The Nissan Cube is part of a new generation of boxy small cars that can also be viewed as small crossover SUVs. The Cube sports a square, whimsical body design that houses a large, practical cabin. Small and light, the Cube is easy to maneuver, fun to drive and fuel efficient, with an EPA rating of 31 miles per gallon Highway. Yet it's big on the inside. It seats five people, with miles of headroom and acres of cargo space.
Nissan refers to the Cube as a mobile hub, instead of a car, because it is meant as an affordable, moveable gathering place for young people, their friends, and their music. Its back seat reclines for comfort, and it can be deleted for van-like cargo space. Nissan markets its cube in fashionable lower case, like iPhone and smart fortwo.
The Cube was new to the U.S. for 2009, but it has been on sale for a decade in Japan, and the version sold here is actually the third generation of the product. The Nissan Cube predates the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Scion xB, Kia Soul, Toyota Yaris, and Honda Fit, all of which Nissan counts as the Cube's direct competitors. The Cube is built on the same Nissan B platform as the Versa, a roomy subcompact that also competes with those cars.
The Nissan Cube is powered by a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine, the same engine that powers the Nissan Versa in this market. Buyers can choose between a 6-speed manual transmission or the Nissan-built Xtronic continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
We found the Cube to be perky in the big city and able to keep up with the traffic on the highway. Easy to park, it can make a U-turn in the tiniest of spaces. It made us smile, it's cute, it holds a lot of people and cargo, it's zippy, and it can be easily customized with accessories.
The Cube is aimed at younger drivers, but it can certainly be appreciated by older drivers who need a second car as a runabout or weekender, or those in between who are looking to downsize their car payment and fuel bills.
Nissan says its designers had in mind a bulldog wearing sunglasses when they were designing the Cube. This might explain the concave, rounded corners on each of the four side windows, with shorter windows in the front doors and longer windows in the rear. Even more odd (literally) is the Cube's odd number of visible roof pillars: a fairly conventional three on the left side but only two on the right, with the third pillar on right side covered by dark glass. This bit of whimsy, as much as any other, gives the Cube its unique appearance.
The 2011 Nissan Cube gets only minor changes, mostly to equipment in packages. A new SD-card based navigation system with a five-inch color touchscreen is available with XM NavTraffic and a USB port.
The 2011 Nissan Cube comes in four models, 1.8, 1.8 S, 1.8 SL, and Krom Edition. The base Cube 1.8 comes only with a 6-speed manual transmission. The Cube 1.8 S is offered with the manual or a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Cube 1.8 SL and Cube Krom Edition come with the CVT only.
The Cube 1.8 ($14,740) is pretty basic. It comes standard with cloth upholstery, manual air conditioning, interior air filter, tilt steering wheel, six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split reclining rear bench seat, power windows, power mirrors and locks, remote keyless entry, auxiliary input jack, trip computer, theft-deterrent system, two-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system, rear privacy glass, and P195/60HR15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers.
The Cube 1.8 S manual ($16,100) and 1.8 S CVT ($17,100) add niceties and conveniences: a more deluxe fabric interior, cruise control, driver's center armrest, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control, USB port, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
The Cube 1.8 SL ($18,200) gets automatic climate control, auto on/off headlights, fog lights, and P195/55VR16 tires on alloy wheels. The SL Preferred Package ($1,850) includes a navigation system with real-time traffic information, keyless access and starting, rearview camera, Rockford-Fosgate audio system, XM satellite radio and fog lights.
The Cube Krom Edition ($21,640) is distinguished by an integrated body kit that includes unique front and rear fascias and trim, as well as extended side sills and a roof spoiler. Tires are the same size as on SL, but the Krom's wheels have a unique look as well. The interior gets an equally individual two-tone treatment with black and gray fabric, aluminum pedals, a titanium-look shifter and 20-color accent lighting. Other amenities include Intelligent Key with push-button start, XM Satellite Radio, navigation system with XM NavTraffic, rearview camera, and a Rockford Fosgate sound system.
Options include a Sport package ($2,100) with alloy wheels, rear spoiler, and a body kit; an Aero Kit ($1,300) with rear spoiler and the body kit; an Interior Design package ($230) with a shag carpeting dash-top pad, front door bungee cords, a cargo mat and floormats; an Exterior Accent package ($320) with chrome exterior trim; additional interior lights with illuminated door sills ($490); a cargo organizer ($180); an alarm ($100); the rear spoiler ($360): mud guards ($150); and alloy wheels ($700).
Commercial buyers can delete the rear seat and other equipment from the base model ($3,200), creating a Cube cargo van.
Safety equipment standard on all models includes front, side and curtain air bags; active front head restraints; tire-pressure monitor; anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist; traction control; and electronic stability control.