2012 Scion xD: Joining The Canadian Gunfight, Armed With A Knife [REVIEW]

It’s been said, mostly by mothers, that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. So I’ll keep this as brief as possible.

The Scion xD is a compact hatchback marketed at youngins like me, not unlike the Ford Fiesta I reviewed on these pages last fall. Scion is new to Canada for the 2012 model year, having briefly succeeded but recently languished in the American market, where it was introduced in 2002.

Scion, for the uninitiated, is Toyota’s “youf” brand aimed at hip young urbanites that are into vehicle customization and, apparently, marketing jazz. It’s Toyota’s answer to the Mini, the car that really jump started the small, funky, personalizable segment. The first generation xB 5-door hatchback, which you’ve probably seen in Canada as a grey-market import, was an endearingly boxy little runabout that exuded confidence and made the Nissan Cube look like it was trying too hard. The xB was everything that Toyota wanted Scion to be, and more. In the US, it was a smashing sales success. So much so that Toyota’s plans to refresh the vehicle every year to keep it plucky and crisp were back-burnered almost immediately. Instead, Toyota rode the wave of success before eventually messing with the formula in the worst way possible, resulting in this, the Scion xD: successor to the xB’s stablemate, the xA. Whereas the first generation xA and xB were immediately distinguishable, the new xB and xD can easily confuse even a discerning eye.

Previously only sold in the US, Canadians are now offered all three of Scion’s second-generation vehicles, including the xB hatchback and tC two-door coupe. Plans are in the works to expand the stable to include a smart car killing iQ and a Mustang/Genesis killing FR-S, the latter of which was revealed in near-production spec at the 2011 New York Auto Show. In your author’s humble opinion, the two new products can’t come soon enough as they both appear to offer something genuinely unique for the Toyota brand.

But back to the Scion xD, the 5-door hatchback with the premium price and dearth of redeeming qualities. Compared to the Fiesta, the xD represents a lot of what’s plaguing Toyota right now. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still selling very well, but they’ve been resting on their laurels for a decade and the competition has moved the goal posts. As a results, the xD’s interior feels a full generation behind the segment leaders, the in-cabin technology is aging or absent, the styling is unimaginative, and the driver controls are alienating.

Calling the driver controls “alienating” might seem odd considering that my tester’s xD came equipped with a steering wheel, brake pedal, gas pedal, and a 4-speed automatic, but there was nothing about the driving experience that led me to believe that I was driving what I would consider a 21st century automobile. It felt as if there was a 3” thick layer of wool coating every aspect of the driving experience. Not only did this prevent anything resembling enthusiastic driving, it also inhibited confident operation of the motor vehicle. The xD never instilled me with a sense of control, at least no more so than I would feel at the helm of West Edmonton Mall’s Santa Maria. In contrast, the Fiesta is sharp, eager, refined, and full of the latest tech – basically everything the xD is not.

Stock photo…

The Scion xD merely took driver inputs as suggestions in a comment box, with the tacit understanding that there may or may not be a corresponding response. It was dull if not downright disheartening.

I did observe a rather impressive 7.8L/100km in my week of city driving, which cannot be understated. The 1.8L engine, despite being anchored to an anachronistic 4-speed auto, provided sufficient motivation for urban life – much as it does in the Corolla – all while sipping on $1.14/L 87 octane. But once again, the Fiesta trumps the xD, with an observed 7.0L/100km in a week of city driving. The Scion’s last salvo fired, and missed.

That’s the thing, the Scion xD doesn’t do anything that the Corolla or Matrix don’t already do, and the Matrolla twins do it without being draped with patronizing marketing and drizzled with a $3,000 premium. Sure, the standard equipment on the xD is generous, with A/C, CD player, and power everything thrown in, but you’re still paying for it. There’s no added value here.

So if you really want a small Toyota, skip the xD and get a Corolla or Matrix.

If you want the best small car, get a Fiesta.

CarEnvy Rating: 4/10

[Photo credits: author]

9 thoughts on “2012 Scion xD: Joining The Canadian Gunfight, Armed With A Knife [REVIEW]

  1. john says:

    good review, good article, I agree 100%. the XD is too expensive for what it offers compared to other similar cars here in California. A young buyer can get the Kia Soul or Corolla or Yaris etc for much less money. the XD only sell about 1000 units/month compared to the Soul selling 10,000 units/month here in the USA. the XD need to decrease its msrp at least $2000 to be competitive with other similar cars.

    • Peter says:

      Thanks John,

      The situation here in Canada will likely prove to be similar to that of California. It’ll be interesting to see how Toyota/Scion react.

  2. Chris Shaker says:

    Found these comments interesting, since in Central Oregon, the 2012 Xd is cheaper than the Corolla. More fun to drive, too.

    I also drove the Tc this week, too, with a stick, and it was also a nice car

    Chris Shaker

    • Peter says:

      You’re absolutely right Chris, the tC is definitely more of an enthusiast proposition. The stick is also a must-have since the automatic makes the whole driving experience so utterly painful.

      But either way, Scion doesn’t quite have what it takes to capture a big chunk of the market. We have high hopes of the iQ and FT-86 though!

  3. Mark says:

    The scion xd is priced lower than any corolla here in Georgia. The yaris 5 door hatch is about the same price also with a much smaller engine and the same gas mileage. The corolla is a 4 door made in Canada average cookie cutter car too. The hatch is much more versatile than the trunk lid on a corolla.
    With the standardized pricing policy of the Scions, the Scion is a much better value than the Corolla. I don’t see the xd being overpriced at all. On the other hand the Fiesta, Cruze, and any chrysler out there are all over priced and offer nothing more than a rolling pile of garbage that will break down not long after the warranty runs out.

  4. Mar nolasco says:

    Here in europe scion xd sales under urban cruiser name and found out how reliable this car to own and drive.. City driving, highways cruising or and country driving urban cruiser won’t let you down..it really handles well with enough power and efficient engine and great saving fuel for everyday living…

  5. Kendra says:

    In Vancouver, Canada , the XD is far less expensive than the Soul with the same features (A/C, etc.). I have to say, it is much nicer looking than the Fiesta. I went from my beloved 1988 VW convertible to the XD last year. I can’t afford a VW right now, let alone a convertible. Call me shallow, but I wanted a car that looked good and was slightly different. I couldn’t afford what I really wanted and settled for the XD. I have to say, I am stopped all the time by people asking me about and telling me how good it looks.

    My only mistake was purchasing an automatic after driving my wonderful standard VW for so many years. Although I still kept the VW for nice sunny days.

  6. Travel Bug says:

    The xD seems good for someone who needs a preppy car that’s also versatile. Better power-weight ration than others in its price range.

    I really wanted to like the Cube and Soul more, but their power / weight / price ratio is behind on the xD. If I am going for more utility I might consider them.. or just go for the xB (subjective styling aside!).

    That leaves the Fit as the remaining contender… and it’s a trade off between power and magic seats.

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