2015 Scion xB

Now in its second generation, the latest Scion xB hatchback trades a measure of the original's funky style for increased practicality and cargo space. While it can't match the fuel economy of more modern competitors, the xB does offer a high level of utility in an inexpensive and compact package.

The xB is as boxy and idiosyncratic in its design as ever, but a few minor styling changes arrived recently to freshen things up. The front bumper received new look and now incorporates a glossy black lower grille and LED accent lighting. The rear end was spiced up with an imitation diffuser, and Absolutely Red and Nautical Blue Metallic exterior colors are now available.

No changes have been made under the hood, where a 2.4-liter dual overhead-cam four-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) can still be found. The engine produces 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Shifting duties fall either to a standard five-speed manual or a dated four-speed automatic. Regardless of transmission choice, fuel economy comes in at an SUV-like 22 city, 28 highway miles per gallon.

Climb aboard the xB and things will mostly look familiar, including the durable materials and polarizing center-mounted instrument cluster. New elements include light bronze metallic trim, chrome accents on the air-conditioner register and revised seat fabric. The new touchscreen audio system provides a modern feel and enhanced functionality, while the optional premium stereo/navigation system and its attendant smartphone-based apps - including Aha internet radio, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Tripadvisor - ups the ante even further.

Like all Scion vehicles, the xB is mono spec. Customers only need to choose exterior color and transmission type. The xB comes with generous and upscale standard features including power steering, windows, door locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; a rear-view camera; four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA); driver and front passenger dual stage airbags; front seat-mounted side airbags; front and rear side curtain airbags; Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with Traction Control (TRAC); first-aid kit; and tilt steering wheel with audio controls.

A wide range of accessories, including the BeSpoke premium audio/navigation system, can be installed by dealers at the time of purchase.

Occupant Safety
All xB models are fitted as standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.

Key Competitors
The xB is aimed at those wanting a compact car or crossover with room to haul their stuff, friends or family. As such, look for the Kia Soul to be high on the list of alternatives, while other compacts such as the Jeep Renegade, Nissan Juke, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 may also be cross-shopped - although most come at a higher price than the xB.