It’s been said, mostly by mothers, that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I’ll keep this as brief as possible.
The Scion xD is a compact hatchback marketed at youngins like me, not unlike the Ford Fiesta I reviewed on these pages last fall. Scion is new to Canada for the 2012 model year, having briefly succeeded but recently languished in the American market, where it was introduced in 2002.
Scion, for the uninitiated, is Toyota’s “youf” brand aimed at hip young urbanites that are into vehicle customization and, apparently, marketing jazz. It’s Toyota’s answer to the Mini, the car that really jump started the small, funky, personalizable segment. The first generation xB 5-door hatchback, which you’ve probably seen in Canada as a grey-market import, was an endearingly boxy little runabout that exuded confidence and made the Nissan Cube look like it was trying too hard. The xB was everything that Toyota wanted Scion to be, and more. In the US, it was a smashing sales success. So much so that Toyota’s plans to refresh the vehicle every year to keep it plucky and crisp were back-burnered almost immediately. Instead, Toyota rode the wave of success before eventually messing with the formula in the worst way possible, resulting in this, the Scion xD: successor to the xB’s stablemate, the xA. Whereas the first generation xA and xB were immediately distinguishable, the new xB and xD can easily confuse even a discerning eye.
Previously only sold in the US, Canadians are now offered all three of Scion’s second-generation vehicles, including the xB hatchback and tC two-door coupe. Plans are in the works to expand the stable to include a smart car killing iQ and a Mustang/Genesis killing FR-S, the latter of which was revealed in near-production spec at the 2011 New York Auto Show. In your author’s humble opinion, the two new products can’t come soon enough as they both appear to offer something genuinely unique for the Toyota brand.
But back to the Scion xD, the 5-door hatchback with the premium price and dearth of redeeming qualities. Compared to the Fiesta, the xD represents a lot of what’s plaguing Toyota right now. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still selling very well, but they’ve been resting on their laurels for a decade and the competition has moved the goal posts. As a results, the xD’s interior feels a full generation behind the segment leaders, the in-cabin technology is aging or absent, the styling is unimaginative, and the driver controls are alienating.
Calling the driver controls “alienating” might seem odd considering that my tester’s xD came equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal, gas pedal, and a 4-speed automatic, but there was nothing about the driving experience that led me to believe that I was driving what I would consider a 21st century automobile. It felt as if there was a 3” thick layer of wool coating every aspect of the driving experience. Not only did this prevent anything resembling enthusiastic driving, it also inhibited confident operation of the motor vehicle. The xD never instilled me with a sense of control, at least no more so than I would feel at the helm of West Edmonton Mall’s Santa Maria. In contrast, the Fiesta is sharp, eager, refined, and full of the latest tech – basically everything the xD is not.
The Scion xD merely took driver inputs as suggestions in a comment box, with the tacit understanding that there may or may not be a corresponding response. It was dull if not downright disheartening.
I did observe a rather impressive 7.8L/100km in my week of city driving, which cannot be understated. The 1.8L engine, despite being anchored to an anachronistic 4-speed auto, provided sufficient motivation for urban life – much as it does in the Corolla – all while sipping on $1.14/L 87 octane. But once again, the Fiesta trumps the xD, with an observed 7.0L/100km in a week of city driving. The Scion’s last salvo fired, and missed.
That’s the thing, the Scion xD doesn’t do anything that the Corolla or Matrix don’t already do, and the Matrolla twins do it without being draped with patronizing marketing and drizzled with a $3,000 premium. Sure, the standard equipment on the xD is generous, with A/C, CD player, and power everything thrown in, but you’re still paying for it. There’s no added value here.
So if you really want a small Toyota, skip the xD and get a Corolla or Matrix.
If you want the best small car, get a Fiesta.
CarEnvy Rating: 4/10
[Photo credits: author]