Hip to be square - Metro US

Hip to be square

Critics might dismiss boxy cars as looking like a freezer on wheels, but the style is a hit with car design connoisseurs, and it’s one of the biggest car trends of 2009.

The cube is a distinctive, futuristic, minimal shape for a car that sets the driver up high, making it a smaller, more economical MPV. The look was originally developed by Nissan, then Scion, to offer trendy teens in Tokyo and Los Angeles cool and original but affordable car design.

Don’t expect hot rod power from these alternative cars — more the potential for mellow urban cruising with your homeys.

The original boxy car is the Nissan Cube, which launched only in Japan, in 1998. The 2009 version comes to the rest of us this year. With its cubic shape, tiny wheels, asymmetrical rear window and shag-pile rugs and it was exotically Japanese and had the “design classic” appeal of the iPod — this car is designed to be an extension of your home first, your mode of transport second.

There are plenty of other boxy cars including the Kia Soul, Daihatsu Materia, Citroen C3 Picasso, Honda Element, Fiat Qubo and the Scion xB. However, some of them are not yet available in North?America.

I’m still waiting to drive the Cube, but I’ve tested all the others.

I was put off the Scion xB as it’s so self-consciously geared towards “the kids,” and the Fiat Qubo offers good value for money but is too cheap and slow for me. I like the chunky Kia Soul, but design-wise I prefer the Daihatsu Materia, which offers unmistakably Japanese styling, with its low-down boxy body.

But if I was to own one it would probably be the Citroen C3 Picasso. Boxy but pleasingly plump, you sit high up in the C3 Picasso, with great visibility all round, comfortable ride, plenty of boot-space, high quality interior fittings and lots of gimmicks to keep you amused.

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