Even though from the outside it may still just look like the box that a very large big screen TV from 1984 was originally shipped in, the 2012 Scion xB has been blessed with a number of upgrades to its audio systems this year. We'll also see the introduction of a limited edition xB Release Series 9.0 variant and for fans of the rest of the Scion range, there are also all new tC and xD Release Series models to choose from as well.
This newest xB Releases Series 9.0 follows the historical pattern set by these numbered, limited edition models as it comes painted in a uniquely “arresting” shade of orange/red all accentuated by a number of other less obvious exterior alterations and unique seat upholstery. Just make sure you are really into the “Lava” exterior color which sticks very closely to the stuff that spews out of volcanoes from a visual perspective. It is an attention grabbing color even for a Scion, which is really saying something.
Otherwise, the regular grade 2012 Scion xB is still one of the easiest new cars to buy as you only have to choose your exterior color and whether or not you want a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. Our automatic-equipped tester had a remarkable MSRP of only $17,250 which is amazing when you consider all the standard features offered. If you can handle shifting for yourself, however, then the price for a 2012 xB drops to just $16,300 for the 5-speed manual equipped model.
During previous xB tests in years past, we found that the manual transmission was easy to use and featured such a forgiving clutch that it was nearly impossible for even a novice to stall the car. Clearly, the xB would be a great first vehicle for a young person looking to learn to drive a stick shift which is an endeavor we encourage anyone who enjoys driving to undertake.
2012 Scion xB Road Test and Review: Exterior
Now, we realize that it is our job to detail a new car’s exterior styling and give our brutally honest opinion, but in this case the outcome all depends on the individual. Either you think the boxy lines are the ultimate in anti-style and geek chic, or you would never be caught dead driving something that an auto engineer clearly “designed” in ten minutes with a slide ruler (while possibly wearing a pocket protector). So don’t ask us to tell you if you hate boxes or not. You should know that already about yourself and if you still aren’t sure then gauge your reaction when someone mentions the word “U-Haul.”
To our way of thinking, the 2012 Scion xB lies in the “boxy but definitely good” category thanks to the terrific outward visibility afforded by its square and upright appearance. You will truly be amazed by the amount of interior room this car has despite having a very small overall size and remarkably tight turning radius. And unlike the somewhat similar Nissan cube, the xB manages to track straight and true on the freeway even in harsh crosswinds proving that this Scion’s aerodynamics were very well judged by its engineers when it was designed.
For 2012, there are no real visual changes to the outside of this “compact car as box” originator that now has plenty of imitators which still don’t quite match it for overall usefulness, power and value for money. Essentially, the exterior of the Nissan Cube is okay if you live in “Roger Rabbit’s Toontown” and the Kia Soul, while stylish, lacks the Scion’s interior space. The xB is just in a league of its own.
2012 Scion xB Road Test and Review: Interior
The extra wide and tall cutouts in all four doors and the plethora of elbow, leg and headroom don’t hurt matters when it comes to the 2012 Scion xB’s interior comfort level. While the dashboard doesn’t exactly scream “luxury,” it offers up more slots, cubby holes and hiding places for your junk than any person could ever possibly need without requiring a guest appearance on “Hoarders.”
We came away impressed with the standard seat fabric which repelled stains and dog slobber even if it did make stray canine hairs nearly impossible to remove without professional help. Plastics used on the inner door panels and around the cabin were solidly assembled, nothing rattled and everything looked built to remain free of scratches over the long term. In addition, the xB’s cargo hold measures a whopping 69.9 cubic feet with the second row of seats folded flat, though that number drops to 11.6 cubic feet when carrying a full load of passengers.
All 2012 Scion xB models now come standard with features like air conditioning, power windows, door locks, mirrors, cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls, an all-new (and easier to use) 160-watt Pioneer audio system head unit with AM/FM/CD/XM/iPod/HD Radio and 6-speakers, Bluetooth telephone connectivity and audio streaming capability as well as a handy sliding center armrest/console that debuted for the 2011 model year. That’s a whole lot of features for a very reasonable price, which you should note is non-negotiable with Scion dealers due to their “No Haggle Pricing” policy.
In addition, for 2012 every Scion also gets 2 years/25,000 miles worth of free maintenance which is an extension from last year when only the 5K and 10K maintenance intervals were no cost for buyers. EPA fuel economy estimates are 22 city/28 highway and according to the Scion’s electronic digital dash display, we averaged 26.4 miles per gallon over a week of testing on regular unleaded. The xB’s gas tank holds a decent 14 gallons so cruising distances are better than in many similarly sized vehicles with puny gas tanks.
The only thing missing from the 2012 Scion xB package is, in our humble opinion, the standardization of actual alloy wheels since the standard 16-inch plastic wheel covers cheapen the overall look of the car. Thankfully, Scion offers plenty of optional stylish alloy wheel designs so you can easily pimp your xB.
Other appealing dealer-installed options include an in-dash navigation system, a rear seat DVD entertainment system including the new-for-2012 200-watt Pioneer audio system with a 5.8 inch LCD touchscreen display, unique iTunes song tagging, and Pandora internet radio available when used with iPhones. For more information about their vast accessory catalog, check out the xB section at Scion.com.
2012 Scion xB Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions and Safety
Our 2012 Scion xB tester came with an impressively powerful 2.4 liter 158 horsepower/162 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder that got a bit buzzy at high revs but proved to be plenty powerful around town and on the freeway. Unfortunately, if the road turned hilly and steep the 4-speed automatic would start to hunt up and down for the appropriate gear with the end result always being endless indecisiveness. A good reason, then, to opt for the manual transmission.
While the 2012 Scion xB will never be confused with being as quiet or smooth riding as a Lexus, for its class the wind and tire noise levels were impressively low as was its subtle bump absorption. The steering, while light, offered up sufficient feel to give this box agile handling around corners and body roll was surprisingly absent. The xB may not be a sports car but as far as boxy cars go, it offers up a higher than average grin-per-mile ratio.
The 2011 Scion xB was a “Top Safety Pick” according to the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) and we don’t expect that to change for this model year. So while we never hope an xB driver gets into a serious collision, this does provide further evidence that this 2012 Scion would be a smart buy for any first time driver. It's almost as though Scion designed this car for young people—oh, wait, they actually did.
2012 Scion xB Road Test and Review: Conclusion
During parent company Toyota’s recent recall firestorm, Scion managed to weather it all with its reputation for unmatched quality still intact. In fact, the 2011 xB received the “Most Appealing Compact Multi-Purpose Vehicle Award” from J.D. Power and Associates thanks to its history of reliability, utility and terrific value. The xB also routinely ranks among the top ten most reliable new compact cars in surveys done by media outlets ranging from Consumer Reports to Forbes Magazine.
But even with all of the 2012 Scion xB’s many virtues, many people will still be unable to wrap their heads around the boxy styling. That is well and truly a shame as this compact, affordable, and fuel efficient car could prove indispensable for larger families on a budget or even just people who love to move a lot but refuse to hire movers. In fact, the xB may also make you very popular with your friends when it comes time for them to move, which may or may not prove to be a good thing depending on how you feel about heavy lifting.
Our only gripe was with the 4-speed automatic which, despite a rather powerful engine, liked to hunt through the gears during uphill climbs. Perhaps different gear ratios or an upgrade to a five-speed auto would take care of that problem. And if you plan on buying a 2012 Scion xB we do have one last piece of advice—budget out some extra cash to ditch the plastic wheel covers and use them as Frisbees instead.