Cargo

Given that all three cars are space-efficient, the Cube's smallest-in-group exterior size has to hurt something. It does — the cargo space. Nissan says volume behind the second row totals just 11.4 cubic feet; that's about half of what Scion says the xB offers. Numbers can only say so much, but for a hatchback, the Cube's trunk area feels just plain small. The rear seats scoot forward a few inches to expand it, but in the forward position anyone approaching 6 feet tall will find legroom untenable. Fold the seats down, and total volume equals 58.1 cubic feet. That's better than the Soul's 53.4 cubic feet, but it trails the xB's 69.9.

Cargo Volume Compared (cu. ft.) 2009 Nissan Cube 2010 Kia Soul 2010 Scion xB Behind rear seat 11.4 19.3 21.7 Rear seats folded 58.1 53.4 69.9 Source: Automaker data

Fold the seats, and there's a hefty step up from the cargo floor to the lowered seatbacks; the xB and Soul have a flatter transition between their cargo floors and seatbacks. The Cube I tested had an optional cargo organizer to fill in the area and create a flat load floor, but the resulting surface was angled rearward. That means any round items — watermelons, basketballs — could end up on the pavement when you open the door.

More troublesome is Nissan's decision to use a swing gate rather than a liftgate. Some will find it easier to shut than a conventional pull-down liftgate, but others will call the feature a deal-breaker. Parallel park in close quarters, and it's nearly impossible to open the swing-gate more than a few degrees. Unless you're in front of a tall truck, liftgates can typically be opened with only a little clearance.

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