"My parental concerns revolve around safety, reliability, and economy, in that order. I'll defer amenities and style to my kids," says Voehringer. That being the case, he picks the xB as his favorite. "I'd feel the most assured with my daughter driving the Scion, a known quantity (and quality). It's beefy and reliable with enough power to suit most any situation."

So where does that leave us? With regard to the Cube, Martinez sums it up best: "Those looking for the unique and different will instantly take a liking to the Cube. It's a well-engineered vehicle with a great base price and fuel economy, but its styling is something I can't get past." He sides with his Soulful schoolmates, but the more experienced hands at Motor Trend must give the Scion xB the victory by the slimmest of margins.

A case of "Father Knows Best"? Hardly. When driven back to back to back and compared on merits more than skin-deep, the xB consistently comes out on top. "Kia should be lauded for its efforts because, if judged on style alone, it has clearly won the hearts and minds of our jury young and old. The Soul has a lot going for it. It's a new, engaging design that's obviously been given a lot of attention by Kia. Still, the overall package is not as refined as the xB," concludes Voehringer.

And so, the one that opened the box up to America, remains on top of it.

1ST PLACE:
SCION XB

The benchmark maintains its position based on solid execution, performance, and value. The formula needs fine-tuning, however, as competitors loom large in the mirror.

2ND PLACE:
KIA SOUL SPORT

Solid A for effort. Stunning design makes it the unanimous undergraduate pick. More powertrain refinement and a couple of tweaks will easily put this at the head of the class.

3RD PLACE:
NISSAN CUBE 1.8S

Awkward proportions and asymmetric styling prove big barriers that mask the Cube's many strengths-including a lively drive, impressive interior room, and attractive details.