– Excellent build quality
– Low running costs
– Tall interior
– Limited luggage space
– Toy-car image
– Tall exterior
The Toyota xA is defined as a muscular 5-door hatchback that features an athletic stance. It’s the newest release from Toyota. But there is far more to Toyota than low price. Few small, low-budget cars have made a lasting impression in the Middle East, as most have been mere “transportation appliances,” devoid of character and quality. The XA has plenty of character, with unique style, good performance, and Toyota build quality.
According to Toyota, the three key characteristics of its XA are style, versatility, and surprise, and this is true. The xA, in particular are not likely to be confused with any other cars available here, and is configured for maximum space utilization and interior versatility. The “surprise” part comes in the high levels of standard equipment and low prices. Although the style, advertising, and promotions, including “lifestyle events” encompassing music, art, fashion, and even cars decorated by graffiti artists, show a decided slant toward the urban youth market, xAs are really meant for anyone looking for something out of the ordinary.
The xA manufacturers claim its cars are for people with “luxury aspirations, but on a subcompact budget.” “Luxury” might be a stretch, at least in appointment – don’t expect leather and burled wood – but materials and fit and finish are first-rate, and compare well to some cars costing twice as much. The standard equipment list is impressive, including air conditioning, antilock brakes, power windows, doorlocks, and mirrors, a rear-window defogger, and a six-speaker Pioneer AM/FM/CD audio system. It’s no bargain-basement special that will cost an extra few thousand dollars over the base price by the time it gets out the door. The XA buying experience is also designed for simplicity, with a no-haggle sales policy and high degree of personalization through factory options.
If you’re familiar with the small cars popular in Europe and Japan, the xA will seem less unusual. It’s short, narrow, and tall proportions have the crowded urban environment in mind. But it’s relatively wider and lower in front, tapering higher and narrower to the rear for aerodynamic efficiency and stability as well as style. The stock wheels and tires nearly fill the wheel arches. Because of that, and its proportions, and its strong fender flares and rocker panels, the xA is much more muscular-looking than most small hatchbacks. The windshield is nearly as raked as the hood, and, with the arched roof, helps give the xA a unified look seen from the side. The front is highlighted by large, complex headlights, while similarly-shaped taillights make it easily visible from the rear.
The xA is as distinctive inside as it is outside. Its four-door body makes access easy, and a hatch can’t be beat for those times large, awkward things need to be moved. Just try to fit a computer monitor or a bicycle through the small trunk opening of a subcompact sedan. Inside, there is plenty of space for the two front passengers, and more than you might think in the rear seat. Because of the width, it’s cozy for three adults, but there is enough leg and headroom for people up to six feet, depending on the height of the front seat occupants. Interior design is high-tech modern, simple and straightforward but with elegance. The most noticeable feature is the instrument panel design. The hooded instrument pod is placed in the center of the top of the panel, not directly in front of the driver. This makes sense once you realize that there are right-hand drive versions of this car in Japan, and such a design simplifies production. I adapted to it quickly. Below the instruments is the center stack, with a rack-mount motif thanks to metallic-looking plastic trim at its edges. All controls are well-marked and simple to operate, although the buttons on the stereo are on the small side. For enthusiastic driving, the pedals are placed in a way conducive to heel-and-toe operation. This is not a feature of a mere econobox commute module. Luggage space with the rear seat up is carry-on only, but with the rear seat down (it’s split 60/40) there is plenty of storage space, and a bicycle fits easily, provided the front wheel is removed. I’ve seen huge SUVs with less useable space.
The xA’s unibody structure is designed to protect occupants in the event of a collision. Antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are standard. Side and side curtain airbags are available.
A very European suspension calibration sets the xA apart from other low-priced subcompact hatchbacks that have been sold here. While it can work perfectly well as a commute car, it is far more than that. Although the suspension configuration, with MacPherson struts in the front and a twist-beam axle at the rear, is nothing unusual for a small, inexpensive car, it is tuned very well for sporty real-world use. It’s compliant enough for comfort, but firm enough to have fun in confidence. Stability in winds on the highway is good, and the xA’s diminutive size makes city parking a snap.
If it seems that the 108 horsepower (at 6,000 rpm) and 105 lb-ft of torque (at 4,200 rpm) that the Toyota’s 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes is not enough, it’s only pulling 2400 pounds of weight around. While it’s not a true high-performance car, the xA is quick enough to be fun, but not so quick as to send your insurance agent on a six-month vacation to Hawaii. It’s by far the most entertaining, and satisfying, subcompact ever. Typically of Toyota engines, the xA’s is a twincam, 16-valve aluminum alloy design with VVT-i variable valve timing, and can be matched to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. The manual is the choice for maximum performance and economy, but the engine’s great torque characteristics should allow for good performance with the automatic as well. It doesn’t need to be revved to redline, and has plenty of torque for quick acceleration in traffic. Even driven in a sporty manner, and with plenty of stop-and-go city traffic, the xA has good fuel economy.
The Toyota xA really is a subcompact with style, verve, and character.