Cube in the Market

Nissan wins the oddball award, even among kooky-looking box-cars, and 28 mpg in the city is impressive. But even urban driving requires an occasional jaunt on the highway — or a road trip to see the 'rents — and here the Cube suffers, especially compared with the more substantial-feeling xB.

Another observation: Value and funky styling aside, these econoboxes give something up compared with what the same money will buy in a more conventional — if slightly pricier — car. Consider your alternatives if you're shopping one of these boxes, because the quality and refinement that's baked into $17,000 sedans like the Honda Civic, Kia Forte and Mazda3 will have you thinking twice about the Soul, xB and Cube. If car shoppers continue to crave value, these cars have robust futures. But low prices can only do so much; quality matters, too, and in the long run, I suspect all three boxes will have to make significant strides to stay competitive.

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