Scion xD Missing the Mark with Consumers

Despite its strong record for reliability and a recommendation from Consumer Reports, the Scion xD can’t seem to get any traction with U.S. motorists. For the first seven months of the year, the xD’s sales have fallen 25.5%, making it the slowest selling non-luxury model in parent company Toyota’s entire line. The xD was introduced in 2007 to replace the xA.

The xD is but one of the youth-oriented models from Scion. The boxy xB and sportier-looking tC coupe have fared better than the xD with the younger demographic.

Some suspect the xD’s sticker price could be an issue. The base 2010 xD has an MSRP of $15,620 including destination charges. It comes with a 128- horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder engine, five-speed manual transmission and 16-inch wheels. Upgrade to the automatic transmission, and the price jumps to $16,420. Upgrade to a fully equipped model with alloy wheels, an upgraded Alpine audio system with 4.3-inch touch panel and HD radio technology and rear spoiler and the price rises to around $20,000.

By comparison, the 2010 Nissan Versa hatchback equipped with a 122-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and manual transmission has a base MSRP of $14,140. Toyota’s own Yaris hatchback, which rides on the same platform as the xD, has a starting price of $13,665. Granted, the Yaris comes with a much less powerful 103-horsepower engine and is slightly smaller than the xD. A more “apples to apples” competitor is the 2010 Honda Fit with its 117-horsepower engine and a base sticker price of $15,650. For 2010, it has outsold the xD 5-to-1.

Although the xD has the lowest MSRP of all Scion’s models, the price differences between it and the larger xB, for example, is less than $1,000. Most consumers appear to feel the extra money is worth the extra room.

The xD is a sound vehicle with some nice features including split, sliding back seats that also recline. With the rear seats folded, the xD offers a full 15.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Considering the price, the xD’s fabric upholstery is attractive and well made.

The xD has a fuel efficiency rating of 27 mpg city / 33 mpg highway. The xD’s shorter length gives it a bit bouncier ride than its slightly longer rivals, and some have complained about excessive road noise when driving on certain surfaces.

For 2010, Scion equipped the xD with standard electronic stability control, antilock brakes with Brake Assist, front-seat anti-whiplash head restraints and curtain air bags. The safety features helped the xD receive four out of five stars in front-end crash tests and five out of five stars for passenger safety in tests by the federal government.

With all that going for it, the fact that the xD hasn’t taken hold with consumers is a little bewildering – until you consider the impact emotion plays in the decision-making process of buying a car. With wide pillars around the front and rear windows and an overall body style that resembles a short wagon, the xD lacks the personality of its siblings and rivals in the segment. On the other hand, for a nimble, reliable, economical urban vehicle, the xD is exactly what its designers and engineers envisioned. It remains to be seen if Scion will hold the line with the xD or if it will go the way of its predecessor.

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