I’m just going to come out and say it; the Nissan cube is cute. And by “cute” I mean a little cartoonish. And by “cartoonish” I mean, well, “girly”..not that there is anything wrong with that. There have been many an argument over whether or not cars can be gender-associated and I’ve argued for and against it but in this case I have to say that the cube = cute (follow the definition trail above).
Nissan’s designers say that the cube was inspired by a Bulldog in sunglasses. Okaay then. Nobody is going to argue that the cube looks like nothing else on the road. Where the xB has begun to blend in and the Soul is relatively conventional, the cube just stands out and says “hey, look at me. I’m a bulldog in sunglasses and I don’t care what you think”. With its asymmetrical rear windows and unapologetically odd front end, the cube grabs your attention when it comes into view. This little doggy is the definition of polarizing.
I think that standing out from a crowd is a good thing but I fear that some people won’t be able to get past the design of the cube. If that is the case, they are missing out because the cube is surprisingly fun to drive. Once you get over the look and get inside you realize that despite the whimsical design, the cube is a serious and solid vehicle. The interior is roomy, the seats are sofa-like in comfort and everything you touch and feel says “quality”. The Scion xB and some other products from Nissan could take lessons from this interior.
The real surprise is when you begin to drive the cube. The 1.8-liter engine delivers 122 horsepower via either a 5-speed manual or an advanced continuously variable transmission (CVT) and in this funky box 122 horsepower is enough. I spent a few hours behind the wheel in Miami in both the manual and CVT and was pleasantly surprised at how fun to drive the cube was. It can’t match the xB on raw oomph and it isn’t as spirited as the Kia Soul but the cube holds its own in city and on the open road. The CVT takes bit of getting used to as the engine will rev to an optimal RPM and then stay there as the cube gathers speed. It is a bit odd to the unaccustomed but after a few hours it becomes normal. Owners of other Nissan’s won’t even notice. The manual is the real gem as it allows the cube to get a little crazy and even chirp a tire here and there. Both combinations of engine/transmission deliver excellent MPG numbers of 28 city/30 highway.
I’m calling the cube the Playhouse. It looks like a less-than real vehicle but like some Playhouses my friends had growing up, it is surprisingly sophisticated. If you love the design, you’ll love the car. If the design freaks you out, I challenge you to give it a chance and at least test drive it. It will surprise you.
The Nissan cube starts with a MSRP of $13,990 for the cube® 1.8 equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. Three other models are also offered: cube® 1.8 S, priced at $14,690 with the 6-speed manual and $15,690 with the Xtronic CVT® ; cube® 1.8 SL, priced at $16,790; and the cube® 1.8 Kr0m specialty vehicle, priced at $19,370. Both the cube® 1.8 SL and cube® 1.8 Krom come with standard Xtronic CVT®.
2009 Scion xB
2010 Kia Soul