Road Test

2011 Scion xD is aimed at young buyers

It is based on the Toyota Yaris, but the Scion xD looks nothing like a traditional Toyota

Scion xD 2011 front

Just as Lexus was created to tackle the luxury segment, Toyota formed the Scion brand to attract younger buyers, those not attracted to the very traditional and conservative Toyota products. Based heavily on Toyota mechanicals and platforms, Scions have been a moderate success in the United States since their introduction in 2003.

After watching the American experiment for almost a decade, Toyota Canada decided to take the plunge and bring Scion to Canada for the 2011 model year.

The Scion line contains three vehicles: xD, xB and tC. The xD is the entry level model. Based heavily on the Toyota Yaris, it looks unlike anything in the North-American Toyota line. That is, after all, the reason for its existence.

Introduced in 2007 as a 2008 model the little box replaced the xA. While it shares a platform, suspension, steering and brakes with the current Yaris, it gets a different engine. The Yaris comes with a 1.5-litre four while the xD gets the larger 1.8-litre unit used in the Corolla and Matrix.

Part of the plan in reaching young buyers is to recognize they don’t have a bundle of cash to throw around on wheels. Scions come equipped with an extensive list of standard equipment, so the monthly payment covers it without having to justify options or after-purchase additions.

For example, the xD comes with air conditioning, cruisecontrol, tilt wheel, power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry and wireless connectivity. Also standard is a six-speaker Pioneer audio system with aux and USB inputs – after all, this is a vehicle aimed at youth!

The $18,100 price of the test vehicle included $900 for an automatic transmission.

Strangely, heated seats are not on that equipment list – an obvious sign that the vehicle is primarily aimed at the warmer US market. Also missed was a height-adjustable driver’s seat which has become standard on almost all small cars.

While we are on the subject of what is missing, the automatic transmission is short a couple of gears.

The engine sends up to 128 horsepower to the front wheels through a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Our test vehicle had the latter. With only four ratios to work with, the engine has to exert itself over a wider rev range, becoming rather raucous at the upper reaches.

Add that to a considerable degree of wind and road noise, this is not a vehicle that could be called refined.

It could, on the other hand be called a Toyota and that is high praise indeed, when it comes to quality of assembly, reliability and longevity. What is a little noise, vibration and harshness in a relatively inexpensive vehicle that will last far longer than the payments.

But it has to be pointed out, that more recent cars in this price range have managed to raise the bar in terms of refinement.

As is the case with all 2011 Toyota products the xD comes with a full slate of passive and active safety features including ABS, electronic stability and traction control, six airbags and active front headrests.

The wagon-like five door hatchback has disc brakes up front and drums in the rear. The electric power steering is very light at parking speeds but programmed for more weight and feel as speed increases.

Thanks to the tall roof, boxy shape and big vertical doors, entry and exit are a breeze. Visibility is also excellent.

There is enough headroom for basketball players front or back but those in the rear might need more legroom.

The square roofline also means more cargo space than in a sedan, especially with the rear seat folded down. But the eyes don’t lie. This is a small vehicle with an engine up front and two rows of seats, leaving little room for anything else.

The xD's ride quality is decent, more sporty than luxurious and the little devil likes to be tossed into the turns and does so with more alacrity than your typical Toyota product.

Unique appearance, sporty dynamics, inexpensive and as reliable as anything on wheels, the Scion xD is an attractive proposition for the right buyer – but it is starting to show its age in a category filled with newcomersThere is an up-side to my car’s non-standard wheels and suspension, and that’s the right-now handling that make this car much more entertaining, in spite of the dull-feeling steering.

The xD shares the Yaris’s touchy throttle and spongy brake pedal; everything here works more or less as you’d expect it, but the add-on wheels and suspension are best avoided if you value pampering over performance.

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