The tattooed bikers surrounded the "what the heck is that?" vehicle.
Chains clinking, they inspected the tiny 1.5 L four cylinder engine. It resembled, they said, their motorcycle mills.
The bikers also arrived at another conclusion: The first Scion XB might actually work.
They were right. Despite looking like a cigarbox on wheels, the initial XB really was a workable, extremely mini minivan or five-door hatchback or station wagon.
Its five-speed manual transmission got a workout just keeping up with urban traffic. The zero to 60 mph time was a charitable 11 plus seconds.
Highway speeds induced wind wander. A center mounted instrument pod induced eye wander. The XB starred at parking.
The young drivers targeted by Scion (son of Toyota) showed up but so did older drivers. They turned the XB into a geezermobile. All had the same reason. Great fuel economy, low purchase price and lots of equipment.
For 2008 Toyota went out and spoiled the "what the heck is it?" The funky quotient was halved. Yet the virtues all survived.
The Scion XB still has good fuel economy, the purchase price is still reasonable, and there's a ton of equipment. And it's still fun to drive.
The vehicle is also a tad faster thanks to a 2.4L four banger of 158 horsepower. That's up from 103 hp before. The XB is 12 inches longer with a four inch longer wheelbase. It weighs 620 more pounds, too.
Acceleration is slightly better as well. It's around 10 seconds now to 60 mph.
The sharp, square lines have been rounded off and the hood lengthened so the XB looks more like a car. Rats.
There is a huge back roof pillar that cuts the view to the rearward. On the inside of the pillar indentations that outline possible porthole windows--just like sin bin vans. The driver's seat has a pull down armrest just like minivans.
The XB hangs in there on curves and tracks accurately thanks to a sports tuned suspension. That also produces a somewhat choppy ride underlining that XB is no cross-country traveler.
Standard vehicle stability control is a big plus. Also standard are cruise control, halogen headlights, and power side mirrors with LED turn signal indicators. The premium stereo is grand.
Just because there's an inexplicable single backup light doesn't change the fact that the XB really is just a neo Funkmobile.
What Toyota has done is to take a perfectly nice weird vehicle and turn it into something more pedestrian and mainstream. It's a very nicely finished Toyota.
Now, if they would just make one that's more like a Scion.
•Engines: 2.4L I-4
•Dimensions: 102.4" wheelbase; 167.3" length
•Base price: $16,600/tested $18,339
•Fuel economy: 22/28 mpg