by Joe LaMuraglia
I remember countless hours spent as a child playing in a box. Yes, a standard-issue cardboard box. If it was raining or too cold outside, my mother would pull out a box from the closet and the fun ensued. To add context to this story, our TV was B&W, there were only three channels and computers and video games were things of the distant future. So if there was nothing suitable on TV and Mother couldn’t send us outside to play (or lock us in the dog pen – true story), we had to entertain ourselves and, gasp(!), we used our imaginations.
My favorite model of box was large enough for me to sit in with enough room for my legs to extend in front of me. I would modify said cardboard plaything with a old 45 from my brother’s record collection taped to the center cylinder of a paper towel roll for, you guessed it, my own steering wheel. I would then spend hours driving in my mind; or at least until one of my nine siblings decided I was having too much fun and would fabricate a massive crash and destroy my paperboard play toy.
These memories came flooding back recently when I experienced three box-like vehicles in a row: The Scion xB, the Kia Soul and the Nissan Cube. All three are funky entries into the entry-level segment and give new meaning to “Econo-box”. This triad is similar in price point (under $15), powertrain choices (4-cylinder with either a 5-speed manual or automatic) and intended target market (the ever-elusive “youth” market). But like the products housed in the myriad of cardboard containers at your Big Box store, the shape alone doesn’t indicate what’s inside. Each vehicle is as distinct as the myriad of products that come wrapped in Georgia Pacific’s best.
2009 Scion xB
2010 Kia Soul
2009 Nissan Cube