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2012 Scion xB REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 4/5/2017

Con: So-so fuel economy; distracting center-mounted gauges; funky styling.

Interior: We've never been pleased with centrally mounted primary gauges, and those on the xB haven't changed our mind. At least the speedometer is an easily read digital display, but it's way over to the right rather than in front of the driver, and monitoring the diminutive tachometer requires far too much of the driver's attention.

While the climate controls couldn't be any simpler, both of the xB's available radio faceplates are clearly intended for a younger generation used to iPhones and other high-tech gizmos. In other words, they aren't exactly user-friendly, but audiophiles should appreciate their extensive range of adjustability.

Added last year, a telescoping function to the steering wheel provides a much better driving position for taller drivers who otherwise will find plenty of leg- and headroom. Boasting 21 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 70 cubic feet with those seats folded down, the xB is a legitimate fair-weather alternative to a compact SUV.

Body: The 2012 Scion xB is a four-door, five-passenger wagon that comes in base and Release Series 9.0 trim levels. The latter is a limited edition, as only 1,500 will be made.

Standard features include 16-inch steel wheels, keyless entry, rear window tint, full power accessories, air-conditioning, cruise control, driver seat height adjustment, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a trip computer and a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with a CD player, HD radio, an iPod/USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack, a customizable display and an RCA output for additional speakers.

The Release Series 9.0 adds several unique features, including Hot Lava paint, a honeycomb lower grille, illuminated front and rear exterior "Scion" badges and faux suede upholstery.

Options are plentiful and mostly added at the dealer. Among them are 16- and 17-inch alloy wheels, a variety of performance upgrade parts, foglights, a rear spoiler, remote ignition, ambient multicolor lighting, a selection of shift knobs, an auto-dimming mirror, headrest-mounted DVD entertainment system monitors, satellite radio and a premium Pioneer audio system with a compact touchscreen faceplate, additional RCA outputs and Pandora Internet radio connectivity when used in conjunction with an iPhone. A back-up camera, navigation system and a large touchscreen interface are also available.

Driving: The 2012 Scion xB feels fairly stable at highway speeds, although its slab-sided styling makes it vulnerable to crosswinds. Due to a relatively high center of gravity, the xB rolls significantly during cornering, but it feels responsive and confident at lower speeds. Over especially rough surfaces, the suspension transmits impact harshness into the cabin, and road and wind noise are constant companions at high freeway speeds. All in all, though, Scion's youthful target demographic should be pleased with the xB's driving demeanor, as should older folks simply looking for a space-efficient runabout.

What’s New: The 2012 Scion xB gets standard HD radio and new sound systems. There's also the latest Release Series trim level, the 9.0. Highlights of this limited-edition xB include unique Hot Lava paint and faux suede upholstery.

The front-wheel-drive 2012 Scion xB is powered by a 2.4-liter inline-4 that produces 158 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is the xB's lone factory option.

In Edmunds performance testing, an automatic-equipped xB hustled from zero to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds. EPA estimates are below average for this segment at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined.

Safety: The 2012 Scion xB comes standard with antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In braking tests, the xB came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet -- a solid performance. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the xB its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.

Pro: Responsive four-cylinder engine; spacious interior; numerous optional add-ons; audiophile-friendly; funky styling.

Edmunds Say: The 2012 Scion xB is a compact people mover and cargo hauler that packs lots of high-tech audio features. Fuel economy is lackluster, however, and the unconventional styling isn't for everyone.

Introduction: Back when the first Scion xB debuted in 2004, it had the hip and cool factor down pat. In contrast, the second, present-generation xB has lost much of that initial mojo to time, familiarity and a greater emphasis on functionality. However, there's still enough to the 2012 Scion xB to make it appealing.

Although the xB's space-efficient boxy form doesn't enjoy the same uniqueness it once did (thanks to copycats like the Kia Soul and Nissan Cube), it still has a few advantages. The xB boasts more maximum cargo space than most rivals and even some midsize SUVs. Passenger space is just as impressive, with enough head- and legroom for a quartet of tall adults. In fact, the rear accommodations are so spacious that some big city cab companies have traded their Crown Vics for xBs.

The 2012 Scion xB keeps up the tradition of offering what "the kids" (or anyone who appreciates the latest audio gizmos) want nowadays. As such, the xB comes standard with a six-speaker Pioneer sound system with an iPod interface, Bluetooth, an RCA output for additional speakers and a customizable head unit display. An upgraded system from Alpine adds a touchscreen interface and a knob that mimics an iPod's controls, while a "media expander" improves digital music quality. This year also brings the xB Release Series 9.0, whose unique features include Hot Lava paint, illuminated "Scion" badges and faux suede upholstery.

The main drawback to the 2012 Scion xB is its fuel economy relative to other small cars such as the aforementioned Kia Soul and Nissan Cube. That said, the xB's 158-horsepower four-cylinder is surprisingly punchy and achieves fuel economy that's about the same as or better than crossovers like the Chevy Equinox. Furthermore, the xB is cheaper and offers similar interior space, so it's still a smart alternative to those popular family vehicles.

Of course saying "Scion xB" and "family vehicle" in the same sentence is like mentioning Barry Manilow and Ke$ha in the same breath. But rest assured, for those who are so hip they're square, the xB still has undeniable appeal.

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