2011 Scion xD

By Paul Williams, Autos.ca

The Scion brand arrived in Canada in 2010, but the arrival slipped under the radar for a lot of consumers. So much so that most people I encountered while test driving the 2011 Scion xD didn’t know the brand, and couldn’t identify its origin.

2011 Scion xD

2011 Scion xD

If you’re one of those people, here’s the scoop. Scion is a Toyota brand, targeted to younger buyers, and operating in the U.S. since 2003 (if you see a used 2003-2010 Scion for sale, it’s a U.S. car). Three models are offered in Canada, with a fourth set to debut in the near future. Current models are the xD, xB, tC, with the not-yet-released iQ microcar completing the line-up later in 2011.

That’s it for the history lesson; let’s talk xD.

Starting at $17,200, the xD is a front-wheel drive, five-door hatchback that you can actually buy for $17,200 (plus freight and taxes) and feel like you’ve got a well-equipped vehicle. The Xd has standard air-conditioning, power windows, keyless entry, satellite-ready audio (requires kit) with auxiliary input jack and USB input, cruise control, three-spoke tilt steering wheel with audio controls, power mirrors with integrated turn signal repeaters, multi-information display, digital clock, and split-folding, rear seats that also slide and recline, to mention key items.

Powered with a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder, dual-overhead camshaft engine with intelligent variable valve timing, the Scion Xd makes 128-horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 125 hp at 4,400 r.p.m. The transmission is a five-speed manual, with the four-speed automatic adding $900.Our Barcelona Red test vehicle was equipped with an automatic transmission, bringing its price to $18,100 ($19,625 with taxes, fees and freight included).

The full range of safety equipment is fitted to the Xd, including vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes (disc front, drum rear), front and side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags and seat-belt pretensioners.

The Scion xD is by no means a tiny car, but its 42-litre fuel tank puts it in the “subcompact” category. However, today’s subcompact is yesterday’s compact, and four — maybe five — people will not be cramped in this car, plus there’ll be room for cargo behind the rear seat.

To give you an idea of relative size, at 4250 millimetres in length the Xd is longer than the subcompact Toyota Yaris hatchback (3825 mm), but shorter than the compact Mazda3 (4500 mm). It is about the same width as the Mazda3, however (narrower by only 25 mm).

Even though it has a small fuel tank, it has a correspondingly low rate of fuel consumption. The official numbers are 7.4/5.9 L/100 km, city/highway for the manual transmission version, and 7.6/5.9 L/100 km city/highway for the automatic. Either way, it’s a fuel-sipper, and you should see 500 km per tank in the city, requiring a fill-up of 35-litres, depending on what’s left in the tank when the gauge shows empty.

While the Scion brand is marketed to younger buyers here and in the U.S., I can see the xD being perfectly suitable for consumers in any demographic. Its exterior design is current but not quirky (Scion describe it as “menacing,” but they exaggerate), and inside you’ll find a conventional arrangement of instruments and controls (the combination speedometer/tachometer is different, and works fine).

The vehicle itself is a basic two-box design, quite square, and therefore well-suited to maximize interior space. Outward visibility all-round is very good, and you do sit a bit higher in an xD than you would in a competitive sedan, for instance. This gives you a good view of the road ahead.

Inside, there are numerous storage areas, a double glovebox, drink and cup holders, supportive seats, and a grey cloth interior complemented by faux aluminum trim on the centre stack and door panels. Controls are straightforward and functionally designed.

On the road the xD is stable and smooth; the engine can be heard if you’re paying attention, but there’s no harshness or vibration. The xD feels solidly constructed, and its four-speed transmission, while not as sophisticated as some five and six-speed units, does its job well, and settles down to a low engine speed for cruising on the highway (which optimizes fuel economy). There can be, however, considerable wind noise generated at speed, especially when driving into the wind.

We did experience some slippery road surfaces during our test period, and the standard xD traction control system was helpful from a standing start at an icy intersection, for example. We had no control issues at all.

The xD arrives with steel wheels with covers, but can be optioned with 16-inch alloy wheels for $1,350, or 18-inch alloys starting at $1,785 (both 18-inch wheels do not include tires). Other accessories include a cargo cover ($300), premium Alpine audio ($535), XM satellite radio kit (($685), rear spoiler ($480) and a range of TRD (Toyota Racing Division) suspension, exhaust and appearance items.

How you order your Scion xD depends on your priorities. If you’re looking for a contemporary multi-purpose vehicle and a real value proposition, the standard Scion xD is hard to beat. Then again, if you’d like to join the Scion “nation,” customize your vehicle with a range of performance and appearance add-ons, and network with other owners through electronic media and local clubs, an xD is your ticket to ride.

Either way, Canadians are sure to like Scions, and now that the brand is being marketed more aggressively, they’ll also know what one is.

Verdict: Practicality and value in a contemporary package; adequate performance for normal driving requirements; cheap to run; alloy wheels add pizzazz but are pricey, plus you need to buy tires for them.

Pricing: 2011 Scion xD

Base price: $17,200

Options: $900 (four-speed automatic transmission)

A/C tax: $100

Freight: $1,390

Price as tested: $19,590


Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Scion xD

Crash test results

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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