Meh Car Monday: What Was the Point of the Scion xD?

I’ll preface this one with a reminder that Meh Cars are not necessarily bad cars. Sometimes they’re good cars that just don’t have much reason to be, or anything to actually do. It’s like if you believe in reincarnation, the idea that a wonderful, caring, creative soul could be born as, say, a vole. Voles do their jobs just fine, but all of the really special stuff of that soul just isn’t going to be able to be expressed as a vole. So that’s sort of what the Scion xD was: a decent soul born as a vole.


To really understand why the xD is meh, we have to understand what Scion was supposed to be when it started: it was supposed to be Toyota’s experimental brand, their youth-focused brand, the brand where the company could try things that would have been a bit too radical for staid Toyota to try.

And many of the Scions did deliver on that promise: the box-like xB was a radically practical design and an incredibly useful car, the iQ was a novel take on the tiny city car, the FR-S was how America first got the fantastic Toyota 86 sports car with a Subaru flat-four, and even the tC had it’s own coupé-y charms.


But the xD—and, really, the xA before it—were just kind of...there.


Actually, I couldn’t decide between the xA and the xD when I was writing this—they’re both pretty damn meh. In the end, I decided to focus on the xD because it’s heavier and clunkier and I like its looks a bit less, but, really, you could swap xA in here as just as well.

Everything else in the Scion lineup, whether you liked it or not, was at least relatively unique—Toyota didn’t have a very Japanese tall-boy-like vehicle in America before the xB, no really, really tiny city car before the iQ, no cheap, genuinely fun RWD sports car before the FR-S, and so on.


But the xD? It was just a four-door hatch. It was a slightly larger Toyota Yaris, an American-ized Toyota ist. There wasn’t any reason it couldn’t have been sold just as well as a Yaris 5-door or whatever. For a car of its segment, it was about as by-the-book as you could imagine, and as such never really made sense as a Scion.


Again, the xD wasn’t bad, at all—hell, Consumer Reports said it was the most reliable new car you could buy in 2009, and that’s great. But it doesn’t mean it’s not meh. It just means it’s meh but you don’t have to worry about it breaking down.

The body design and fundamental concept weren’t innovative, the car wasn’t particularly engaging to drive—it had the same 1.8-liter, 128 horsepower inline-four as the Toyota Matrix, the car that pretty much did the same job as the xD, just maybe a bit better and a hell of a lot more popular.


I mean, really, the existence of the Matrix should have been proof that this car was just not necessary. They were both sold at Toyota dealers, had the same engine, same basic layout, but the Matrix was a bit more of a wagon (it had a (tiny) cargo-area window, you see) and, really, what was there about the xD that would really differentiate it?


The youth appeal of Scion? Probably not, since the practical and comfortable xB had long since become a retirement-castle favorite.

So who the hell knows why anyone would have picked an xD? Scion’s own marketing team didn’t really know either, so they just spent lots of money and made animated horror-movies about skin-wearing, beheading demons:

Of course, the real irony here is that pretty much any other Scion would have made more sense in that ad other than the xD. Well, maybe not the xA.


Scion really doubled-down on the idea that, somehow, the xD was a radical choice, even though deep down they had to be aware that it was an incredibly safe, sensible, reliable choice:

Watching these gives you kind of the same cringey feeling as being cornered at a party by some dude who decided that very night he was going to be “weird” and won’t shut up about how he’s sure the Scooby Doo gang smoked weed and won’t stop playing with the tiny pony tail he attempted for the first time that afternoon.


At least in this ad they reveal, through demon vomit, that the xD could be had in some fun colors:

I believe there was a decent color selection for these, but it’s pretty telling that I can’t recall the last time I saw one that wasn’t white or metallic gray.


Sure, Scion sort of ended as a big disappointment, but even that disappointment had some chunks in it of more concentrated disappointment, and those chunks were made of well-built, reliable, decent xD-meat.

Barely anyone really cares that Scion is gone, and even less care that the xD is gone, even if they even remember that there was a time when it was here.


Now I’m tired.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)