A Review From the Driver’s Seat of the 2004 Scion XA

It’s cute and it’s zippy, but the 2004 Scion xA has a few features that make it less than user friendly. The main problems in the design are a lack of good rear-view visibility and the inconvenience of several control panel buttons, mainly the radio and the mirror adjusters.

I bought a Scion several months ago feeling really great about the purchase. It has some nice safety features like side airbags and side panels that double as impact shock absorbers. The car gets 32 to 38 miles per gallon, and I totally dig the hatchback. However, in driving it over the last few months one of my frustrations has been the visibility.

Looking out the back window (which is small to begin with) is hampered by the back seat passengers’ head rests. After several near-accident experiences, I opted to remove them completely, thereby eliminating two significant blind spots.

The side mirrors, I find, are a little bit too small. Even when they are properly adjusted, any change in slope and your visibility suffers. And adjusting the mirrors, especially while in motion, becomes an entirely different problem all together.

I’m a big advocate of people keeping their eyes on the road and only looking away when it’s absolutely necessary. The buttons to adjust the angles of the mirrors make looking away necessary. They are located to the lower left of the steering wheel, just slightly on the underside of the dashboard. When the steering wheel is turned straight ahead you cannot see the buttons at all and have to duck down to find them. They are only visible when the steering wheel is turned left or right, and let’s face it, should you be adjusting your mirrors in the middle of a turn?

I have a few beefs about the stereo as well.

If you ride with a co-pilot it shouldn’t’t be a problem, but the power button for the stereo is closest to the passenger’s seat, so if you fly solo you’ll be reaching across the car to listen to music. When you are listening to a CD and decide you’d rather channel surf the stereo, ejecting the CD turns off the system, so you’ll have to hit the power button again. And this is probably just a matter of personal taste, but I prefer a dial for the volume. When a stereo system has too many up and down buttons you spend more time making sure you are selecting the right one than you really ought to. Of course, that’s fine for your living room, but at 65 mph, I’m thinking it’s not. Forget sophisticated when it comes to the amount of buttons you have in a car. I’ll take stupid easy any day.

Overall, I still think that the Scion xA is a great car. But when you’re deciding to sign away your next five years of paychecks, those little annoyances could be the maker or breaker of a $14,000 deal.

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