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Scion raised the idea of dressing up cheap economy cars with accessories to an art, encouraging brand camaraderie with styling and performance upgrades. But underneath the gear still sits that sub-$20,000 economy car, as we found with a TRD-equipped 2010 Scion xD.
For a box on wheels, the xD looks pretty good, led by its bulldog hood. But it also faces stiff styling competition from the likes of the Kia Soul and the Ford Fiesta, or even the Nissan Cube if you want something a little more distinctive.
To show off some of the available TRD gear, Toyota slapped on a rear spoiler, carbon fiber appliques on the B-pillars, and very cool-looking custom wheels. Not visible was the TRD rear sway bar, a performance upgrade. And as an audio perk, this car's exhaust made it sound much more powerful than its 128 horsepower could justify.
The carbon fiber applique available as a TRD accessory is not a performance upgrade.
Although small, the xD sports four doors and offers easy access to the interior. The rear seats fold down to make more cargo space. Think an 18-year-old packing all her worldly possessions and heading off to college. But we weren't crazy about the ergonomics of the driver seat, which seemed too high. Every time we got in the car we reached down to look for a nonexistent seat height adjustment.
As a youth-oriented brand, Scion was an early adopter of iPod integration. But the real secret to Scion's cabin tech success has been making its cars be the most aftermarket-friendly in the business. As such, Scion offers aftermarket head units as factory-installed options. Pioneer used to be Scion's brand of choice, but it has since switched to Alpine.
Scion offers three head unit upgrades for the xD, two of them with navigation and one just audio. Our car lacked navigation, but had the premium Alpine head unit. This head unit includes satellite and HD Radio; its display, approximately 3 inches by 5 inches, works well for showing a connected iPod's music library.
We could browse artist and album lists on a connected iPod, but the refresh rate was slow.
The head unit was slow in refreshing lists of artists or albums from our connected iPod Touch, and we had to get used to turning the selection knob to scroll down a page and looking back to the road while waiting for the list to populate. This Alpine unit has two knobs, one for volume and one for music selection, and the LCD is also a touch screen. There is no voice command for music.
Although we found the iPod interface slow, the head unit brought the sound quality up slightly for this six-speaker audio system, the best Scion has on offer for the xD. With the Alpine amp behind it, the sound quality gained some detail and meaningful bass. However, it still sounded flat and lifeless. We would have liked a subwoofer in the xD.
The Alpine navigation system that Scion offers as an option uses the same head unit that came with our car, with the addition of a black-box navigation module mounted in the car. As such, the screen would be a little small for an in-car system.
Scion offers a more expensive navigation head unit, the same that can be had in many Toyota and Lexus models. At this level, you get traffic and a larger screen, but it also costs $2,000, a big addition to the xD's base $15,000 price tag.
Our xD came equipped with an optional Bluetooth phone system, with the activation button strangely placed on the center console, behind the shifter. This system has absolutely no frills, not even a phonebook. When we pushed the phone button, the system operated slowly, and its voice instructions were haphazard. For example, a tone sounds when pushing the button, but there are no instructions on what to do afterward. The call quality was also tinny.
Without the TRD accessories, our xD would have been completely average, and even then the stabilization offered by the rear sway bar only did so much. Throwing the xD into a corner, body roll was minimized, allowing the rear wheels to slide a little and bring the car around.
These cool-looking wheels bump up the price of the xD by $2,000.
But anything more than a moderate pace in the corners made the traction control light shine over the instrument cluster with its orange glow, simultaneously causing a power outage at the wheels.
The wheels themselves, as we mentioned above, look very cool. And as a $2,000 option, they certainly should. But the disadvantage of these five-spoke TRD wheels on the xD is that they make the rear drum brakes very obvious.
With no TRD engine upgrades, we were left with the standard variable valve-timed 1.8-liter four-cylinder generating 128 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. To get any kind of pull from that engine requires judicious use of the five-speed manual transmission's lower gears.
When behind a slower driver on a mountain highway, we waited for a passing area and made our move. But starting from about 45 mph, we had to shift down from fifth to third to get any kind of acceleration. In fourth at that speed the pedal produced acceleration that felt like a light breeze.
Scion cleverly fits the speedometer and tach on the same gauge face.
We spent probably too much time working the lower gears, as that was the only point the xD became fun to drive. The car's growling exhaust note encouraged this hooliganism. The exhaust tip was certainly not standard, but also not mentioned on our car's equipment list, so we assume it was a freebie thrown in by Scion to make it seem a little more exciting.
Our low gear work resulted in an average fuel economy during our time with the car of 28.5 mpg, still within the EPA range of 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway. During spot checks on the trip computer, we noted that the mileage was on the low end of that range when we were cruising on the freeway at 70 mph. It seems happiest at about 50 mph.
The 2010 Scion xD features a mostly average power train, with variable valve timing helping out with engine efficiency. The electric power steering is a nice techie touch to save fuel. The TRD kit also gave the car better stability in corners than a stock xD.
The xD should shine a little brighter in the cabin tech department, but although Scion seemed cutting edge in 2005, the company has not aggressively pushed its cabin tech forward. It audio system is reasonable, and we appreciate the high-end navigation available, but the Bluetooth phone system is terrible. Scion could learn a lesson from Kia at this point.
We weren't keen on the ergonomics of the driver's seat, but the interior is generally a practical design, maximizing space in this small car for people and cargo. The xD is unique, too, and with the TRD wheels it actually looks pretty good.
|Model||2010 Scion xD|
|Power train||1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||27 mpg city/33 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||28.5 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional flash-drive-based system|
|Bluetooth phone support||Optional|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single-CD|
|MP3 player support||iPod integration|
|Other digital audio||USB flash drive, satellite radio, HD Radio, auxiliary input|
|Audio system||Six speakers|
|Price as tested||$19,510|