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2005 Scion xB
The Scion xB proved to be a bigger seller than Toyota anticipated, and it's easy to see why. This inexpensive little wagon offers a host of electronic helpers to keep it safe and moving along, has an unmistakable look, provides a commanding view of the road, and represents a better overall drive than its brusque exterior suggests. The Scion xB's standard high-tech gear focuses on keeping the car pointed in the right direction rather than entertaining or informing the occupants. While gadget freaks won't get too excited about the interior, the low list price ($14,530 for the base model, $17,494 as tested) leaves ample room for personalization with options such as XM Radio, a six-disc CD changer, and a Bazooka subwoofer. Belying its extreme two-box design, the xB is a decent handler if not pushed too hard. It takes rough roads and undulating curves in stride, and while it can feel underpowered at times, the xB's light weight generally means adequate performance.
Roomy, with a view
The xB's airy interior is a welcome place to be, with high, supportive front seats and lots of room in all directions. The view out the front is excellent, with the center-mounted gauge pod allowing a low, sweeping dash that further enhances the feeling of roominess in what is a relatively small overall package. The gauge cluster itself, with multiple dials in a single circular binnacle flanked by the clock and warning lights, takes some getting used to, and the tachometer should either be larger or closer to the driver to be readily visible. The rear seats, with three three-point seatbelts and three headrests, are split 60/40 and fold flat to maximize load space. Rear-seat leg room is excellent even with the front seats all the way back, allowing use of the thoughtful small-bag hooks on the backs of the front seats. The comfortable seats in the limited-edition Release Series 2.0 we tested sport special color-keyed fabric inserts matching those in the doors and the exterior paint. As with the balance of the interior, the materials aren't exactly top quality, but they feel and look good enough for a car in this price range. The climate controls and the MP3-compatible CD stereo are laid out logically, and the six-speaker setup provides rich sound through Scion Sound Processing (basically, three preset equalizer settings). XM Radio is a $695 factory option, plus subscription.