Good things come in boxes – at least, that’s the impression you might get if you take a closer look at several of the more popular crossover vehicles on the market today. Squared-off lines, flat roofs and slab sides have all found their way back into the design language employed by family-oriented, stylish and fun crossovers manufactured by Japanese, domestic and Korean automakers. These models offer immense practicality coupled with the chance to stand out from the crowd of more rounded, bulging crossover options.
Let’s take a brief look at five box-shaped crossover options that range from full-size all the way down to entry-level and see what they have to offer new car buyers.
The 2011 Ford Flex is notable for the way it combines retro styling cues – lifted from 60’s surf wagons – with a high tech list of equipment and features. The largest crossover on our list, the Ford Flex can seat as many as seven passengers or accommodate up to 83 cubic feet of gear with the rear rows folded forward. Some of the most impressive items that can be found installed in the Flex include the SYNC vehicle interface, a refrigerated console that rests between the second row seats and four sunroofs.
Motivating the 2011 Ford Flex is a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that puts out 262 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque while delivering 17-mpg city and 24-mpg highway. Performance fans can add serious spice to the Flex’s driving experience by selecting the EcoBoost model, which slaps twin-turbochargers onto this motor in order to grind out 355 horses and 350 lb-ft of twist while maintaining fuel economy of 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway. Each engine is matched with a six-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is optional with the base V-6 and standard with the EcoBoost unit.
The 2011 Honda Element is an outlier on the crossover market, a vehicle which has been specifically designed to be as useful as possible without sacrificing comfort or fuel economy. The Honda Element seats four passengers and offers a second set of doors that open towards the rear, revealing a gaping access point for both people and cargo on either side of the automobile. 75 cubic feet of total storage space reside inside the Element’s boxy confines – exceptional for a compact crossover – and the vehicle’s easy-to-wash floor surface makes it simple to clean up after a messy load.
The 2011 Honda Element is sold with a 166 horsepower, 2.4-liter engine that is also rated to produce 161 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission comes free of charge with the crossover, and while front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive can be had as an option. The Element returns fuel economy numbers of 20-mpg around town and 25-mpg on the highway.
The 2011 Scion xB adds a few wrinkles to the rectangular design of the original version of this compact crossover, grafting a more aggressive front fascia and a few additional character lines to the vehicle’s overall look. The Scion xB provides a passenger compartment that can accommodate five riders in total, and with the rear seats out of the picture 70 cubic feet of storage can fit underneath the crossover’s tall ceiling.
All versions of the 2011 Scion xB feature a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that has been tuned to provide 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. Transmission choices include a five-speed manual (standard) and a four-speed automatic (optional), and fuel mileage for the xB shows as 22-mpg in the city and 28-mpg during highway cruising.
The 2011 Nissan Cube takes funky styling to a new level, incorporating several cues that are lifted directly from the Japanese domestic market. Most notable is the inclusion of a patch of shag carpet on the vehicle’s dashboard and a wraparound rear window that improves driver visibility while reversing the Nissan Cube. The small crossover seats five passengers, and despite its diminutive dimensions it can haul up to 50 cubic feet of cargo space if required.
The 2011 Nissan Cube is designed to maximize fuel economy, and its 1.8-liter, four-cylinder motor provides 27-mpg in stop and go driving and 31-mpg on the highway. Power output is solid, checking in at 122 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of toque, and a six-speed manual transmission is included with the entry-level Cube. A continuously-variable automatic unit is also available.
The 2011 Kia Soul offers compact shoppers the chance to get behind the wheel of an upright crossover instead of a more traditional hatchback. The value-focused Kia Soul offers room for five passengers, and its interior can be arranged so as to haul up to 53 cubic feet of luggage.
The 2011 Kia Soul initially benefits from a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine under the hood that generates 122 horsepower and 115 lb-ft of torque. Fuel mileage for the most affordable version of the crossover is rated at 26-mpg in city driving and 31-mpg during highway cruising. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder option is also available, and it provides 142 ponies and 137 lb-ft of torque while dropping fuel mileage by two and one miles per gallon for each respective measure. Both motors can be had with a five-speed manual transmission, while the larger of the two can also be shifted through a four-speed automatic.