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New Car Joy Ride - 2003 Scion xA And xB

Scion xA And xB

Jonathan Wong
Jul 1, 2003
Photographer: Courtesy Of Scion
0307_SSTP_03_z_BBX Photo 1/1   |   New Car Joy Ride - 2003 Scion xA And xB

The airports were unusually calm for this particular trip-after all, our country had just initiated war with Iraq and the nervousness of flying has apparently settled back into the psyche of travelers all across the nation, including mine. The flight goes smoothly, however, and in just under an hour, I've jet-setted from sunny Southern California into the ever-dismal climes of the San Francisco Bay Area. Upon my arrival, it's unclear as to how the weather might be for the next couple of days while I'm there. It had poured ferociously the weekend prior, as well as the day before my scheduled leg. Not to mention hundreds of protesters had already started to gather just a few city blocks from our hotel's location. This was not a good sign, nor was it a good way to begin a press trip. Or was it? Only a restful night and abuse of the hotel's adult movie selections would tell.

This Part of the Quiz is Multiple Choice-Please Mark "A" or "B" for Your Answers.The following morning was met with much haste and anticipation. I awoke to the business of downtown SF's early commuters and rushed downstairs to meet my test subjects for the day: Scion's all-new xA sedan and the xB, both of which feature more space-age styling than your everyday passenger vehicles that have been designed for today's Gen Y consumer. However, it's this space-age quality that makes these two vehicles so unique and at the same time so appealing to those who might want more out of a car than just a pair of vanity mirrors and really great gas mileage, both of which Scion's vehicles offer. We are living in times where the connection of our Internet speeds and the ability to meet friends in the flesh is more important than the type of gasoline we choose to put into our cars. Scion recognizes this fact and is prepared to accommodate such factors, as Jim Farley, vice president of Scion explains: "[Scion's target buyer] is information rich, time poor, and highly technology savvy. We're going to cater to this influential generation with unique products, a distinctive dealership environment, and a revolutionized sales process, all complemented by an astonishing sticker price." In a nutshell, Scion's solution to the world lies within these two very unique automobiles, each with a distinct look and driving experience to call their own. To understand it all, you have to break down those chains of love and take a closer look.

You'd Better Bring Your "A" Game, 'Cuz It's Gonna Be Raining 3s!The Scion xA, based on the Japanese market ist, is a five-door, pseudo-European-looking sedan with an appearance that seems like it has been thrown in the wash and shrunken down two sizes. As tiny as this thing is, I had no problem squeezing my fat head inside the doorway, which is always a plus. I found the dashboard to be quite minimal in design, shod with designs of tomorrow and a gauge cluster that's smack-dab in the middle of it all. Most of you will think it's different, and it is. But that's exactly what Scion wants, and you will get used to it. Equipped with a four-speed auto (you can also opt for the five-speed slushbox), this 108hp, VVT-i-enhanced powerplant is not designed with balls-to-the-wall horsepower in mind, but it does deliver exceptional fuel economy with EPA city/highway mileage estimates of 31/37 for either drivetrain configuration. Firing it up for the first time, the xA did not strike any sort of fear into my heart-rather it just sat quietly and purred. If I had been there longer than two minutes without realizing the engine was on, I probably would have dozed off. So like any other idiotic Super Street editor would do, I cranked the key one more time, causing the starter to shriek loudly. You know, that noise a car makes when the car's already on and you keep on trying to turn it over? [Jonny, you're an idiot.-SS staff]

Without much hesitation, I shifted the car into gear and sped off. Within minutes, I found myself trapped in a joyous gathering of bicycling protesters. I don't know what's weirder-being stuck in traffic behind those clueless dolts or the fact that I had to honk my horn in accordance with their protests, just so I could weasel my way through the melee. You see, while waiting ever so patiently for 15 minutes, Frisco's finest decided to confiscate one of the bicycles, much to the dismay of those disheveled anarchists. "Give the bike back! Give the bike back!" they shouted. I yelled out, "Just let me through," followed by blank stares and middle fingers. Since that didn't work, I began honking my horn furiously to the beat of their drum (visualize with me): Beep-beep-beep-beep! Beep-beep-beep-beep! And like Moses' parting of the Red Sea, I was allowed safe passage through their waters. Geez-war, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. But honking, now that really works!

After I maneuvered my way out of that mess, I tried my best to sprint down every street we were instructed to drive on-but I just couldn't. Slow-going it was, yes, but the driving response was surprisingly phenomenal. Kick it to the left and it will; kick it to the right and it obeys. Even though you could run faster than it would take for the xA to accelerate onto the freeway, the fine art of joyriding around town was not sacrificed one bit, thankfully due in part by some ultra-comfy seats and the OEM Pioneer audio package that each Scion will feature. Let me tell you, this system kicks major tail. The head unit is capable of playing both standard audio CDs as well as burned MP3s, not to mention it's satellite-tuner capable, as long as you sign up for the service. There are plenty of speakers placed strategically throughout the passenger cabin and an optional bass tube can be had for additional thump. As it stands, this system is perfect for most Gen Y heads because it has been tuned to play house, hip hop, and other various forms of electronica, crisply and clearly. In fact, Scion's audio gear is probably the best OEM system that I have ever come across, and as a music buff, this is extremely important to me, especially if I want to play my Ibiza Trance Classics Volume 36.

Flip It Over For The B-SideMost of you should be more familiar with the xB model since we recently put one together as a project vehicle for Super Street. We first featured this offbeat U.S. stepwagon last fall ("Black Box," September '02) and as you can tell, this is the perfect alternative to those who are looking for more of an SUV look and feel, without the SUV price. The xB (known in Japan as the bB) is based off the same platform as the xA and also comes equipped with the same 1.5L engine as its Scion brethren. Although it is slightly heavier (just a hair more than 2,400 pounds), the xB maintains an excellent power-to-weight ratio and will deliver EPA city/highway mileage estimates of 30/33 (five-speed manual) and 30/34 (auto), not to mention it's also an EPA-certified low emissions vehicle (LEV). It will also come with all of the same standard goodies the xA comes with, including the Pioneer audio system, full power controls, and a myriad of optional add-on accessories.

On the road, a stock xB is no comparison to our GReddy turbocharged behemoth, but it is just as fun to drive as the xA. With a manual version under my control, the xB accelerated much quicker than the auto xA and I felt much braver driving this as it would power through situations I originally thought it wouldn't move through at all. It's still no 360 Modena, but it did move hastily out of the Bay Bridge toll booth. The handling of the xB is very impressive, with a suspension package stiff enough to remind me of a full coilover system-tres bon. This box-on-wheels will also get you plenty of attention as I was repeatedly asked, "What kind of car is that? Is it an ice cream truck? That must be an ice cream truck. Can I get a Choco-Taco?" You're going to get the looks because there is simply no other vehicle quite like it in the marketplace, and that's why it rocks.

Overall, both Scion models are just a lot of fun-more so than a fist full of dollars or a barrel of monkeys. Either model is the perfect automobile for those who aren't really into cars, but want to save themselves from the embarrassment of driving around in an '87 Yugo, or worse yet, a '73 Maverick. But it's also perfect for those of you who are into cars, because when modified, they actually look pretty damn decent. However, the cars alone aren't the best part of this whole deal; just wait until you walk into a Scion dealership. You aren't going to be hassled because you'll be the one negotiating the deal. Scion knows you don't want to be inundated with a barrage of BS, so when you're ready to sign on that dotted line, you can let them know that when, and only when you're ready. California will be the first state to carry the Scion brand, which will eventually spread out across the rest of the nation by June 2004. And guess what? You can forget about having to eat mac 'n' cheese for the rest of your natural life, 'cuz the price of a Scion will start at roughly $12,480 for the xA and $13,680 for the xB. You can also expect a third model to join the xA and xB in the near future. Fun, affordable, and best of all, a no-hassle bargain for you. We wouldn't want it any other way.

When Stock Just Isn't Good EnoughFor those of you who cannot leave stock alone, Scion is ready and willing to meet your expectations with a variety of optional performance upgrades, like a cold-air intake or a front strut tower brace. Additionally, you can upgrade the head unit to a different Pioneer unit, which will incorporate a six-disc CD changer and 10-color change illumination, or activate the satellite radio feature with the preexisting satellite equipment. Every single upgrade can be seen in person at your local Scion dealer or online at, where you can mock up a custom version of your xA/xB and have it sent electronically to your dealer so your Scion will be modified upon its arrival, if you choose to do so.

That New Car Smell

The Ride Scion XA

The Sticker Starting at $12,480

Under The Hood DOHC 1.5L, four-cylinder VVT-i LEV engine

The Power 108 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 105 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm

Scale Tipping 2,340 (mt)/2,380 (at) lbs

Layout Front engine, front wheel drive

Gearbox Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic

Stiff Stuff MacPherson struts with coil springs (front) and torsion beams (rear)

Rollers 15x6 steel and/or alloy wheels, P185/60R15 low-profile tires

Stoppers Standard antilock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution

At The Pump 31/37 city/highway mpg

The Pack Honda Civic, VW Golf

Deep Thoughts We don't know karate, but we know crazy, and the Scion xA is definitely crazy! Two snaps up and a twist.

The Ride Scion Xb

The Sticker Starting at $13,680

Under The Hood DOHC 1.5L, four-cylinder VVT-i LEV engine

The Power 108 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 105 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm

Scale Tipping 2,395 (mt)/2,450 (at) lbs

Layout Front engine, front wheel drive

Gearbox Five-speed manual or four-speed automatic

Stiff Stuff MacPherson struts with coil springs (front) and torsion beams (rear)

Rollers 15x6 steel and/or alloy wheels, P185/60R15 low-profile tires

Stoppers Standard antilock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution

At The Pump 30/33 city/highway mpg (manual); 30/34 city/highway mpg (auto)

The Pack Honda Element, Russ' skateboard

Deep Thoughts If you have the means to drive one of these, we highly recommend it. It is so choice.

By Jonathan Wong
483 Articles



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