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2010 Scion xD Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2010 Scion xD

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2010 Scion xD

Scion's small xD hatchback seems to live in the shadow of The Box, the iconic xB. Which is too bad as it's a noteworthy car in its own right, combining a small exterior size and footprint with more interior space than expected -- and providing an entertaining and economical driving experience. Yes, it's marketed as "urban", and its size makes it easy to maneuver in traffic and easy to park -- but it's also at home out in the country, on an open and challengingly convoluted road, especially when equipped with some key accessories.

Debuting for model year 2007 as the successor to the xA four-door subcompact hatchback, the xD has changed little since then. It gets standard Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and new and improved standard and optional audio systems for 2010, for a modest $150 increase in base price.

Like the other Scions -- the category-defying xB and the tC coupe -- the xD comes in "mono-spec" single-model form, with factory-ordered choices limited to exterior color and manual or automatic transmission. Everything else is dealer-installed, and here "everything else" is a comprehensively long list encompassing exterior and interior cosmetics, an upgraded audio system, and TRD (Toyota Racing Developments) intake and exhaust and suspension upgrades. All extras are compatible with the factory warranty.

The cheekily pugnacious-looking xD is a touch larger than the old xA, not as much in overall length as in wheelbase. It's a couple of hundred pounds heavier, but more than makes up for that with a larger engine -- 1.8 liters vs. 1.5 -- with 20 more horsepower and lb-ft of torque at 128 and 125 respectively. Mileage is still very good, with EPA figures of 27 city and 33 highway with the stick. And here "subcompact hatchback" does not mean "de-contented bottom feeder" as the standard equipment list includes power steering, windows, mirrors, and door locks (with remote entry), cruise control, a good Pioneer 16-watt audio system with USB and minijack connectivity, antilock brakes with Brake Assist (BA) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and the aforementioned VSC system with traction control.

The xD also offers more than the basic subcompact hatchback driving experience, as I discovered during a recent week with one that was equipped with a few key pieces from the Scion accessories catalog. The optional spoiler for once not only does not spoil the car's lines, it actually improves the look. The carbon-fiber B-pillar applique adds contemporary sport character, while the upgraded Alpine sound system and Bluetooth connectivity improve traditional entertainment values. Gearhead entertainment upgrades are courtesy the TRD suspension section of the catalog, to wit: shocks, springs, rear sway bar, and 18-inch black-finished alloy wheels shod with ultra-low profile performance tires. Yes, those wheels and tires are expensive -- although no more so than many aftermarket products -- and put more rubber on the road than the car can actually use anywhere this side of a Saturday morning autocross. But they do look good... and you could opt for the 17s instead, or keep the standard 16s and upgrade the tires and still have a thoroughly enjoyable small car that is also eminently practical, fuel-frugal, and easy to park.

APPEARANCE: Scion follows the two-box hatchback theme with the xD, but the car is more muscular than most, including the old xA, without looking like a caricature. Styling can be described as "hot hatch meets lead sled" as it combines import performance cues like a large, flat "air dam" front fascia and prominent wheel arches with the high beltline and "chopped" side windows and roofline popular in American customs from the late 1940s. It's distinctive, and it works.

COMFORT: Inside, the xD is simple but not Spartan, pleasantly comfortable, and very functional. The increased wheelbase pays off as there's more passenger and/or cargo space than you might expect. Windows and mirrors are power-operated; seats and steering wheel are manual. Upholstery is grippy nylon cloth. The front buckets are moderately firm, and the driver gets a tilt-adjustable steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls. Lights, wipers, and cruise control are on separate stalks. The electroluminescent combination speedometer/tachometer is easy to see in all lighting, and the textured material on the instrument panel banishes glare. Climate controls are simple. My test car had the optional Alpine audio head, an AM/FM/XM/CD/external jack and USB port unit that provided good sound and easy operation. The auxiliary ports are at the bottom of the stack/front of the console with a power point and space for an iPod or MP3 player. Although there is no closed console box, there is a second glove box above the regular one, plus bottle-holder door pockets. Four doors mean easy rear seat access, and each section of the 60/40 split seat can be moved fore and aft for extra legroom at the expense of some luggage capacity. Three in back would be a little cozy but there's ample room for two medium-sized adults when necessary. When not, there's plenty of carrying capacity and the easy access of a four-door hatchback.

SAFETY: The Scion xD has a full complement of airbags - dual-stage front, front seat-mounted side, and full-length side curtain. It also has antilock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control, and traction control. A tire pressure monitoring system can alert the driver to potential problems.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Like many a small hatchback, or sedan, the Scion xD uses an independent MacPherson strut suspension for the driven front wheels and a simple torsion beam axle in the rear. That works well enough, but is is amenable to improvement in the form of matched springs and shocks plus a rear stabilizer bar (a front one is standard) from the TRD catalog. The result is a firmer ride, but not too firm for comfort, with less body roll and consequent better behavior and improved driving enjoyment in the corners. Wheel and tire upgrades are readily available, too, and my test car had the top one possible - black 18-inch TRD rims with 225/40 ZR18 Toyo Proxes tires. Given the car's modest power, they are likely more than is truly needed, but they work very well. At $2000 for the wheels and tires the add-on price is steep, but they do stick nicely.

PERFORMANCE: With 128 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 125 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm) from its 1.8-liter twincam four-cylinder engine moving a little over 2600 pounds of car, the xD is quick enough to be fun, especially with the stick, but not powerful enough to incur insurance penalties. The 16-valve engine has Toyota's VVT-i variable cam phasing system on both camshafts to help it make good low-rpm torque and spin smoothly and efficiently to redline. The five-speed manual's shift action is good, with a light clutch. If the brake spec is class-standard disc/drum, they work well and don't have all that much weight to deal with. EPA estimated mileage is 27 city, 33 highway. In a mix of both, and with minimal attention to fuel-efficient driving, I got 30 mpg.

CONCLUSIONS: Think outside of the box! The Scion xD can be outfitted to be an entertaining but frugal small car.

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 Scion xD

Base Price			$ 14,800
Price As Tested			$ 19,510
Engine Type			dohc 16-valve aluminum alloy
				 inline 4-cylinder
Engine Size			1.8 liters / 110 cu. in.
Horsepower			128 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			125 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			5-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		96.9 in. / 154.7 in.
Curb Weight			2625 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		20.5
Fuel Capacity			11.1 gal.
Fuel Requirement		87-octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires				225/40ZR18 Toyo Proxes (opt)
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / drum, ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  torsion-beam axle
Drivetrain			transverse front engine,
				  front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		27 / 33 / 30
0 to 60 mph				8.0  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Rear spoiler						$   385
Bluetooth handsfree system				$   299
Carpet floor and cargo mats				$   155
Alpine premium audio deck				$   449
TRD shocks and springs					$   500*
TRD black-finish 18" alloy wheels and performance tires	$ 1,999
TRD rear sway bar					$   250
Carbon fiber B-pillar applique				$   189
Scion security system					$   469
Delivery and processing					$   515
*plus installation