Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First Impressons: Scion xB


My wife's BMW was starting to need costly repairs (and it certainly wasn't cheap to begin with). The choices were to keep it and keep paying for it, or buy a new car. While XiaoQin didn't want to go car shopping, when I threatened to buy another Honda Fit, she changed her mind and decided that car shopping was less crazy than having 2 of the same car. (Given how happy I've been with my Fit, I have no idea why the objection exists)

We started with the Toyota dealer. We first tried a Prius Station Wagon, but discovered that the latch placement in that car meant that the car seat had to be on one side or another. Since we only had one kid and the safest place in the car is the middle of the back seat, we decided to keep shopping. We tried the Yaris, but discovered that the trunk was so small Bowen's stroller wouldn't fit in it. The salesman had a moment of insight and introduced us to the Scion xB. I had actually tried the xB way back in 2009, but discovered that it wouldn't fit the tandem. Since I already had a Honda Fit, that was no longer a concern. The amount of room in the car was substantial, and while it wasn't the most fuel efficient car around, we would most likely drive it around with at least 3 people inside, so that was less of a concern. The car's driving position felt higher than a regular car, but doesn't feel like an SUV: it's still easy to get in and out of it, and there's relatively little ground clearance. My bicycle will still be the primary vehicle for my solo trips.

We tried the competition. The Nissan Cube was substantially smaller though more fuel efficient. For whatever reason, the rear seat felt cramped with the car seat inside. Honda had discontinued the Element, which was its vehicle in the same class. The Mazda 5 was substantially more expensive, and suffered from the same problem as the Prius Station Wagon.

Negotiating with the dealers was a problem. The Scion brand features True Pricing, which meant that all dealers would only quote me the sticker price over e-mail, rendering my usual trick of soliciting competitive bids from all dealers within 200 miles useless. We did find two dealers who would offer about $1,000 off the sticker price, and after an afternoon of shopping, went with one of them.

Having had the car for about a week, I'm actually quite impressed. The car is stable and drives well, though it feels a bit top heavy and isn't as nimble as the Fit. The built in accessories are impressive: you get blue tooth linkage with your phone, as well as a USB port for an MP3 player. The bluetooth player handles streaming stereo audio as well. Overall, as a baby mover, I think the car has a lot to be said for it: the rear windows are tinted, for instance, so are more comfortable for Bowen when the California sun is shining. The price is also pretty amazing for what you get. The biggest criticism is the fuel efficiency, but as you can imagine, almost anything Japanese beats a BMW on that front. No car is perfect, but if you have a small family I can recommend this one.
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