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.
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.
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.