The Scion xA (chassis code: NCP61) is one of the first two models introduced to the North American market under the Scion brand name. Essentially an Americanized version of the Japanese Toyota ist, which was introduced to Japan in 2001 as a new-for-2002 model. The xA was largely unmodified for our market, converted to left-hand-drive and equipment changes made to conform to USDOT safety and emissions standards.
The xA was introduced to the California market in June of 2003 as the entry-level vehicle in the linuep, sharing a 108hp 1.5L VVT-i engine (1NZ-FE) with the Scion xB and Toyota Echo. It was sold exclusively in California for several months so that dealership quality control could be carefully fine-tuned and to spark demand in the rest of the country. In September of 2003 the Scion brand hit the east coast and the south. States along the Atlantic and the southern border states from Florida to Texas saw Scion dealerships pop up. Then in June of 2004 the rest of the country finally saw the Scion become available. Scion dealerships were integrated into Toyota dealerships, but had seperate showrooms featuring high-tech flatscreen displays.
The 2006 model year came with a few changes. The exterior color pallete was updated: Salsa Red Pearl replaced Black Cherry Pearl and Flint Mica replaced Phantom Gray Pearl. The front bumper and grill, sideskirts and rear bumper and taillights were slightly redesigned for a more mature appearance.
The Release Series line of the Scion xA was a limited-release option package that included the Scion xA RS1.0 in September 2004, Scion xA RS2.0 in May of 2005 and the Scion xA RS3.0 in October of 2006. Only 1550 RS1.0s, 1700 RS2.0s and 2200 RS3.0s were produced, each with a plaque mounted inside the vehicle stating the edition number. Each release got it's own exclusive special color not found on any other xA; the RS1.0 was dipped in Absolutely Red, the RS2.0 was layered with Spectra Blue Mica and the RS3.0 was painted Stingray Metallic.
Whoa. Scion? It means "a descendant or offspring." (It's pronounced sigh-on.) And indeed, Scion has sprung from the fertile loins of Toyota as a new cheapie car brand for the young. After all those years harvesting baby boomers with "Oh, What a Feeling!" ads, it turns out their kids won't touch a Toyota, Mom's Toyota, with a 10-foot tattoo stencil (see sidebar).
So here comes Scion to determine—pardon us, dear William—whether that which we call Toyota by any other name will sell as sweet. The initial two cars hit Scion's 105 California showrooms this month. A third, more sporty car arrives in June 2004, by which time Scion will have migrated to the rest of the nation.
Meanwhile, the first two cars, the bean and the box, are two of Toyota's Japanese home-market hatchbacks that share the Toyota Echo's chromosomes. They both have strut and twist-beam suspensions and the Echo's 108-hp, 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine, with variable valve timing on the intake cam.
First, meet the bean. It is the Toyota Ist in Japan and the Scion xA in America, where it leads the freshly printed Scion catalog with a base sticker of just $12,965 on five-speed manual models. The optional four-speed automatic adds $800 to both the xA and the xB.
The 93.3-inch wheelbase of the xA exactly echoes the Echo's and tightly packs seating for five and almost 12 cubic feet of cargo space between its love handles. The bean's only factory options besides the automatic transmission are front side airbags and front and rear curtain airbags, which come as a package for $650.
The Scion twins are significantly upgraded for duty in America: extra steel reinforcement in their skeletons, more sound-damping material, tighter suspensions, and a substantially longer list of standard accessories. That list includes four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock in the xA and disc brakes with ABS, traction control, and skid control in the xB.
Scions—both the round and rectilinear variety—also come with standard power windows and locks, a first-aid kit, and a Pioneer single-disc CD player singing through six speakers. On paper, at least, the Scions are a roaring value. Only the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio and Spectra, Saturn Ion, and Toyota Echo and Tacoma pickup have base prices lower than the xA's, but none has anti-lock brakes, air conditioning, and a CD player as standard equipment.
Even so, Scion's managers view the cars as blank canvases for 38 customization accessories. They range from a $49 faux carbon-fiber shift knob to a $595 satellite-radio receiver and include such whimsy as giant-fingerprint door decals and interior mood-lighting strips.
Steered around the Mission District of San Francisco during the Scion's launch, a 2400-pound xA automatic demonstrated a bump-absorbent ride and lightly weighted but lively controls. The seating position is high, just an inch or two less than a Toyota RAV4's, so minivan drivers are almost at eye level. Glass rings the cockpit like a lighthouse, but wind noise and tire moan are reduced to a whisper, thanks to the extra sheets of sound insulation and double-tube door seals.
Considering that the xA has the Echo's power but an extra 280 pounds, it's no surprise that the engine struggles to maintain momentum up S.F.'s legendary hills. At least the automatic is programmed to hold gears on uphill hauls, so there's less hunting for power and little to be found anyway.
Of the dealer-supplied accessories available for the xA and xB at launch, only two enhance performance. One is a front strut-tower brace for $225, the other a $335 cold-air intake with a low-restriction filter worth perhaps 10 horsepower (Toyota wouldn't be specific). Once the Scions go on sale, company executives predict the aftermarket will rush to supply superchargers and other hop-up parts.
2004 SCION xA Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door wagon Base price: $12,965 Engine type: DOHC 16-valve 4-in-line, aluminum block and head, Toyota engine-control system with port fuel injection
Displacement: 91 cu in, 1497cc Power (SAE net): 108 bhp @ 6000 rpm Torque (SAE net): 105 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm Transmissions: 5-speed manual, 4-speed auto with lockup torque converter Wheelbase: 93.3 in Length: 154.1 in Width: 66.7 in Height: 60.2 in Curb weight: 2350-2400 / 2450 lb
C/D-estimated performance: Zero to 60 mph: 9.0-9.8 sec Zero to 100 mph: 35.5-40.0 sec Standing 1/4-mile: 17.4-18.0 sec Top speed (governor limited): 109 mph