2010 Scion xB review: 2010 Scion xB

The fast and the infuriating
The cabin tech offered in the Scion xB is something of a mixed bag. The standard rig is a Pioneer audio system with iPod/USB compatibility. However, ours was equipped with optional Bluetooth hands-free calling, an Alpine premium audio receiver with GPS navigation, and a pair of 7-inch LCD monitors with DVD playback in the back of the front headrests. This all sounds very good on paper, but the implementation of these features leaves much to be desired and the usability just isn't on par with the competition from Honda and Ford.

Let's start with the infuriating Bluetooth hands-free system. Scion has decided to go with an add-on module from BLU Logic rather than an integrated OEM system. There are only three buttons (one for call answer/end and a pair for volume up and down), all of which are located in the small control panel near the driver's left knee. That's right: there are no steering wheel controls for hands-free calling. There's also no voice command and no voice prompts for setup. So, advanced functions--such as pairing a phone--can only be accessed with a combination of button presses and holds. Expect to be seeing a lot of the user's manual for the first few days of ownership.

If your phone has its own built-in voice command functionality, the BLU Logic system will access it for dialing. If it doesn't, then you'll need to initiate calls from the handset, which sort of defeats the purpose.

Fortunately, call quality was pretty good thanks to a discrete dash-mounted microphone with noise canceling. A neat hidden feature is A2DP audio streaming, but the lack of controls and integration with the audio system means that you'll still be picking up your handset to play, pause, and skip.

Speaking of the audio system, tunes and calls alike were routed through the six-speaker audio system, which features two tweeters mounted in the A-pillars and a driver in each of the four doors (none of which is a subwoofer). Sound quality on a flat EQ curve was only so-so. The highs were clear, but the midrange and bass possessed a hollow, weak sound. Tweaking the EQ for more bottom end yielded slightly meatier--if not also slightly distorted--bass response.

Our xB was equipped with an optional Alpine-branded premium headunit, which featured a two-knob interface (one for volume and a dedicated search knob) and a 4-inch color touch screen. The unit boasts a single-slot CD player, XM Radio compatibility, and built-in HD radio tuning, and makes use of the xB's standard USB and auxiliary inputs for adding external sources. Power output is boosted to 200 watts max, up from 160 from the base unit. Our unit was also upgraded with a GPS module that enables turn-by-turn navigation.

User friendliness is where, again, things start to go awry. Firstly, the tiny touch screen is located on the passenger side of the unit's faceplate, which makes reading maps, typing addresses, or choosing songs quite difficult from the driver's seat. This is compounded by the touch screen's slow response times and iffy accuracy.

Secondly, while the unit is quick to recognize and start playing from a connected iPod, browsing audio on a connected iPod is gruelingly slow. This is because the unit doesn't have an index of the media stored on the device. So, every time you hit the search button to choose, for example, a new artist, the unit must read the data directly from the device. This means that scrolling through long lists can take forever. And if you take your attention away from browsing for a few seconds, the search times out, returning you back to the home screen and forcing you to start your search all over again.

Honestly, we found it faster to disconnect the iPod, choose a song using Apple's interface, and reconnect to listen. Searching on this Alpine unit is that bad, which is odd because we loved most of the Alpine aftermarket units that we've tested.

Once you've chosen a source, the receiver offers a reasonable level of flexibility for tuning your audio, including three preset EQ curves, a loudness setting (which is best used only at low volumes), and a feature called MX, which supposedly increases the clarity of voices and instruments, but didn't really improve the sound quality very much in our opinion. There is also at least one 2.4-volt preamp output located on the unit's backside with a configurable low-pass filter for adding a much needed powered subwoofer.

The rear seat entertainment system consists of a pair of DVD headrests with 7-inch monitors. The system comes with a remote and a pair of wireless IR headphones. The DVD player is mounted behind the monitor. Just pull the monitor forward to expose the slot, insert the disc of your choosing, and then push the screen back into the headrests. Do your best not to lose the remote, as the bezel-mounted controls are extremely limited.

In sum
Looking back over our experiences, it's apparent that the bulk of our complaints about the xB aren't with the vehicle itself, but with the poor assortment of cabin technologies. We actually rather liked the xB's peppy acceleration and zippy handling provided by the TRD lowering springs, but the xB isn't a performance car. It's a more relaxed, stylish lifestyle vehicle. However, we were anything but relaxed every time we tried to make a phone call or choose an album and were met with resistance from the electronics. The competition from the aftermarket and other OEMs is just so much better in both scope and usability of the infotainment systems.

The 2010 Scion xB bases at $16,420. If you want the four-speed automatic transmission, then bump that sticker price up to $17,370. Then come all of the a la carte options that Scions are known for. Add $299 for the BLU Logic hands-free calling system, $1,198 for the Alpine premium receiver with navigation, $449 for satellite radio, $469 for the Scion Security system (why is this not a standard feature?), and $1,599 for the rear seat entertainment. Other aesthetic add-ons include illuminated door sills, a mesh grill insert, fog lights, TRD lowering springs, 16-inch alloy wheels, and floor mats, which boost our xB's as-tested price up to $23,538. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Throwing caution to the wind, one could easily bump the xB's price up to $32,000 with performance accessories and styling options.

The xB is one of the few examples of a vehicle that we'd recommend that you buy stripped down and later add your own better tech. If that sounds like too much work for you, take the $17k you would have spent on the stripped xB and pick up a fully loaded Kia Soul. You'll probably have much more fun.

Spec box

Model 2010 Scion xB
Trim w/ automatic transmission
Power train 2.4-liter VVT-i four-cylinder
EPA fuel economy 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 21.8 mpg
Navigation Optional plug-in navigation unit
Bluetooth phone support Optional w/ A2DP audio streaming
Disc player MP3-compatible single-disc CD player
MP3 player support Standard USB port with iPod playback
Other digital audio HD radio, satellite radio, auxiliary input
Audio system Six-speaker basic audio w/ optional Alpine premium receiver
Driver aids n/a
Base price $17,370
Price as tested $23,538

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    2010 Scion xB

    Part Number: 101160987
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    • Body style Wagon
    • Available Engine Gas