Forget the Scion xB and Kia Soul, in comparison the Nissan Cube makes those cars look about as cutting edge as a Corolla. Sure on a computer screen they all look like funky economy cars, but in real life the Cube is drastically different.
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1. Pricing for the 2010 Nissan Cube ranges from $13,990 to $16,790 ($16,998 to $20,698 CDN).
2. Under all the funky bodywork the Cube is essentially a Nissan Versa and shares that vehicle’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 122hp and 127 ft-lbs of torque.
3. Standard safety features include six airbags as well as traction and stability control.
4. Cargo room is 11.4 cubic feet of space or 58.1 cu.-ft. with the second row folded flat.
5. An SL Preferred Package adds Nissan’s Intelligent Key with push button ignition, steering wheel mounted audio controls, a leather wrapped wheel, a backup sonar system and an upgraded audio system with a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.
The difference isn’t at first obvious, but it’s actually a major part of the car. Look back towards the rear and you’ll see the driver’s side rear pillar is a typical painted piece of bodywork, while on the passenger side the pillar is actually “invisible.” It’s covered by glass, giving a unique wrap-around look to the windows.
The rear of the car actually swings open to the side like a fridge, rather than opening upwards. That might not be ideal for some as the big door can be a little cumbersome. It does open in two stages though, with an initial 20-inch opening as well as the full range. Besides, the swinging door is really the only option as the car is actually too short (at just 65-inches) to clear most heads.
With practicality in mind, Nissan designed the Cube so that the door swings away from the curb. Right hand-drive models sold in Japan and the U.K. actually open the opposite way and feature a reverse design.
With a vehicle like the Cube, you might expect that functionality suffers at the expense of design. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Cube’s design is in many ways the origin of its utility.
For starters, there are the four wheels, which have been pushed all the way to the corners. Sure that gives the car a great look, but it also gives the vehicle an excellent wheelbase for a better-handling drive. It also allows for maximum cargo space.
As for the boxy shape, (the Cube measuring 66.7-inches wide by 65-inches high), it helps provide maximum cargo area while delivering a sure-footed driving experience.
And cargo room is plentiful. Behind the rear seats there’s an adequate 11.4 cubic feet of space, but fold the second-row seats flat and it increases dramatically to 58.1 cu.-ft. That’s eight more cubic feet than the utilitarian Nissan Versa hatchback offers.
Depending on whether cargo room or passenger room is your priority, the rear bench seat can be adjusted forward or aft by as much as six-inches, with a mid-way locking point that is 3.9-inches forward.
And for those who don’t need the rear passenger room at all, Nissan will actually sell you a Cargo model with the back seats and other rear-items removed.
From the front seats the Cube continues to impress from an ease-of-use standpoint. Not only do the picture frame-style windows work with the overall design of the car, but they also provide a tremendous amount of side visibility. Rear visibility is also excellent, as is forward visibility thanks to a large and steeply raked windscreen, a high seating position and a short front overhang.
The downside of this design is that wind noise on the rather vertical piece of glass is higher than it should be.
As for the seating position, while it does make you feel kind of like you’re driving a bus, with the steering wheel lower down and a bit more horizontal, the view of the road is excellent. In fact, it’s amazing that on a car that is as small as the Cube, the seating position is so high.
Even with al this functionality, Nissan has included some frivolity standard and offers plenty of silly details as options. One such detail is the design of the roof, which resembles a water drop hitting a pool of water. And it doesn’t just look that way; the ceiling fabric is actually textured.
As for the extras, Nissan offers over 40 accessories including illuminated stainless steel kick-pates, a cargo area organizer, faux carbon fiber trim, a 20-color interior light accenting kit and a shag dash topper that is as hideous as it is pointless.
There are also plenty of exterior items including an aero kit, a spoiler and different wheels.
Still, everything that should be easy to use is and even with all that funkiness the knobs and controls are all well placed and within easy reach. Getting to your own stuff is made even easier through the inclusion of six cup holders and five bottle holders. Several moveable hooks are also ideal for hanging bags or hats from, while optional bungee straps (available in red, yellow, orange or gray) are perfect for tying-down maps or, more likely, (I suspect) Pikachu and Hello Kitty dolls.
Standard features include power windows and locks with remote entry, air conditioning and an AM/FM/CD player, which comes with an auxiliary jack but just two speakers.
The base model (not offered in Canada) is priced at $13,990 but is only available with a six-speed manual transmission, so if you’re looking for an automatic, you’ll have to upgrade to the 1.8 S, which comes with Nissan’s CVT tranny for $15,690 ($18,298 CDN). A manual 1.8 S is also available for $14,690 ($16,998 CDN).
The SL model starts at 16,790 ($20,698 CDN) and only comes with a CVT. It includes a six-speaker audio system with MP3 and WMA capability, an iPod interface and split-spoke, four-spoke 16-inch wheels.
An SL Preferred Package is definitely a tempting option at $1,600 as it adds Nissan’s Intelligent Key system with push button ignition, steering wheel mounted audio controls on a leather wrapped wheel, fog lights, a backup sonar system and an upgraded audio system with a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.
Under the tiny hood of the Cube there’s a familiar Nissan powerplant, which also makes this funky urban vehicle great to use on a daily basis. The 1.8-liter four-cylinder, donated from the Nissan Versa and Sentra might seem a little underpowered at 122hp and 127 ft-lbs of torque, but it does the job.
No official fuel-economy numbers are available, but Nissan expects roughly 30 mpg on the highway, which is fine but not exactly impressive. In fact, that rating is 3 mpg down from the Versa.
The Cube provides all the safety equipment one would expect in a modern car and it’s important to note that both traction control and Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control stability control system are standard. Other standard items include ABS with EBD and brake assist, six-airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Nissan’s marketing folks are being particularly careful in promoting the Cube, highlighting it as a fun and expressive vehicle but not one that is exclusive. Nissan wants to send the message that the Cube is inclusive; a vehicle which no doubt has niche market appeal, but which also has mass-market utility. By all accounts, we think they’re right.
In almost every aspect the Cube is as functional a car as sub-compacts come and while 20-somethings are sure to love it, the Cube (much like the Scion xB) will no doubt find a home with baby boomers and even seniors who appreciate its more purposeful functions.
All this does, however, come at a cost. With a base MSRP of $13,990, the Cube fetches a $4,000 premium above the Versa on which it is based. It does offer slightly more than that car but the real price difference is due to the design.
In other words, the Cube is a Versa, with more style and a price to match.
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