Suburban Dad and the Econobox Invasion

1035945810 1425510795456 jpeg

1035945810 1425510795456 jpeg

As a dad of two teens, I’m always interested in new cars that may appeal to them. Here in L.A., Nissan and Kia rolled out two new versions of what we used to call, not so charitably, econoboxes. With all the safety advances now required, very few cars are true econoboxes today (just look at their MSRPs), but Nissan’s Cube and Kia’s Soul are built to take on Scion’s xB, already in its second generation.

Of the two, I think I like the Kia better for my kids. (Full disclosure, I own a Kia Sedona). That doesn’t mean I think it’s necessarily the better of the two, but I think that, given the likely costs of each car, what they offer, and a comparison of features and interiors, the nod goes to the Kia.

In terms of spaciousness, the two are very similar, and they’re also similar to the xB. I was able to sit pretty comfortably in the second row of each, which I consider important, especially if my teens are carting other teens around, or if I get stuck using the car on occasion. From the driver’s seat, I thought both cars offered good visibility, although I give the nod here to the Cube, whose windows don’t slope up and narrow as they run along the length of the car. The trade-off for that, though, is that I prefer the looks of the Soul better; I think it looks less frumpy and more aggressive.

The Soul also gets a big nod from me for the back hatch. Like the xB, the Soul’s hatch opens up, which is far handier when you’re trying to load stuff into the back. The door-like opening on the Cube, like the Toyota’s RAV4’s, is out of date and clumsy.

The Nissan definitely has a more expensive feel to it on the inside of the car; the surfaces have a nicer feel, especially on the headliner, which felt very cheap in the Soul. That being said, I suspect the Cube is going to run about the same price as an xB, and that likely will be a couple grand more than the Soul. In both cars, I like the lively feel of the center stack. Nissan has stashed a cupholder up and to the left behind the steering wheel; while that will no doubt be convenient, I think it will wind up with Red Bull splashing over many a driver’s lap when making a turn at (relatively) high speeds.

In the very important mileage battle, I suspect that Nissan will win, but Kia and corporate sibling Hyundai have been getting better at focusing on achieving better mpg.

Overall, for its advantages on looks, back hatch and (likely) price, I would go with the Soul for my teens (if I ever actually bought a new car for them).

Latest expert reviews