Box Cars: Perfect for Hauling Coal for Stockings

by The Car Family

For more reviews: http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/most-reliable-vehicles/

Looking for the best vehicle to haul that coal for the undeserving one’s stocking this holiday season? Well it might not be that simple since there are five main types of coal. Of these, Anthracite, which is an environmentalist nightmare, has significant carbon content, but high heating value. Bituminous, the most common, is used mainly for generating electricity and casts a large carbon footprint, too. There is also Subbituminous, which gives less heat, but also has less carbon, and Lignite, a younger coal with less potential.

So which coal to buy is the question, but equally of note is which box car to tote home the combustible sedimentary rock? Fortunately, this holiday season there are three fairly newly minted vehicles that provide good fuel mileage, room for four adults as well as a few bags of coal within their squared off exteriors. The box cars are the Scion xB the Kia Soul, and the Nissan Cube and they are as different as Bituminous is from Lignite despite their similar Lego-like looks.

Mom’s view: The most conservative of the trio is the fairly “spacious” Scion xB with nearly 70 cubic feet of interior space and a lengthy list of options from stereo upgrades to an integrated navigation system. There is an abundance of standard features, especially considering the mid-$15,000 price range. Acceleration is PCH brisk, which means it can get you to 40 mph in a hurry, but after that no rush. The engine is eager to please while still yielding above 30 mpg in mixed driving. The interior is quaint, but legroom is tight. Safety features include antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and front active head restraints. Crash scores have been above average. Overall, this is a handy rig, but the bus driver type seat and steering wheel angle were obviously designed for a younger dudette.

Dad’s view: If you are into a bit more sport and a whole lot more fun the Kia Soul is worth a tug at your purse strings. Starting under $14,000, this cool coal hauler has a great seating position, good handling, although it can be harsh on tax deprived roads, and offers 53 cubic feet of cargo space or about room for 40 bushels. Besides its looks, the Soul has such standard features as a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, and auxiliary input jacks, as well as 12-volt power outlets. An enormous number of options can help give the Soul more soul, but definitely check out the glowing upholstery options and get the larger engine. The base engine and local canyons don’t make a good mix. Safety features include antilock brakes. stability control and front side airbags and side curtain airbags. A bit noisy, but with the excellent stereo it really doesn’t matter. Overall, a worthy utility machine that is loaded with value. However, a safety reminder is in order. Never, ever start the Soul after a member of the younger generation has driven it without first turning off the stereo first. You heard me, didn’t you?

Young guilty male driver’s view: Priced around $15,000, the Nissan Cube is an oxymoron, a round box. Every inch of this vessel has been exposed to the French curve and the result is, well, French like. Perhaps this is owing to the fact that Renault has controlling shares. Nevertheless, this is a compelling machine and practical, too. It has just over 58 cubic feet of cargo space and the rear hatch can be accessed through the side-hinged door. The interior is interesting, especially with the optional 20-color interior lighting and distinctive instrument panel. The easiest to park and maneuver, the Cube is full of fascinating features and doesn’t short change the buyer on safety equipment as front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, stability control and antilock brakes are standard. Cool, but the stereo is n’t as sick as the Soul.

Family conference: All of these diamonds in the rough are great coal haulers, but after the season is over they are also ideal for driving the kids to the therapist and still have room in back for the peace making dog in the process. And if you are into positive reinforcement and don’t cater to the Sicilian tradition of coal in the stocking, or perhaps want to substitute Carbone Dolce, these three boxcars are great fun and attract more attention than a Maria Shriver with a cell phone.

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