THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Scion xB utility vehicle.
DOWN THE ROAD: Introduced in early 2003 as a 2004 model, the xB has been redesigned this year. Its wheelbase is up by 4 inches, overall length by a foot and overall width by 3 inches compared to its predecessor. Handling and balance are solid in this front-wheel-drive car with little oversteer or understeer.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: Power is derived from a 2.4-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine that develops 158 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 162 pounds-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. It is mated to a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed sequential automatic transmission, which shifts smoothly. A front suspension consisting of an independent MacPherson strut with stabilizer bar and a torsion beam in the rear lend firmness to the vehicle. Electric power steering makes certain that the driver receives an on-center feel. The brakes, 10.83-inch ventilated in the front and 10.98-inch discs in the rear, are adequate enough for stopping or slowing down.
LOOK & FEEL: In a crowd, the xB stands out, thanks to a rectangular mesh grille with the centered Scion insignia, elongated halogen headlights and inset tail lamps, and a single backup light on the rear bumper. Like the exterior, the cabin portrays an inimitable look, too, with a quad circular cluster hosting the deep orange digital speedometer, tachometer, fuel and water temperature and a multi-information display. The metal-tone trim on the dash and shifter knob is a fine touch. Other standard amenities include air-conditioning, cruise control, cargo area under-floor storage, 60/40-split fold down rear seat, power door locks, remote keyless entry, three-spoke tilt steering wheel with audio and cruise controls and 21.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats.
SAFETY FIRST: For a vehicle priced around $16,000, the xB is loaded with standard features, such as dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution, traction control, three-point front seat belts with pretensioners, stability control and tire pressure monitoring system.
OUT THE DOOR: $16,600, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Go for the $1,950 navigation system if you travel routinely.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P205/55R16; wheelbase, 102.4 inches; length, 167.3 inches; weight, 3,086 pounds; fuel capacity, 14 gallons; highway, 28 mpg; city, 22 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: "If safety, good gas mileage, lots of standard equipment and reliability are a priority, then the xB should be high on your shopping list," notes a co-worker and also a proud owner of this icon. "The Scion xB makes practicality cool." Need we say more?