- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2009

It’s pretty clear that among the small compact cars the “boxy” look is the trend. The question is, which one are you? A Cube (Nissan)? A Wedge (Kia Soul)? Or a Box (Scion xB)?

The little boxes arrive just as consumer attitudes are flipping like flying trapezoids away from big, low-mileage vehicles. You remember sport utility vehicles, those once-trendy big guys? Truck sales peaked around 2005, but today represent less than half the total market with smaller crossover utility vehicles now overwhelming the big boys. Given that America has never really taken to small cars, we will have to wait and see whether the new bitty box is here to stay.

The Nissan, Scion and Kia stack up admirably against one another in key measurements. Company reputations are running neck and neck. Toyota (Scion) no longer gets all the accolades; Kia is increasingly being recognized for its style, value and dependability; and Nissan’s reputation continues to grow. Styling probably will be the decision that drives many consumers. Of course, back in the day when the Volkswagen Beetle crossed the pond, it stood alone. Today, shoppers will enter showrooms to look at the small box car, but may opt to buy something more traditional that is sitting right next to it.

Scion edges out the competition in power with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that kicks out 158-horsepower and 162 lb.-ft. of torque; the base model Kia Soul has a 1.6-liter inline-4 that makes 122 horsepower and 115 lb.-ft. of torque but is available only with a five-speed manual transmission. The higher-end Soul models have 2.0-liter engines that put out 142 horsepower and 137 lb.-ft. of torque and offer a four-speed automatic. The Nissan Cube already offers a six-speed manual paired with a 1.8-liter 16-valve four-cylinder engine that delivers 122 horsepower and 127 lb.-ft. of torque. Two higher-end Cube models offer continuously variable transmissions.

Performance comes at a price. Scion is the heaviest of the three vehicles and gets 22 miles per gallon city and 28 mpg highway on both manual and automatic transmissions. The lighter Nissan Cube gives 24 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with a manual and 28/30 mpg with the CVT. The Kia Soul gets 24/30 mpg. With a box design, one can simply forget aerodynamics; not happening here.

All base models start about $13,000 and all have special models running past $17,000. Sales for the Kia Soul in its first full month of April were 3,228. The Cube just went on sale in May. Nissan reports total sales in that month of 1,745. Scion sales in April were only 2,036, about half the year-ago number. The jury is still out on which box will be the sales winner, but I think the Soul and Cube will do well.

Interior styling is designed to assure owners that they are of the moment. The reviews laud design features in both the Soul and Cube, though some have noted the Scion’s interior has a cheapness to it that takes away from the overall quality of vehicle.

These differences aside, driving these small cars, I took notice that the art and design crowd embraces the Cube, the Tuner crowd gravitates to the Scion, and the Kia Soul has wider appeal to more “just folks” consumers who like being noticed but not ogled. Me? I’d probably hop into the Cube. The visibility is great. You can see and be seen.

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide