2011 Scion xD Review - VIDEO ENHANCED
A big road trip in a little car
By Steve Purdy
SEE ALSO: Scion Buyers Guide
This is the tenth year that the Chicago-based Midwest Automotive Media Association has organized their Spring Rally. Each May they bring about 80 dedicated journalists to the famous Road America race track near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin along with dozens of auto manufactures with their best stuff - nearly a hundred vehicles in all. We then spend about a day and a half driving as many cars as we can on the racetrack, around the beautiful country roads of central Wisconsin and through three off-road courses on the track property.
What a hoot!
As regular readers will know, I love a long road trip and the 9-hour drive from my home to Elkhart Lake, traveling through Michigan’s remote, pristine Upper Peninsula, makes for some deep road therapy. My ride for the trip was the diminutive, front-wheel drive, 5-passenger Scion xD subcompact wagon. There was a time when a subcompact car would not have been a fun way to make such a long drive. Not so anymore. The little 5-door hatchback was a fine traveling machine.
It’s a fairly stylish little thing, sort of between the boxy xB and the sporty xA. The lower body reflects the shape of the latter and the upper body the former and it shares some architecture and parts with modest Toyota Yaris I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, though xD has a different engine. The boxy body is vertical in the rear with a high, straight shoulder line. It looks like a little station wagon. Its utilitarian purpose is evident in the overall, efficient shape and it comes in only one trim level.
While part of the Scion brand’s marketing revolves around customization our test car has no options. It is reasonably well equipped, though, right out of the box. At $15,845 with a $720 delivery charge our bottom line is $16,565. For that price we get power windows, locks and mirrors, LED turn signal indicators on the mirrors, tilt steering wheel with audio controls, electric power steering, cruise control, AC, Toyota’s Star Safety System™ (Stability Control, ABS with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, and traction control), 6 airbags, halogen headlights, rear window wiper and washer, rear wing, chrome exhaust tip. Pioneer 160W, six-speaker sound system, USB and iPod ports.
The Scion xD is powered by Toyota’s 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder, dual VVT (variable valve timing), 128-horsepower engine making 125 pound-feet of torque. It’s a little buzzy at higher rpm when we’re pushing it but that is to be expected. With the old-fashioned 4-speed automatic transmission (you can have a 5-speed stick if you prefer) passing was not a problem on the beautiful two-lane US Highway 2 across the north shore of Lake Michigan. The EPA rated the mileage the same whether we have the manual or automatic transmission, that is, 27 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 29 combined. I was at the high end on my highway run, in fact, achieved a solid 34 mpg on my second tank. With just 11.1 gallons in the tank we have an adequate cruising range.
Click PLAY to watch the Scion xD promo video
Suspension is reasonably well balanced and conventional in design. Front disc and rear drum brakes felt fine though I must admit I did not challenge them much. No deer or other wildlife dashed in front of me and no long down slopes required slow braking. All weather, 195/60R16 Bridgestone Turanza tires perform well but certainly don’t make a styling statement on the stamped steel wheels with full wheel covers. For about two-grand extra you can have 18-inch alloy wheels with low-profile performance tires.
Inside, I found the xD to be surprisingly roomy. Because of it’s upright, CUV design it is easy to get in and out of and the driving position is vertical and comfortable. No superfluous trim or gadgetry inside gets in the way and controls are extra simple and unadorned. The instrument cluster has only a speedo and tach combined into one round gauge in the center with fuel gauge on the left and odo on the right in separate locations where idiot lights also reside. The design has some style but not much panache.
The rear seat and cargo area are quite well designed but not particularly generous. The rear seat travels fore and aft about 8 inches and seat backs fold 60/40. In order to fold the backs flat we must remove the head rests by pinching a small clip at the base of each one and lifting them out of their receptacles. With backs folded we have about 35.7 cubic-feet of cargo capacity and with seat backs in position we have 10.5 cubic-feet. That’s more than the Mazda2 but less than the Nissan Versa, about average in this sub-compact segment. A nicely designed hidden storage area hides under the rear floor above the temporary spare.
The basic warranty covers the xD for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles – also average in this segment.
On that long, leisurely drive I was perfectly content, certainly not excited. I can’t think of anything that I really needed and didn’t have – even horsepower. The first third of the trip is purely freeway from Lansing straight north to the Mackinaw Bridge. With no speed enforcement in evidence I could drive at whatever speed I chose. A slightly extra-legal speed, flowing with exceptionally light traffic, was just right. The next third across the woodsy UP on US 2, also surprisingly lightly traveled, I dared make just 60-mph, knowing well that speed enforcement along that route has been notoriously overzealous in the past. Not so this trip. Finally, the last three hours from Escanaba south to Elkhart Lake was about half two-lane and half freeway. Never was I in a hurry. The radio was off most of the way, making for great therapy.
The only disadvantage to the little xD was evident on the return trip. I took the old steam ferry, the SS Badger, back across Lake Michigan from Manatowac, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan. They load the ferry very carefully and efficiently with a sort of shelf in the middle of the vast hold where they put the smaller vehicles, apparently arranged by size. Upon arrival in Ludington I waited patiently in a cold wind for the xD which, being the smallest car on board, was the very last off the boat.
© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved