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New Car Review: 2004 Scion xA

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L.J.Garcia Version of 2004 Scion xA

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MODEL: Scion xA
ENGINE: 1.5-liter DOHC four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 108 hp @ 6,000 rpm/105 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 93.3 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 154.1 x 66.7 x 60.2 in.

Toyota's new Scion xA is a car that attracts attention, not only from the Gen X crowd it was designed to appeal to, but from older fogies such as myself who are interested in any new metal connected to four wheels.

The xA is one of two Scion models that hit the US this year. The xA is more conservatively styled, as well. It is a front-wheel drive, five-door hatchback with styling cues that resemble the Mini from the rear, bit with its own front profile. It definitely is its own car, though. The side profile is cute, the 3/4 view is cute. All about the xA is cute.

While the xA is small, there is excellent front seat leg-, head- and shoulder room. With the rear seat pushed all the way back, though, rear seat legroom is tight. I might have been able to drive with the seat more forward, but it seemed more comfortable with the seat all the way back. Certainly, if we were carrying passengers in the back, I would have moved it forward.

Adding to the uniqueness is a center-mounted instrument panel. It's placed right up there at the base of the windshield where you can get information quickly (once you remember it's there). The instruments were a speedometer, tachometer and fuel level gauge. I liked the design of the speedometer, with black numbers on a white background, but the tach didn't match. In front of the driver is a huge slanted panel. You could probably tack post-its there for some serious multi-tasking, or even put a photo of your favorite wife or pet.

In the center of the dash, in their normal locations, are the sound system and HVAC controls. Both worked well, although the vents in the dash were different and required a learning curve to get them to point where you wanted or even to shut them off.

Continuing with the dash, there are cubby holes under the large glove box and at the base of the dash. There's a lighted, covered cubby in the center of the dash as well. The light goes on when you enter the car, giving some light to find your way around the xA at night.

The 1.5-liter DOHC four that's under the hood was noisy, especially on acceleration. It's rated at 108 horsepower, which is fine for the 2,380-pound xA. Power reached the front wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission. The gearbox sometime shad to search for the right gear and was often in a lower gear than I would have chosen with a manual gearbox.

This is the same engine as the Toyota Echo, and the Scion xA is built on the same 93.3-inch wheelbase as the Echo. The xA is shorter, though.

Cargo capacity is listed at 11.7 cubic feet with the rear seat up and 32.8 cubic feet with it down. However, there's a "Bazooka Tube Subwoofer" bolted to the cargo area floor that was nine inches in diameter and 18 inches long. It took up half the cargo area with the seats up and made lowering the left seat worthless. I know the Gen Xers Toyota is trying to attract to the Scion will love the deep resonant bass sounds this subwoofer delivers, but they might discover one day that they want to carry cargo and regret the $774 they spent on this thing. As someone who is definitely not part of the demographic, I thought it was a detriment. There's a shade over the cargo area, but it's really not necessary.

Handling was very good on a variety of roads. The front suspension is fairly conventional with MacPherson struts and coil springs, while the rear uses torsion bars. The brakes (discs front, drums rear) were good, but this is a light car, so stopping isn't all that hard.

Our tester had a bottom line of $15,783, which makes it a good value. The base price for the automatic was $13,280, with $120 added for carpeted floor mats, $665 for alloy wheels, $459 for a security system and $774 for the Bazooka sound package. Delivery, processing and handling added another $485.

My first impression of the Scion xA was favorable. The car had goo dbuild quality, but it is a Toyota after all. I question the value of that huge Bazooka in the rear, but then again, I'm not part of the demographic. For my music, the standard sound system did a good job.

2004 The Auto Page Syndicate