New & Used Nissan Cube: In Depth
2013 Nissan CubeEnlarge Photo
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The Nissan Cube is a tall, boxy, compact hatchback that came out in the middle of the last decade. It competes with the Scion xB and Kia Soul, but it’s still arguably the quirkiest car in its class. With a reasonable price tag, efficiency, and a surprisingly spacious interior, the Cube is a great city car, despite its polarizing styling.
For more on the current model, including pricing with options, see our review of the 2014 Nissan Cube.
The current version of the Cube is one of the few truly assymetrical (outside of the dash and steering wheel) models on the market. Its side profile is somewhat conventional, with slab sides, a vertical tail, and only beveled window corners to offset its square lines. But then go round to the rear, and you'll notice that not only is the rear fifth door side-hinged, with a radical window line featuring one side that wraps around the corner of the Cube while the other is interrupted with a thick metal pillar.
Inside, the quirks continue, with a flowing dashboard shape modeled after a Jacuzzi whirlpool tub (supposedly) that includes a flat central panel on top that can house a small oval tray of grass, or the synthetic equivalent. That's a feature found on no other car offered for sale in the U.S. today. Not quite a van, not really a crossover, perhaps closest to a compact hatchback--though it doesn't look like one thanks to its rear asymmetry--the Nissan Cube remains a relatively rare car on U.S. roads.The quirks don't keep the Cube from being a functionally useful vehicle. Far from it, in fact. While the boxy Nissan doesn't quite hit the supreme utility of uber-boxes like the old Honda Element, its upright lines let four adults sit tall in comfort inside. The front seats in particular are more comfortable than those of most small cars, and that side-opening rear door--along with the low cargo floor--lets the Cube swallow a lot of cargo. Regrettably, the rear seat-back doesn't fold flat, leaving the forward end of the load floor tilted.
While earlier Cube models were offered in Japan more than a decade earlier--quickly gaining an avid following--it took Nissan until 2009 to bring its third-generation Cube to the U.S. It competes most with the Scion xB and the very successful Kia Soul, in the quirky "tall box" car segment, but it's also likely cross-shopped against a variety of compact and subcompact five-door hatchbacks
While the Cube holds the road well, its soft ride produces plenty of body roll if you hurl it around a corner. It maintains its poise in turns, but there's a lot of body roll. And because it's short and narrow, but tall, rough surfaces produce a fair amount of bobbing. It's also more susceptible to side winds than many other vehicles in the class.
The single engine is a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder paired to either a good six-speed manual gearbox or Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT). The performance lets Nissan's box merge into fast-flowing traffic with either option.
The Nissan Cube's low price--it starts at less than $15,000--doesn't preclude a decent set of standard features. You get power windows and air conditioning on every model, and last year a passenger seat armrest became standard to join the one on the driver's side. There's also the usual array of electronic safety systems, including electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes.
The Cube hasn't changed significantly since 2009. Last year, Nissan added a new package for the 1.8 S CVT model that bundles together a rearview monitor for reversing, a navigation system, an Intelligent Key, 15-inch alloy wheels, and a better Rockford Fosgate audio system.
Nissan deleted the Krom model in the 2012 model year, and this year, it drops the entry-level Cube 1.8 and 1.8 S Indigo Limited Edition versions. There's also no longer a Cargo Version package.
There's no word yet on whether the Cube will be replaced, as Nissan introduces new versions of related versions, such as the 2013 Sentra and upcoming 2014 Rogue.