The Corvette Sting Ray and the Aston Martin DB5 were unquestionably cool. Over the years, Toyotas were affordable and reliable, but never quite cool. Then, at the 2002 New York Auto Show, the auto giant introduced the Scion, a vehicle so boxy and weird it had to be cool.
The Scion models are indeed unlikely darlings of the two lane blacktop fashion runway. The vehicle’s designers went out of their way to add odd angles and create the unusual, boxy profile. The counterintuitive, default-to-the-weird aesthetic worked, and suddenly Scion was the go-to vehicle for hip buyers attracted by base prices as low as $14,5000, a trove of standard equipment, and the option to add factory-authorized customization such as rims and spoilers.
The redesigned xB and the spunky new xD hatchback expand on the theme. The earlier xB edition, discontinued in 2006, had distinct sharp corners that accentuated the rolling box profile, but the 2008 revival, which appeared last summer, is smoother around the edges. The main strengths of the new xB are the bigger size, roomier cabin, and more powerful 158-horsepower 2.4-liter I4 engine borrowed from the best-selling Toyota Camry. For $15,650 with a manual transmission, or $16,600 with an automatic, the new xB is sharper looking and has more vigor under the hood, better interior-space planning for more comfort, and cargo capacity for more stuff.
Also new in the Scion lineup is the xD, which replaced the original xA hatchback that was discontinued in 2006. This quick subcompact is powered by an aggressive 128-horsepower 1.8-liter I4 engine that is practical and fuel efficient, with EPA ratings of 27 miles per gallon in the city, and 33 on the highway. Despite overall dimensions that give the xD an unbelievably tight turning radius, the car yields comfortably seats five. Starting at just $14,500, it’s one of the best values on the road.
Completing the Scion line-up is the tC coupe, which, other than a few cosmetic tweaks to the body panels up front and in the rear, is unchanged for 2008. In some ways the tC has always been the odd duck of the Scion family because it’s such a pure and elegant beauty. Sculpted in the traditional fastback stance, this pup is powered by a boisterous 161-horsepower 2.4-liter I4 engine, which (mated with the 5-speed manual transmission) makes the tC one of the most satisfying performance rides on the streets, especially for a mere $17,000. As with the other Scion models, premium standard equipment—like the better-than-average standard sound system and a standard moon roof—make the tC a steal.
Perhaps the best thing about the Scion’s 2008 lineup is the continuing focus on factory-installed customization. From custom 18-inch alloy wheels and spoilers to full body kits including rocker panel extensions, air dams, and wheel flares, the customizing devotee with a few thousand dollars can add personality to his ride. Not that the Scion needs it.