A continuation and clarification of the City Car discussion

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion at 4:18 am by Tomas

To continue the discussion begun in my last post, one of the other folks commenting at an enthusiast’s site has direct contact with some of the officials at Scion. She communicated to them the basics of my thoughts about their abandoning the “City Car” niche in the United States. The reply from those Scion folks was that the Scion xD was the model that was directly carrying forward the City Car idea, and would replace the xB Classic in that niche. This is the xD:


and this is the xB Classic it is allegedly “replacing” in the “City Car” niche:


Note especially in these views the tremendous difference in the rear hatch sizes, and the height of the cargo and passenger areas. The vehicles are similar in length and width.

I responded to the idea that the xD would fill the niche vacated by the xB Classic as follows:

Well, that’s nice, but the “space efficiency” of the xD is NOT the same as the space efficiency of the xB Classic: The rear hatch and load space are much more limiting than on the xB Classic. The xD is a very nice compact hatchback, but there is NOT any way it is as easy to load, nor can it handle the bulky items that the xB swallows without complaint.

Also, the driver/passenger access is much poorer on the xD. Yet another crouch-to-enter small car.

(And can anyone imagine trying to do a wheelchair conversion similar to the Braun Rampvan conversion of the xB on the xD? That is one very clear, very solid example of the difference in usable interior space on a similar footprint.)

xB rampvan

I repeat, “There is nothing on the current US market from any manufacturer with the same space efficiency as the now discontinued Scion xB. Nothing. There are no equivalent City Cars available here.”

Thanks for asking them, though, I guess they don’t understand what a magnificent design the xB Classic was for usable space in a tiny vehicle, and in turn do NOT understand that they have abandoned that niche and those customers. ๐Ÿ™


Another commenter said

Tom think of it this way, IMO…for anyone to espouse that the “car they want next” is even “heard” by a manufacturer sets you apart from 99.0% of the rest of the planet….you folk have an impact on what comes next. As much as you’d like to deny it….scionlife can dictate model changes….they may just be model changes you functionally fixated folk have a tough time swallowing.

My response:

No, I fully understand that the “new xB” is a direct result of the designers paying very close attention to all the folks who were pleading with Scion to change specific things about the xB Classic. It is absolutely amazing how closely they followed their vociferous customer’s “demands.”

What may have fallen through the cracks, though, or at least fell below the threshold of being actively noticed, is the even larger group who DIDN’T demand those changes – those who were essentially saying by their silence that the now discontinued Scion vehicles were very appreciated and met their needs and desires.

If *I* were to have been asked what changes I would like to see in the xB Classic, mine would have been very simple and direct: Cruise control, side airbags, and slightly more substantial front and rear pieces that could withstand having another car gently bumping or brushing against them in parallel parking – without damage.

I’m one of the silent ones who did NOT find fault with the original, because 99 and 44/100ths percent of it fully met my needs and desires.

I wouldn’t be one to say don’t innovate – innovation is one of Scion’s strong points, innovation and taking chances.

I fully believe that the new xB2 station wagon will be a strong seller, and will have an avid following: It is a well designed, well put together vehicle specifically designed to answer to the customer’s desires. Same for the new xD.

Neither one, however, is a continuation of the City Car theme first introduced to this country with the Scion xB Classic. Tiny car, tiny engine, massive interior space, sophisticated simplicity (minimalism), and undeniably form-follows-function VERY MUCH OVER form-follows-fashion.

Yes, the xD, for example, may have been intended to be a follow-on design for the City Car theme, but each and every extra curve and flowing line added, subtracts from the utility and usability of the vehicle in the City Car functions.

Rounded sides, top, rear, and hatch opening? Reduction in usable interior space, even with the same size exterior. A one foot cube holds MUCH more than a one foot sphere even though both take the same size storage niche (parking space).

Exterior curves placed solely for styling tend to make doors and other panels thicker, thereby also increasing the difference between usable interior space and required exterior space.

The real beauty of the xB Classic was that the required exterior space was essentially the usable interior space plus only mechanical and safety required space. No corners trimmed off for looks and lost to utility.

The original xB was a brutally unapologetic, efficient vehicle, and sophisticated well beyond what most can appreciate. There are a lot of very subtle things going on inside those flat panels that make it a pleasing and reliable little box on wheels.

The xB2 is the redesign of that concept up into a totally different class of vehicle, to meet the expressed desires of the loudest 10 percent of those who either bought the box and found it wanting, or who refused to buy the box and said why. I doubt the silent 90 percent wanted their beloved boxes to morph into tC station wagons.

I wish the xB2 buyers all the best, and feel confident that they will be getting a very fine vehicle priced way below what it could be. I’m sure that Scion will listen to them also, as their vehicle matures and changes. The xB3 will reflect the changes the dissatisfied xB2 owners demand. ๐Ÿ™‚

Scion is doing an amazing job of listening and changing, in this instance it may be their customers who failed. ๐Ÿ™ Only those with complaints seem to have said anything at all. Either from a lack of belief that anything we said would count, or simple apathy, the rest of us were silent. For whatever reason the (I believe) majority who appreciated their beloved boxes for what they were, didn’t make ourselves known.

It could be HOW the questions were asked: The questions were always “What should we change?” or “What would you change?” The questions never seemed to be “What under NO circumstances should be changed?” ๐Ÿ™

Always the focus was “What did we get wrong?” never “What did we get right?”

What happened was that 95% of those things ostensibly “wrong” were corrected in the new design, which is absolutely fantastic! ๐Ÿ˜€ Thing is, it also meant some of the really great things they got right were lost. ๐Ÿ™

The xB2 and xD look to be great cars, and should propel Scion forward. Sadly, those of us who MOST liked and appreciated the earlier xB design for what it was no longer have a home. There is no follow-on vehicle that does for us what the box does. That makes me sad. ๐Ÿ™


And yet another voice was heard:

Tomas, you stated it all. I think after this next 3 year run hopefully people will realize what they lost in the xB classic (and yes everyone should start calling it that).

I think like minded folks like us know what was so great about the idea of the car, the aesthetics aside. I absolutely love the xB classic and I have since I first saw it. Unfortunately for me there was never an opportune time for me to get one. I missed out on a car based on the idea of a ‘City Car’ in every sense of the word.

It was the first time I saw the American car companies “wake up” to what was practical in the rest of the world. I thought this car would start a revolution not only in design but in the idea of what cars in America could be. I am so utterly let down by Scion’s decision to drop the City Car from their line-up.

The new 2008 Scion models look to be great cars at excellent price points. Add in the quality of the design, construction, and customer care, and they will be excellent choices for those whose needs they meet.

For those with serious UUV (Urban Utility Vehicle) “City Car” needs, one can only hope that a true replacement for the earlier Scion xB Classic appears.

TOMAS sig with xB

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