You may be looking at the images of these decidedly non-SUVs wondering why this story is even included on Well, for those who want a crossover or SUV but need something small and efficient, the Kia Soul, Nissan Cube, or Scion xB might be just what they're looking for. These are the vehicles that are the closest to crossover alternatives that money can buy. Plus, their combination of low base prices, surprising interior volume, and safety features appeal to parents looking for cars for their teen- and college-age drivers, and the cool styling appeals to the kids themselves. These vehicles combine sporty, cool styling with genuine function and efficiency--and for buyers looking for just one of those attributes, getting the other is a great added bonus. In this story, Motor Trend's Ed Loh and other members of the MT team go on a road trip to a college to see what the kids on campus think of these compact boxes. - Allyson Harwood

Spore. Beer Pong. Flight of the Conchords. Superpoking on Facebook. Any of these sound remotely familiar? If not, it's because you're old and unhip. These terms belong in the vernacular of a specific subset of the American populace.

Whether you call them Gen Y, Echo Boomers, or Millennials, they're the next generation of young drivers and car buyers-and they are different from you and me. They grew up not on Atari or Commodore64, nor even Nintendo or SEGA, but on PlayStation and Xbox. They Google, Yelp, and Twitter -- often while simultaneously LOLing on IM or downloading the latest iPhone apps. See? Unhip.

Toyota is not only a student of this generation, it's at the head of the class when it comes to identifying and codifying their existence. Toyota wrote the playbook back in 2004, when it launched the Scion brand and unleashed the xA and xB twins. Four years later, when Scion replaced the xA with xD and brought a larger, more powerful xB to market, it was regarded as the auto industry's most successful youth brand.

Naturally other auto manufacturers, like Kia and Nissan, took notice, particularly as the xB became the poster box of Scion's youth-targeted movement. So are their new boxy offerings CliffsNotes versions of the xB, merely clever cribbed summaries based on Scion source material? That's what we aim to find out.

Rather than simply speculate, we had Motor Trend's intrepid young Nate Martinez, himself a recent college graduate, corral some bright young minds from his alma mater for a little Q and A session. For the parental perspective, we brought along Thomas Voehringer, father of a college-bound 18-year-old.

We meet down in breezy San Diego at the famous Mission Beach. Joining us are Josh Gurr, Eddie Navarro, Thi Ngyuen, and Al Rojas. All are either current students or recent graduates of the University of San Diego and squarely within the Kia, Nissan, and Scion box demographic.

After a brief introduction, notebooks are handed out and our collegians are unleashed on the vehicles-each a front-drive, five-seater equipped with inline-four-cylinder engines. The 2010 Kia Soul Sport is the top-step version equipped with a 2.0-liter, 142-horsepower engine and five-speed manual transmission. Nissan's 2009 Cube 1.8S has a 1.8-liter, 122-horsepower engine mated to a CVT. The 2009 Scion xB comes equipped with a 158-horse, 2.4-liter engine and a four-speed automatic.