Goodnight, sweet square...
February 8, 2018 11:43 AM   Subscribe

So my beloved 2006 Scion xB just got declared totaled by the insurance agency. I'm now at a crossroads - track down another 2006 xB, or buy a new car. My conundrum? I don't think I've liked a single car I've seen since my beautiful box left production (the later xB designs were terrible).

The things I loved about the square - fantastically compact, but had tremendous internal space. It was like driving the Tardis around! The visibility was also amazing - I could see out of everywhere, and you could see the exact road dimensions of the car from the inside. Fantastic turn radius, and it handled in Virginia snow shockingly well. Plus, it was so phenomenally angular - my favorite car body since the old Volvo 240 DL wagons.

Things that have tried and failed to capture the xB spirit - the Nissan Cube wants to be the next one, but the corners are all melty like a microwaved block of Velveeta and that asymmetrical rear window bothers the hell out of me for some reason.

The Kia Soul - all the things I hated about the newer xB designs, all at once. Looks like a PT Cruiser swallowed a fridge. I just want to drive the fridge!

Ford Flex - the closest *visually* to my beloved, but it's a behemoth SUV. I want something small and nimble.

What are my current options for new, interesting cars sold in the US that fit my irrationally picky tastes? I'm open to other interesting distinctive ideas as well, but I just haven't seen any so far.
posted by FatherDagon to Shopping (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Priuses are much larger inside than you would expect. I know someone who roadtrips and lives in one for 6 months at a time, or more. Also, mileage. They don't have the visibility or the height. I live in Maine and Priuses do well as long as they have good tires. Sorry about your car; it's hard to lose a good tool.
posted by theora55 at 12:01 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

It doesn't match your longing for cubiness, but everyone seems to agree that the Honda Fit has Tardis-like qualities of phenomenal roominess despite small measurements...
posted by TwoStride at 12:14 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

We have nearly exact tastes in cars. My all-time favorite car: my 1978 Volvo 242. My second favorite car: my 2004 Scion xB. I ditched the Scion because I had a baby on the way, and the side-impact ratings scared me. I still miss it. Anyhow, I'm driving a 2015 Honda Fit now, and while it doesn't look doesn't look bad to me, and it's pretty fun to drive. But, as someone who would really like to replicate the Scion experience, I couldn't find an equivalent in the US market. Maybe a Mazda 5? They're ugly, but seem to be awesomely useful for a smallish vehicle.
posted by another zebra at 12:16 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

One more note: the Fit isn't nearly as wonderfully roomy. It just isn't. But I'm pretty sure nothing is. My husband is 6'9" and there's literally no car on the market with the headroom of the xB, except maybe the Ford Transit van.
posted by another zebra at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2018

As the relatively new owner of a gently used Prius V, I agree with the above statement that Priuses have surprising Tardis-like qualities despite not being box shaped. I was switching from a Pontiac Vibe which I loved because I could haul a full-sized couch home in it. I think I could fit a bigger couch in my Prius V.
posted by BlueJae at 12:42 PM on February 8, 2018

While not new, the Honda Element seems up your alley. The last production year was 2011 though you can still find nice used ones. We have a 2008 Element with 250k+ miles on it that we use as a beater/project vehicle. It is amazing what you can fit inside! The back seats even come out!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you might be interested in a newer — though not new-new — boxy vehicle, maybe a later-model (2011 or so) Honda Element?
posted by D.Billy at 1:20 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Depending on whether an electric car would work for you, I found the Nissan Leaf to be fantastic. “Small on the outside, huge on the inside” is a phrase I have used to describe it. I also think it has great visibility and easily established dimensions (as a person for whom that matters a lot when driving).

It’s not square, but it is pretty distinctive, and it is really zippy.
posted by Night_owl at 1:22 PM on February 8, 2018

Chiming in to say I love my Honda Fit for roominess but HATE its blind spot issues, which are especially bad in the front at night exactly where pedestrians wearing all black like to stand. I'm super careful and have never had any issues but I'd much rather be able to clearly see peds at crosswalks in the first place.
posted by cnidaria at 1:26 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've driven a Fit (my ladyfriend has one), and yeah the blind spottiness is a bit of an issue for me. I like the idea of the Leaf in theory, but physically it looks like it might have the same blind spot layouts. Night_owl, how tall are you with the fit in your Leaf? I'm about 6' and tend to bump my head frequently on doorframes that have that sort of angle. If I end up getting a used car that's out of production, I'll just get another xB - I've always had this completely ludicrous but unshakeable feeling that Elements were the xB's evil rival on the road and switching sides would betray the memory of my dearly departed.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:12 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

If it helps, you might think of the Element as the once-rival who now carries on the banner of Boxy Vroom with a tear in its eye, because rivalry can be close to friendship.

On a related note I can nth the inexplicably huge interior space of the Prius - it's now the only car my household owns and every. single. time I try to tell my fiance we can't fit something in it, she says "nope!" and, drops the rear seats down and next thing I know there's like three fridges and a German Shepherd and the 1998 Green Bay Packers Defensive line in there. It's nuts.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:24 PM on February 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

You might consider the Ford Transit Connect- they basically put a giant box on a Focus. If you keep an eye out, you can get used ones with seats, though they are relatively rare.
posted by rockindata at 7:19 PM on February 8, 2018

The Transit Connect is a very van like driving experience as far as visibility goes. If you don't like switching lanes or backing with just mirrors you won't like it.

FatherDagon: "f I end up getting a used car that's out of production, I'll just get another xB"

This is what I'd do. Over the years I've had a couple cars that just clicked with me and I've ended up buying another when the first wore out. A 11 year old car isn't that bad (at least not worse than what you were driving) if you can find a unit with low miles. This is especially appropriate when no one is actually making a new equivalent (IE: it's not like you are buying a plain sedan or a pickup).

Caveat I've never had a new vehicle so it's easier for me to pick a specific used vehicle.
posted by Mitheral at 8:14 PM on February 8, 2018

Yeah, we went shopping and put a fully assembled heavy wood kitchen table, 4 chairs, and several Ikea bookcases in boxes in the back of an Element at once. I can put 2 mountain bikes in there standing up.
posted by bongo_x at 10:19 PM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

I drive an older Soul and while it may not have quite the look you want, it's definitely got the TARDIS like thing down. Last spring I fit a rather large BBQ (still in the box), and enough hotdog and hamburger buns, drinks, plates and condiments to host a BBQ for 300 people in the back of it. Getting everything in was a bit like a game of Tetris, but it wasn't that tough and no buns were squished. Also, it handles really well even in terrible eastern Canadian winter weather.
posted by peppermind at 5:23 AM on February 9, 2018

When I was in the market, one car that captured my interest was the Golf Wagon. It's definitely got the angular boxy thing going. It has very good interior space (although not quite as good as the xB). Drives great (and available with a Haldex for snow). I've gone on a road trip in one and found it a good car for grinding through hundreds of miles of nothing.
posted by adamrice at 7:44 AM on February 9, 2018

Just get another old Scion, seriously. Modern cars all have terrible blind spots -- I totaled my wonderful Ford ZX2 in 2006 and then went out and immediately bought another one, even though they were out of production, and when that finally gave up the ghost last year I test drove everything and they were all nightmares if blind spots are an issue for you like they are for me. I actually almost CRIED after I test-drove the Fit, it was so frightening. Nobody seems to make 2-door coupes anymore unless it's something uber-sporty (I realized a big part of my problem was that blocked visibility from the extra doors), so I ended up buying a brand new Ford Fiesta because it was heavily discounted with end-of-year rebates and such, and it's wonderfully reliable but I still have issues with the blind spots. And don't even consider a Prius -- that back window, what?? You can't see anything.

Oh, or here's another idea -- my husband drives an old Honda CR-V (a 99, I think). It is AMAZING to see out of! I don't think the new ones are as good (more blind spots) but any of the First Generation CR-V's (1995-2001) might work for you. And they run forever. Anytime I drive his I feel like I'm actually a good driver again.
posted by jabes at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2018

Have you considered a VW Beetle? It’s not boxy, but it’s geometric and unique looking. Lots of headroom for the people in the front seat. Not as cavernous as you’d like, but compact and nimble. Don’t know about blind spots but it looks like you’d have a pretty great all-around view.
posted by ejs at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2018

So it looks like I'm test driving a Nissan Leaf this weekend, and then a used 2016 BMW i3 on Monday because this thing looks bonkers... and I found a nearby-ish used dealer selling a 2006 xB, same black, also manual, 40k less miles than my old one... and somehow also has my exact same aftermarket rims as well. I'm pretty sure I know what choice I'm going to make, but let's see where some of these suggestions take me! Thanks for the help folks, and if you think of something else interesting (esp in the EV/Hybrid arena), keep the ideas coming!
posted by FatherDagon at 1:31 PM on February 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

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