JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Scion Evolution Car Club members Oliver Banga, right, Jon Moore, Darrin Wagatsuma (obstructed by the emblem) and Lukela Bagood were reflected in a Scion xB's custom front grill plate Sunday at the club's car show. CLICK FOR LARGE
Scion of the times
The affordable xB is an urban tool geared for the young that has caught on with older folks
IN THE PANTHEON of cool, you can never tell what's hot and what's not, unless you're looking at the past in a rearview mirror. Who'da thunk that among the most bitchin' wheels on the road these days is a mini-powered subcompact with all the elegant styling of a bento box?
Hello, Scion xB. Basically a re-badged Toyota bB, which in turn shares the chassis and drive train components of Toyota's modest economy Echo, Scion's ugly duckling is an urban tool aimed at the youngsters -- we're talking good mileage, low cost, amp'd sound system, plenty of headroom and max foot room. It's caught on as well with older folks, those who appreciate a small car that doesn't require being a contortionist to enter. And all Scions list for less than $20,000. Some, much less.
But here's the clincher: The xB is a simple car with a small engine designed in components. The average dude with a box of metric tools can work on one, much like the old VW bug.
We checked out the state of the art in xB redesign at the Hawaii chapter of the Scion Evolution car club over the weekend at Aloha Tower. There were a few other Scions there, coupes like the tC and xA, but xBs are where the action is.
"I got the whole spectrum of sound in there, baby," said Rodolfo "Papo" Gutierrez as a Niagra of ear-crushing volume poured out of the open hatchback of his xB. "Four monitors and a 10-inch subwoofer! And I was the first xB owner in Hawaii to chrome my engine cover!"
No kidding. He even has a mirror on the inside of the hood, the better to admire the spotless engine compartment.
SERIOUSLY, though, Gutierrez, who works with military police in Kaneohe, commutes from Ewa Beach every day and has put 40,000 miles on his xB in two years with nary a problem. "No other car gets the kind of mileage it does, and it's really reliable," he says. "We got it as a family car, but then I began working on it, kind of a hobby, and now ..."
Curtains in the windows, a "Japanese-style" drink table on the dash, Louis Vuitton vinyl, a DVD player also in the dash -- Gutierrez is commuting in style. Other xBs featured DVD players as well, some with multiple screens; one had a video game setup in the trunk, with a big screen on the reverse of the rear seat, just in case you're driven to play HALO in the parking lot.
Marshall Lum was high on Scion's interaction with customers. "Never had a dealer so responsive," he said. "The xB has been redesigned as a bigger box and wheel base -- the new model was just announced -- due to input from owners."
Lum explained that the xB was available in Japan for a couple of years before it was tweaked for the U.S. market, and most of the add-ons are manufactured there, which is likely why the drink tables have a sushi-bar appearance.
"The popularity just blew up when it came out; the xB is doing real well," said Lum, chapter liaison for the club, which has 29 U.S. chapters and one in Puerto Rico. "The plan is to have a major overhaul every three years and keep the cars unique."
THE BAGOOD family are confirmed xBuffs. "I like the roominess of it, and the price is good, too," said Lukela Bagood. "The way it looks -- well ... it grows on you."
"I had mine first!" said Iokepa Bagood. "We had a truck, but this is a better family vehicle."
"I wanted one," said Elisha Bagood, "as soon as I sat in the back seat."