Toyota Motor Sales USA (TMS) has pinched the platform and a new engine from the year-old second generation Toyota Yaris to underpin a redesigned five-door hatchback model for the US-only Scion brand.


The new 2008 Scion xD five-door subcompact (B-segment in Europe) launched this week at the Chicago motor show will go on sale in the US in April – replacing the first generation XA model – with a new ‘2ZR-FE’ 128hp, 16-valve, 1.8-litre engine with variable valve timing .


The new Scion hits US showrooms in April, around the same time Toyota Motor Europe (TME) launches new top-of-the-line sporty Yaris models (badged TS in Europe and SR in the UK) with a 131bhp version of the same engine.


The power output difference is likely due to tuning for the lower 87-93 octane rating of unleaded petrol in the US compared with the 91-99-octane gas sold in Europe, and differing emissions standards in the two markets.


Having sampled it in a European market Yaris recently, just-auto can report the all-new 1.8 (also going into the new European-specification Auris) is very refined with strong mid-range torque so gear changes can be kept to a minimum. Acceleration is brisk enough – 0-62mph in 9.3 seconds – to keep US buyers happy when merging into fast freeway traffic. American buyers will have the choice of a conventional five-speed manual (stickshift) transmission or four-speed automatic.


Toyota Europe would not dare offer its potential ‘sports hatchback’ buyers an auto so the new Yaris SR/TS is strictly manual-only. Over here, buyers in this class predominantly prefer to change their own gears and only the smaller-engine 1.3 petrol and 1.4-litre diesel Yaris models are offered with an optional automated manual in Europe.


The rest of the xD specification is typical US economy car with MacPherson strut front and rear torsion beam suspension, and front ventilated disc and rear drum brakes.


The redesigned xD interior has what Toyota describes as “a unique, radar-like speedometer and tachometer consolidated into one circular gauge centred on the instrument panel”. Indicator lamps, LCD fuel gauge and odometer flank the central gauge.


As in the Yaris, the rear seats can slide forward and back up to six inches (150mm) for additional leg room or and can recline 10 degrees and be adjusted into five different positions.


Being aimed the so-called ‘iPod generation’, the new xD has a standard 160-watt Pioneer audio system with iPod connectivity and a mini-jack port. The iPod is controlled through the head unit and the steering wheel audio control buttons while the mini-jack port allows users to listen to portable music players through the car’s speakers.


Head unit outputs also allow for the addition of external amps to boost power to the front and rear speakers, and for the subwoofers that many owners of the outgoing xA added.


The optional premium audio system adds the ability to download ‘skins’ to play on the LCD faceplate. Customers can download images, four-second video clips and eight-second movies from Pioneer’s website while Pioneer software allows customers to burn their own images and movies onto a CD and upload them onto the available head unit.


Like its predecessor and all other Scion models, the new xD will come on so-called ‘mono spec’ where dealers order only exterior colour and transmission type and the optional factory-fit vehicle stability control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC). All other options are added at port-of-entry distribution centres or by the dealers themselves.


Standard items include power steering, windows, door locks and mirrors; remote keyless entry; air conditioning; four-wheel anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist; driver and front passenger dual stage airbags; front seat-mounted side airbags; front and rear side curtain airbags; first-aid kit; a tyre pressure monitor system and tilt steering wheel with audio controls.


The purchase price also includes the first 5,000 mile and 10,000 mile services.


TMS also unveiled a fully redesigned Scion xB ‘urban utility vehicle’ at Chicago.


The xB was first introduced in early 2003 for the 2004 model year and TMS said its “boxy shape [has become] iconic to the Scion brand”. Just-auto has seen many being used in the US as mobile billboards advertising all sorts of businesses from pizza parlours to chiropractors.


Mark Templin, Scion vice president said: “We’ve stated in the past that we’ll probably always have a box in the Scion lineup, but our owners told us they wanted a bigger box. ”


So the wheelbase is up four inches, overall length by a foot, overall width is up by almost three inches and overall height is down about an inch to give the xB a more comfortable ride on new 16-inch steel wheels, an inch larger than the previous generation.


There’s a new 158bhp 2.4-litre petrol engine (up 55bhp on the old xB’s engine and borrowed from the slightly restyled 2008 tC coupe, Scion’s top-selling model) and larger brakes.


The new xB has similar equipment to the xD, including the 160 Pioneer audio system with iPod connectivity and mini-jack port.


Customers will have a choice of a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic with sequential shifting, a first for automatic four-speeders in the Scion or Toyota line-up.


The updated 2008 tC has a new nose and tail lights and detail interior changes.


And 160 watts of Pioneer sound, of course.


Graeme Roberts