My Favorite Machine: Scion xB

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- We have had several cars during our 35-year marriage, but I'm certain my wife would tell you that my favorite, by far, is our current ride, a 2005 Toyota ( TM) Scion xB, the color of a Dr Pepper can or (to be perfectly honest) an old Barney dinosaur doll.

I tell people the xB stands for "Xtra Boxy." I fell in love at the test drive. The seat feels like you're driving a truck, but the body starts just inches off the ground so the interior gives me a ton of headroom.

2005 was the first year for the Scion in America, and by the end of my first year with it I felt like a Toyota salesman. People were constantly stopping me at the market, or on the street, and asking to sit in it. I developed a patter about the circular speedometer, the way the back seats folded down to yield enough room for a $400 Costco ( COST) run, and the mileage -- better than 30 mpg on the highway.

Katrina hit soon after we got the Scion, and I had to go to North Carolina on business. Gas prices had shot up, and the roads were fairly empty. I filled the tank on leaving, completed my mission, and still had gas left when I returned to Atlanta. I was jazzed by that.

The turning radius on the xB is spectacular. When you're living in town, where parking places are at a premium, and often tiny, this is no small thing. I fit into places no car of mine had ever fit into, certainly not the Toyota Previa minivan the Scion replaced.

The 1992 Previa was the kids' car. They loved having three banks of seats: a back seat and a "back-back" seat. We could toss in a cooler, throw blankets and toys around, and take 3,000 mile trips in it. But when the kids became teenagers, the Scion did that same job. It's been to see my wife's family in Texas at least 10 times now.

Of course, the Scion has a strange time in Texas. Everyone there seems to have an SUV or a monster pickup. You can't see our xB in a parking lot. You have to turn on the "panic button" from the key chain and listen for where it is. When driving down the freeway you feel like a midget in a land of giants.

Once my Scion bought a new car for the Atlanta police. I was driving my son home, decided at the last second to take a different route, and side-swiped a cruiser that had just headed toward a call, its siren still off. My car sustained some side-panel damage, but when it came back from the dealer it was as good as new.

Now, if I'd bought some Toyota shares along with my Scion, I'd be doing even better. They traded at about $80 then. They're now at more than $122.

And the stock has kept paying a twice-a-year dividend, even during the worst of the recession. The per-share amount has varied, from a high of $1.38 in 2008 to a low of 47 cents in 2010, but it's now back to $1.26, and the shares have a price-to-earnings ratio of nearly 20, almost twice what investors are paying for Ford ( F).

If I ever have to sell my Scion, I'll be able to get a good price. Kelley Blue Book estimates it could fetch as much as $7,000, a little less than half of what it fetched new. Edmunds estimates I could get more than $6,800 for it in a trade-in, and has one for sale at a nearby dealer for $9,000.

But I'm not selling. My youngest is currently commuting to college by subway and hates driving, but he'll have his license eventually, he'll graduate, he'll get into graduate school, and chances are that graduate school will be far away, far enough so that he'll want a car to get there-and-back in. The Scion is just about to cross the 100,000 mile mark, but it has lots of life left in it.

So keep this under your hat: It's his graduation present.

At the time of publication, the author had no investments in companies mentioned in this article.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and a tech reporter since 1982. His specialty has been getting to the future ahead of the crowd, then leaving before success arrived. That meant covering the Internet in 1985, e-commerce in 1994, the Internet of Things in 2005, open source in 2005 and, since 2010, renewable energy. He has written for every medium from newspapers and magazines to Web sites, from books to blogs. He still seeks tomorrow from his Craftsman home in Atlanta.

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