Scion xB

When we decided to replace our 91 Camry (250K+ miles and still going strong, I gave it to my brother), the Prius was our first thought. But waiting lists and a price pushing 25 grand, and our need to occasionally carry two large dogs in their crates nixed that idea. Then I saw the Scion xB. Yes, it’s ugly, at least until you get used to it. But it is extremely functional and practical. It’s a big car inside a little car; there’s more headroom and back seat leg room than in many large cars. Fold the rear seats down and you have a good sized cargo area, big enough for the two aforementioned dog crates. While some other similar vehicles have equivalent or even larger cargo area footprints, few have the overhead clearance of the Scion xB that makes the space truly useable. And if you need a little more space, remove the back seat and the spare tire storage platform behind it completely to get another 6-8 inches of vertical clearance. Sure an SUV has as much room or more, but it won’t get the Scion’s 33-35 mpg fuel economy, more important now than ever. It also has anti-lock brakes and a stability/traction control system, and a great stereo that plays mp3 disks, and has an input for a satellite receiver (or iPod). And the icing on the cake is that it’s downright cheap, less than $15,000. Plus, since it’s actually a Toyota, it will last practically forever and be extremely reliable. On the downside though, despite the boxy body it’s not an SUV, there’s no 4WD and the ground clearance is pretty low. And with the small engine that allows such good fuel economy, you’re not going to pull a trailer.

Scion is Toyota’s effort to increase appeal to the 20-something crowd, but most of the drivers I see in xB’s are folks like me – near geezers. But if the kid across the street wants to think I’m cool, hey, I’ll take it, it’s been too long since anyone thought that of me!

Scion sells online and in a mini store inside Toyota dealerships; the pricing is fixed, so there’s no haggling. The few options are mostly cosmetic items aimed at the youth market. So if you want a cheap car with good cargo capacity and good fuel economy, look at the Scion xB, though I’ve read that several of the other import companies are getting ready to roll out similar models soon.

– Bob Johnson

Scion xB
$14,500
Available from Scion