So I have a history of taking unsuitable cars on road trips.
I humphed a Yukon Denali from LA to San Francisco with just me and the wife on board, a rather expensive trip that ultimately garnered a couple of shoddy looks from environmentally-minded Bay dwellers. I took a GMC Sierra from Long Beach to Vegas, hmmm, and a tiny VW Eos to pick up my parents off a transatlantic flight at LAX (OK, that's not a road trip, but it was still dumb).
So when four of us - me, the wife and two British friends on a world tour - jumped into Scion's natty new xD compact five-door hatch for a camping trip up to Ventura County and its surrounding winelands, I had that certain feeling that things may not go as planned.
Special, unforeseen things jumped right out - the tent that never was (forcing all four of us to huddle in a tiny two-man tent), the fact I was sure I was getting a larger xB (which arrived a week later), and an iPod hookup that refused, and I mean refused, to work.
So camping was a struggle - the xD just couldn't bear up to taking four adults and a Doberman on a 200-or-so mile road trip round with all the assorted camping gear in the back including four sleeping bags. That just didn't work, unfortunately, though perhaps obviously.
What the xD worked great for was giving said British friends a royal tour of LA and its surrounds, on a previous trip that included rooftop dining down in Laguna Beach and Champagne quaffing at Paradise Cove. It was great zipping about in a compact that boasted lots of nice modern features and sparky, though slightly noisy, performance.
Infuriatingly - and I mean infuriatingly - the iPod hookup just did not work properly throughout the whole week with the car. The iPod player works in the xB I tested the week after, but this one was a disaster. It would not find playlists, menus, or anything else useful my 30G video pod bought the month before carries in its flash memory. Didn't work (and I'm pretty good at working these things out). Very frustrating. When it did work, that 160-watt stereo just isn't good enough. Too tinny across the board.
This was tempered somewhat by the fact that this new roll-out turned plenty of heads on the assorted tours: its new look is bold and brash but retains enough sensibilities to be praised by this reviewer. Its front end looks as good as it does shouting out from numerous billboards around LA County, usually outlined in electro-luminescent green, or something. It will appeal to both young and old drivers, its main competitor will be the similarly priced, and similarly innovative, Honda Fit.
Pros: It doesn't look like anything else on the road. Cons: An emphasis on smaller windows lessens cabin visibility.
Nuts and bolts include the test car's 1.8-liter powertrain that pushes out 128 horsepower, which will propel it to a mile a minute in 8.4 seconds. Anti-lock brakes come as standard and all manner of head restraints, side-impact bars and airbags fore and aft will keep you safe and snug.
Inside you get the central console, AC, power door locks and mirrors and 60/40 split rear seats for your hard-earned $15,170, which makes it a very reasonable purchase. Just don't take it on any overstuffed road trips.
Published on Dec 31, 1969