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January 14th, 2006

Paul Likes a Box!

I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but I’ve started to like the Scion xB. Looks and all.

The Scion xA is the car that originally drew me in. And it’s nice. It’s quite nice. But then, I sat in an xB and… well… it’s really pretty nice inside. The headroom is stellar (especially when you’re the same height as Neve Campbell). The interior room is fantastic. The windshield is almost comical in its size: it feels really wide. The sun visors are equally wide, and have ridiculously small vanity mirrors. But I digress.

I can’t speak to how it drives, but I can say that the box look has grown on me a lot. It’s a polarizing look: either you love it or you hate it. I started in the hate it camp because, well, it’s a box. There’s no embellishment, nary a curve. But after sitting in it and seeing it gets 30 mpg… it’s not that bad.

Oh, and a box car is a perfect vehicle to transport boxes from IKEA.

Posted in Cars

Marcus Mackey September 24, 2006, 5:01 am

Originally I thought the xB was ridiculous, and actually kind of laughed it off as “That will never sell, at least not here!” I thought of it as a mini-Element which I also thought to be quite ugly.

But then I saw one tricked out in my neck…

…and like Paul, my opinion changed. Maybe not for the same reasons as it did for him, but it did change nonetheless. The more I’ve seen them… the more it’s grown on me, eerily. Almost scarily even. So much so… that when my aunt found out I was wanting a Scion, she was like “Oh no… not one of them boxy things” and while I told her no… I wasn’t exactly put-off or quick to the punch over it as I might’ve been previously.

I still don’t think I’d buy one because in my tastes, I tend to hinge a bit more on power than fuel conservation. I like fuel conservation, don’t get me wrong, with the fluctuation of gas prices surely to continue over the next few years… who can hate on a car that’s more economical? With that said though, I don’t want a car that requires a tail wind to break 60 either, and it’s not like I’m parking a 454-equipped Suburban to avoid bankruptcy… there’s cutting costs and being more responsible, and then there’s getting a bit extreme with the idea and making sacrifices above and beyond their needs when you need a little “oomph” in your life. Some people can live with b-market compacts that are underpowered… some, just can’t. I like the Honda Fit for everything but it’s styling… and therein is a car that just doesn’t “fit” me. The Mini fits closer… but not for the pricetag nor for the fuel economy for it’s size.

That is why instead of the xB, I’m actually in the market for a tC (Flint Mica, Automatic… the car is an insane value when you price it) which I hope to have by May of ’07 at the latest. It might not generate closer to the 40mpg target that the xB and xA draw… but the mid-20’s to 32 mpg is vastly superior to the mpg I’m getting in my current old GM product, and the tC has more power and torque to boot. Lighter car, better built, better ride, more practical, more standard features than you can shake a stick at, and a nice roster of things to custom tailor it off the lot to suit your ideal. Love it. Only wish they had more options or choices at the dealer to cross-shop and that whatever else the dealer carries won’t break the warranty. Hopefully SEMA (has a aftermarket parts warranty project/plan in the works) can come up with an answer for this.

Considering that the other car I cross-shopped, the Mazda 3s sedan, comes with less standard features than the tC and actually costs more than a tC with a # of options piled in to get it comparable to the tC in terms of power and features (that’s without throwing on any cool accessories on the tC)… and that I prefer coupes to sedans (not offered in the 3)… it just sort of worked into my favor. Both cars, to me, are the standard bearers of the class though… esp. compared to the underpowered lower model Civics. The Si is cool but not everyone can get a manual transmission car when they have other members of their household to consider… which ruled me out right there, sadly. That said… I’m not a fan of the new Civic dash anyhow. If given a DSG-like automatic for the Si… I’d be in a state of flux as to which to choose. That’s Honda’s loss though.

Seeing the silver xB around by my house sitting on what looks to be 17-18″ wheels, with the ghosted Scion logo that wraps from the door to the hood on an angle on both sides and the big tail pipe exhaust poking out it’s chubby bobbed tail… I actually found a look with the back-flipped clothes dryer on wheels that looks appealing. It’s a blank canvas; a mini version of a breadvan, potato chip, or UPS truck; but it has it’s own style and panache amongst a world that has become filled with jelly bean shapes since the 80’s Audi’s, the 80’s Ford Aero-birds, the original Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, and GM L/N body cars of the era kicked it all off over here. Dare I say it… it’s part of what has caused cars like the Caliber, 300C, Magnum, and Charger to sell…. they stick out and make a statement. They might not be beautiful, in some cases… they might be to one person and not another, but that’s kind of their own beauty, in that it’s what you see in it vs. what everyone sees in it together. Some will love it, some will hate it… and that in many ways… is an artform to itself. It’s a styling statement that isn’t a sell out, even if Scion might struggle to keep them on the showroom floor. It’s meeting it’s demands head-on without Toyota expecting more than they should with something that’s making this level of statement. The only way to expect success here is by not expecting it to sell in Camry volumes. If it is, in an odd way… it’s failing it’s mission.

Now if Scion had an xB with something closer to the 2.4 L 160 hp engine from the tC, I’d definitely cross-shop it. The other thing that hurts the xB to me is the center-mounted speedo which I am not a fan of at all in any car. In fact, I’d buy a Mini with the nav system just so they would clump the speedo next to the tach where it belongs. I just don’t think putting a speedo outside of the front and center line of sight while driving is a logical move, it’s not comfortable when used to having it in it’s traditional location, and it makes driving more of a chore and less convenient than it should be.

All of that said, for those saying the xB is ugly… I honestly can’t agree. If you want ugly… go find a previous generation Toyota Echo, look at the Nissan Versa, or for that matter… go take a closer gander at the sedan version of the Toyota Yaris, esp. from the front. Toss in the new Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen which are beyond garish IMHO. Toss in the new Sebring which does a tremendous disservice to both the previous Sebring (conservative but attactive) and the exquisite Airflow concept it borrows it’s cues from. I can find appeal in the look of the Caliber, despite it being underpowered in most models… but the Sebring and Aspen are 2 ghastly creations that I can’t look past. The new Avenger at least makes up for it but it looks almost like a shrunken Charger so Dodge appears almost to be aping itself at this stage.

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