's and tightly packs seating for five and almost 12 cubic feet of cargo space between its love handles. The bean's only factory options besides the automatic transmission are front side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags, which come as a package for $650.

    Much more interesting is the box, especially to pedestrians who may ask things like, "When did Westinghouse get into cars?" and "Where do you put in the bleach?" Japan, which has had three years to get used to all those right angles, knows it as the bB (supposedly, that stands for "best balance"). Here, it will star as the Scion xB and roller-skate out of showrooms on its 15-inch wheels at $14,165 with a stick. It rides on a longer wheelbase than the xA, 98.4 inches, and has more room inside for people and about 21 cubic feet behind the rear seats for clutter.

    The Scion twins are significantly upgraded for duty in America: extra steel reinforcement in their skeletons, more sound-damping material, tighter suspensions, and a substantially longer list of standard accessories. That list includes four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock in the xA and disc brakes with ABS, traction control, and skid control in the xB.

    Scions—both the round and rectilinear variety—also come with standard power windows and locks, a first-aid kit, and a Pioneer single-disc CD player singing through six speakers. On paper, at least, the Scions are a roaring value. Only the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Spectra, Saturn Ion, and Toyota Echo and Tacoma pickup have base prices lower than the xA's, but none has anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, and a CD player as standard equipment.

    Even so, Scion's managers view the cars as blank canvases for 38 customization accessories. They range from a $49 faux carbon-fiber shift knob to a $595 satellite-radio receiver and include such whimsy as giant-fingerprint door decals and interior mood-lighting strips.

    Steered around the Mission District of San Francisco during the Scion's launch, a 2400-pound xA automatic demonstrated a bump-absorbent ride and lightly weighted controls. The seating position is high, just an inch or two less than a Toyota RAV4's, so minivan drivers are almost at eye level. Glass rings the cockpit like a lighthouse, but wind noise and tire moan are reduced to a whisper, thanks to the extra sheets of sound insulation and double-tube door seals.

    Considering that the xA has the Echo's power but an extra 280 pounds, it's no surprise that the engine struggles to maintain momentum up S.F.'s legendary hills. At least the automatic is programmed to hold gears on uphill hauls, so there's less hunting for power and little to be found anyway.

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    The 2450-pound xB thrusts its square chin down the road with no greater urgency, but it does offer better stability and less understeer, owing in part to firmer steering and stiffer rear springs. Consequently, the ride feels crunchier over the Mission District's lumpy streets. When we likened the xB's hard ride to that of a sport-utility, Scion managers responded that kids like it starchy.

    As in the xA, the xB's dashboard data flow from a centrally mounted pod. But the xB's console is different. The speedo sits on top of the dash like a mantel clock, offset toward the driver and easier to read than the xA's hooded dials. In both cars, the all-important radio is a stretch from the driver's seat; steering-wheel buttons are not offered.

    The xB's interior is vast, the rear seats sprawling with a luxurious 50 cubic feet, or the same volume as the front seats of an Audi A6. Fold down the seatbacks, and the xB takes in 43 cubic feet of cargo through the electric solenoid-released hatch, only about two cubic feet less than a Ford Explorer.

    Despite the outstanding utility, the xB is still an automotive one-liner, with its styling the punch line. Either you laugh or you gag. Enthusiasts may do both. Although both Scions are capable small cars, they aren't really for passionate drivers.

    Of the dealer-supplied accessories available for the xA and xB at launch, only two enhance performance. One is a front strut-tower brace for $225, the other a $335 cold-air intake with a low-restriction filter worth perhaps 10 horsepower (Toyota wouldn't be specific). Once the Scions go on sale, company executives predict the aftermarket will rush to supply superchargers and other hop-up parts.

    Until then, the real question remains: bean or box?

    2004 SCION xA AND xB

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    Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-pas- senger, 5-door wagon
    Base price: xA, $12,965; xB, $14,165
    Engine type: DOHC 16-valve 4-in-line, aluminum block and head, Toyota engine-control system with port fuel injection
    Displacement: 91 cu in, 1497cc
    Power (SAE net): 108 bhp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque (SAE net): 105 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm

    Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic with lockup torque converter
    Wheelbase (xA / xB): 93.3 / 98.4 in
    Length (xA / xB): 154.1 / 155.3 in
    Width (xA / xB): 66.7 / 66.5 in
    Height (xA / xB): 60.2 / 64.6 in
    Curb weight (xA / xB): 2350-2400 / 2450 lb

    C/D-estimated performance:
    Zero to 60 mph: 9.0-9.8 sec
    Zero to 100 mph: 35.5-40.0 sec
    Standing 1/4-mile: 17.4-18.0 sec
    Top speed (governor limited): 109 mph

    Fuel economy:
    EPA city driving (xA / xB): 31 / 30 mpg
    EPA highway driving (xA / xB): 37 / 33-34 mpg

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    The Fogey Goes Funky

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    Perhaps the wake-up call came with the Toyota Echo. Launched in 2000 with hip advertising and a lunch-money price intended to lure younger buyers, the car's median buyer age rocketed straight into the mid-40s. The brand-new Corolla unveiled last year did the same thing—in the "low 40s," admits Brian Bolain, national sales manager for Scion.

    Toyota's median age for all its products is 46, fitting for a full-line automaker that also sells large sedans and trucks. But back in Japan, Toyota executives fear the company has a terminal case of frumpiness, which explains why its market share among younger buyers has dropped to an all-time low.

    Why is Gen Y so important? Because in 2010, one of every four vehicles sold in America will belong to someone aged 16 to 29, says Bolain. By 2020, as the baby boomers give way to their children, the Ys will grow to 40 percent of the market, he says.

    Any company that misses that boat could be the Oldsmobile of the next century. So Scion is a "laboratory for change and innovation that will explore new ways to stay relevant," says Scion vice-president Jim Farley. Translation: The kids won't buy Toyotas, dawg, so we'd better do something different, like Lexus for head-bangers.

    The big story isn't the xA and the xB, which are elaborate redos of subcompacts on sale in trend-crazy Japan. To push Scion's median buyer age into the low 30s, the Scion experiment really starts with a marketing plan targeted at 22-year-old males and carefully stage-managed to push every Generation Y button without seeming to push any.

    Skeptical of everything from Nike to Mother's Day and accustomed to surfing for their info, the target generation doesn't want to be marketed to, Bolain says. At least, not so they realize it.

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    So Scion will pass on traditional TV- and print-ad extravaganzas and focus on "being discovered" in strategic locations. Super Bowl ads are out. A Scion "mag-a-log" lifestyle magazine/catalog, a dazzling Web site, and test-drive events at import tuner shows and concerts of the punks du jour are definitely in. Scion hopes word-of-mouth will move its message around faster and more credibly.

    The Scion dealership will also be different, more Best Buy and less Persian bazaar. Before a Toyota dealer can install a Scion "discovery zone" with its plasma screen displays and Internet kiosks, the dealer must sign a "covenant" that, among other things, requires salespeople to honor their own advertised prices. Scion dealers thus follow in Saturn's tracks with a one-price, no-haggling approach.

    One big deviation from Saturn, aside from Toyota's plans to keep Scion humming with new products, is the number of dealers. Saturn strictly limited its dealer count to protect the dealers' regions and avoid pricing wars.

    In contrast, Toyota believes some 70 percent of its 1200 dealers will put up a minimum investment estimated at $120,000 for a Scion franchise by 2004 as the brand spreads eastward from California. Angelenos, for example, may have up to 12 Scion dealers to choose from in L.A. County alone, a hypercompetitive environment that could have dealers stabbing one another in the back for buyers.

    Scion executive coordinator Katsuhiko Kunitomo, who is Scion's liaison with Toyota headquarters in Japan, admits it's a concern and says the dealer count may eventually drop as less committed dealers fall out.

    If you prefer Toyota in all its graying frumpiness, don't worry, says Don Esmond, Toyota Division senior vice-president and general manager. Creating Scion allows Toyota to keep its feet firmly in the boomer firmament. Says Esmond: "We did a good job of listening to baby boomers over the years. I don't want to give up on them." —AR

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  2. KDubb

    KDubb everyday I'm hustlin'

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    the world is going down hill with that box like POS on the road.


    armageddon is coming soon. learn to swim
     
  3. mucky

    mucky .

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    Toyota's version of Saturn
    but better executed.
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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  5. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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  6. RenaultFreak

    RenaultFreak OMG

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    :rolleyes: it looks a lot like the New Scenic...
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    and slightly like the old one:

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  7. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    I'd rather have the Nissan Cube though.

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  8. Bolicious

    Bolicious Handleobraese

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    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:
     
  9. Nemesis_152

    Nemesis_152 I'm a delicate desert flower from Arizona.

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    :cool: i like th boxy one
     
  10. glide

    glide primer

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  11. Nemesis_152

    Nemesis_152 I'm a delicate desert flower from Arizona.

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    HisX, i dig the nissan cube...more pics?
     
  12. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    Dash looks like it came from a U-Haul truck or something.
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  13. MR Yasir

    MR Yasir New Member

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    The sporty one that they say will be coming soon better have a 3SGTE or else.
     
  14. Pudifin

    Pudifin These girls > olsen twins

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    Those cars are uglier than the aztec.
     
  15. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    Cube also has optional electic motors on the rear wheels to assist on low traction situations.
     
  16. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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  17. Nemesis_152

    Nemesis_152 I'm a delicate desert flower from Arizona.

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    when does it come to the US? i need new vehicle
     
  18. HisXLNC

    HisXLNC ๑۩۞۩๑ Hot ๑۩۞۩๑

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    It probably won't. It would need a massive redesign to fix the huge blindspot.
     

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