2013 Nissan Cube and the 2013 Kia Soul

By Emme Hall.

I know you’ve seen them. Those boxy little wagon-y looking things out on the road that all the kids seem to be driving these days. Perhaps you’ve even wondered, “Can I get away with driving one of those? Do I want to?” The answer is, “YES!” We’ll take a look at two of these toasters, the 2013 Nissan Cube and the 2013 Kia Soul, and see which one leaves our bread crispy.

The Cube comes to us with a 1.8L inline 4-cylinder engine good for 122 horses and 127 lb/ft of torque. You can get a 6-speed manual (yes please!) or a continuously variable transmission (CVT). 0-60mph comes in 9.7 seconds with the CVT, which is average for this class. EPA fuel ratings, however, could be better at 27-mpg city, 31-mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the CVT and 25/30/27 with the manual.

2013 Nissan Cube

The Soul comes with two engine choices: the base 1.6L inline 4 cylinder with 138 horsepower and 123 lb/ft of torque or a 2.0L inline 4 with 164 horsepower and 148 lb/ft of torque. Both can be had in either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. The 2.0L has a 0-60 mph time of 8.8 seconds, which is excellent for this class. However, like the Nissan Cube, the gas mileage could be better. The 1.6L gets an EPA fuel rating of 25-mpg city, 30-mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined regardless of transmission choice. The 2.0L earns an EPA fuel rating of 23/28/25 with the automatic and 24/29/26 with the manual.

The Nissan Cube has two trim levels: the 1.8S and 1.8SL. Standard features on the S include Bluetooth, keyless entry, 15 inch steel wheels, air conditioning, cruise control, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, iPod connectivity, and a 6 speaker sound system with a CD player.

2013 Nissan Cube

Upgrading to the SL results in 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry and automatic climate control. The Preferred Option package, which includes foglights, a touchscreen navigation system, a rearview camera and a premium Rockford Fosgate sound system with satellite radio and an USB/iPod interface, is only available on the SL.

The Kia Soul comes in Base, Soul+ and Soul! The base model’s standard equipment includes 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a four-speaker sound system with CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface. In a move that boggles this manual transmission fan’s mind, you also get keyless entry, rear privacy glass, cruise control and a height-adjustable driver seat when you order your base Soul with the automatic transmission.

The Kia Soul includes all the above as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, some faux metallic interior accents and two additional speakers. There is an available Audio Upgrade package for music fans and an optional Eco package for the green folks. Also available is a sunroof bundled with foglamps.

2013 Kia Soul

The top-of-the-line Soul adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, upgraded headlights, foglamps, LED daytime running lights, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and the Audio Upgrade package. Optional on the! is a Premium package with all the fancies like heated front seats, keyless entry/ignition, and a navigation system with real time traffic and a touchscreen. The Soul is only offered in the automatic.

The Cube is great in the city. It’s amazingly easy to park, has a fantastic turning radius for quick maneuvers, and has plenty of pep for darting past taxi cabs. The suspension, however, is tuned for comfort, not sport. While it feels stable and planted in the corners, it just doesn’t have the any excitement once you really start to go. The vehicle speed sensitive variable assist power steering is a tad too light for my tastes in parking lots and the like, but it does weight up nicely and give you an adequate amount of feedback.

Although the 1.6L of the Kia Soul is fine, it’s well worth it to spring for the extra hamsters in the 2.0L. As with the Cube, the Soul is perfect in the city. Parking, weaving, and quick u-turns are the Soul’s specialties. Here the suspension is tuned more for sport, so you’ll definitely feel the bumps a bit more, but you’ll also get more fun. The Soul does not have speed sensitive power steering, but it’s still easy enough in the parking lot and inputs are quick and crisp at high speeds.

2013 Kia Soul

Both cars are risk takers in terms of design and are very affordable. The 2013 Nissan Cube S starts at $16,760, while the SL starts at $18,860. The 2013 Kia Soul base starts at $14,400, the Soul + at $16,700 and the Soul at $19,900. My money is on the 2013 Kia Soul with, more power, more fun and more manual transmission. Plus Kia has one of the best warranties out there: 10 year/100,000 miles. So if you’re a quirky city driver, or just want to look like one, check out the Kia Soul. Hipster moustache not included.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Nissan and Kia.)