2014 Nissan Cube Review

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Davis Adams Davis Adams Contributor
December 14, 2013

The 2014 Nissan Cube is a boxy fashion statement that puts an emphasis on style, but at the expense of some practicality.

It's hard to place just one label on the 2014 Nissan Cube, even if there are more and more segments coming to market each year. It's not quite a wagon or a crossover, but ...almost? It's not quite a van, either. It's certainly quirky to its core, and within those quirky limitations, it's unrivaled in style and packaging.

The devil's in the details–or in this case, the charm is–and while the Cube can just as easily be mistaken for a washer or fridge on wheels, we'd encourage you to take a closer look at the asymmetry of the windows, the beveled window frames, and flared sheetmetal, and it's anything but simple. Pair all of that with Cube's low-hanging aero work, and you're looking at a car with a little more style than the Scion xB ever really developed. Inside, the Cube may look a little overdone with its rippled roof, shag dash accessory, and "Casual Lounge" theme. But, it's functional, and it's fun.

The Cube's biggest shortcoming is found in its driving dynamics. Despite its low center of gravity and car-based platform, it's not as sporty as you'd expect–in fact, it really doesn't have much of a personality at all. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 122 horsepower and drives the front wheels. With either the six-speed manual gearbox or the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the Cube can move along rapidly enough, but it's not at all a sports car, or the type of vehicle you'd fling into corners.

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On the positive side, the Cube's ride comfort is better even than some of the nicer sedans and crossovers in the economy market. What there is—and this probably comes as no surprise—is quite a bit of wind noise at highway speeds. Otherwise interior materials betray the Cube's sub-$20,000 price tag, although all the styling touches will probably distract you from that for a while.

Seating is one of the Cube's strengths, but cargo space may leave you wanting for more. The 2014 Nissan Cube has more space for people than you might guess from the outside, but if you need versatility, and to maximize space sometimes for larger items, you can do a lot better. The seats up front are much better than what you get in the Versa or Sentra--and of course a little higher--provided you aren't cornering that hard, as there's no significant side bolstering. The rear seat has enough space for two adults (possibly three, squeezed in), and it slides back and forth and also reclines--though not all the way. Where you get into trouble is with larger cargo, as the seatback doesn't simply flip forward or flat.

And the Cube is a good value for the money—especially considering the value of having something that's genuinely different and quirky, yet also well-equipped. Prices are a bit higher for 2014, however; with the discontinuation of the base model, there are now just S and SL trims of the Cube--and if you want a manual transmission you're stuck with the S, as the top SL is only offered with a CVT. The S includes a lot of popular features, but step up to the SL and you get automatic climate control, alloy wheels, an Intelligent Key system, Bluetooth connectivity, and an upgraded sound system that includes iPod connectivity.

Beyond that, a Preferred Package that adds an SD-based navigation system with XM NavTraffic capability, plus Rockford Fosgate audio with a subwoofer, XM satellite radio, and front fog lamps. And if you want appearance extras, though, you're in luck. There are more than 40 different accessories available at the dealership, and they range from practical items like cargo organizers to custom wheels, decals, and other appearance options.

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2014 Nissan Cube

Styling

Yep, it's weird, but the Nissan Cube has a styling take--not a marketing position.

With asymmetry in one hand and a generally quirky demeanor the other, the 2014 Nissan Cube challenges the limits of what's considered attractive and fashionable–a decision that will truly be left to each individual shopper.

Just as you start to liken the Cube to a little bread van, you'll probably see where the real weirdness comes in. To start, it's not symmetrical; a side-hinged rear hatch opens to the left side, breaking a rear window line that curves uninterrupted and continuously around the right rear corner of the vehicle, and up along the side to the pillar between the front and rear doors. And the framed windows have a bevel designed into the sheetmetal, with the middle side pillar tapering to accent that effect. 

With its headlights set wide apart, accentuating a tough stance, combined with a rounded snout and horizontal lines widening the grille opening, the Cube was designed for a so-called "Bulldog in Sunglasses" look--which, we agree, might take some squinting to imagine. But the Cube does remain faithful to its name; with nearly vertical sides and rear styling that's about as upright as it gets, the Cube makes much of a small space.

Even compared to the other "small-box" vehicles like the Scion xB and Kia Soul, the Cube will make you turn and take notice. It's definitely the most unusual of the group; but if you need a healthy dose of practicality and the styling hits the right buttons, it does pack in a lot of boldness and usefulness.

There's more oddness inside the Cube; the "Casual Lounge" theme layers the curves of a Jacuzzi tub (or is it a 1970s conversion van?) over a surprisingly practical and functional layout. The instrument panel is rounded and recessed, wrapping through into the door panels, with carve-outs for the front seat occupants and water-ripple lines everywhere. Trim pieces and other accents are oval-shaped, and you can place an optional piece of artificial grass into a depression in the center of the dash. At the least, it's not a feature you'll find in any other new vehicle.

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2014 Nissan Cube

Performance

It's an economy hatchback, not a sporty runabout, and that attitude rules the Cube's drivetrain and handling.

Driving is not the Cube's best quality. We're surprised it doesn't feel a little sportier, given its low center of mass and car-based underpinnings.

It's powered by a 122-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder that can be paired with either a six-speed manual or continuously variable (CVT) transmission. The Cube can get up and move rapidly enough, but it's not necessarily built for sporty driving or moving quickly down mountain roads. The electric power steering is devoid of all road feel or feedback, and stays fingertip light not only at parking speeds but on highways too. Because the tall body is also susceptible to crosswinds, the light steering caused us to over-correct when we were pushed out of line. 

The shift quality of the six-speed manual is pleasant, but Nissan's slow electronic throttle mapping takes a lot of the zip out of it. There's no great way make the most of what the engine has either; the CVT has decent drivability compared to other vehicles with small engines, but there's still a rubber-band delay when dialing up power, as well as some noticeable engine noise under acceleration.

Overall, the Cube factors in as surprisingly bland. It handles fine in regular daily driving, but while it's maneuverable, it's not all that nimble and the tall body leans and rolls a lot under hard cornering. 

On the highway, the Cube is not in its element; but its acceleration is adequate, and it has enough power for passing on two-lane roads most of the time. In the city, where the Cube's huge interior volume is practical and the soft suspension soaks up jarring potholes, broken roads, protruding grates, and all the rest of the big-city hazards that trip up small cars.

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2014 Nissan Cube

Comfort & Quality

The interior isn't as nicely finished or as flexible as it could be.

The 2014 Nissan Cube is more spacious inside than its compact exterior might suggest, but if you really need to maximize versatility and cargo space, there are several cars that do it better.

It's clear that passenger space gets the priority over cargo space. With the rear seat is up there just isn't much space in the short load bay, and flipping down the rear seat-back doesn't help much, because the cargo floor inexcusably is neither flat nor continuous.

For smaller odds and ends, Nissan did much better. There are cubbies in the dashboard on either side of the steering wheel, along with door pockets, and cupholders both down low on the console and up high. Bungee hooks on the side doors add a novel touch--even if most owners wouldn't ever actually use them.

Seating is one of the Cube's strengths; and in layout, inside, it's quite van-like. The seats up front are much better than what you get in the Versa or Sentra--and of course a little higher--provided you aren't cornering that hard, as there's no significant side bolstering. The rear seats offer plenty of room for two tall adults, and folding up the pull-down center armrest will just barely allow a third person in the rear. The rear seat slides back and forth and also reclines--though not all the way.

The Cube rides remarkably well, with more refinement than you'd expect in a very affordable vehicle. There's not a lot of road noise, or really any of the boomy resonance that wagons and crossovers tend to get at highway speeds. There aren't any odd vibrations, and the ride is smooth and well-damped, soft but without the pitching that can sometimes make short, over-damped cars less pleasant.

And as isolated as the Cube is from road noise, it's probably no surprise that there's considerable wind noise at highway speeds.

There's one other down side to the Cube: Up close, its plastic trims and materials just aren't that impressive. The design flourishes throughout the cabin go a long way toward disguising it, but they're (very obviously, in places) economy-grade details.

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2014 Nissan Cube

Safety

The IIHS calls the Cube a Top Safety Pick, but the NHTSA hasn't weighed in yet.

The Nissan Cube receives admirable crash test ratings, and comes with a long list of safety features, all built into a easy-to-park, easy-to-maneuver, very affordable package.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated the Cube and gives it the top "Good" rating in every single category: frontal offset, side impact, rear crash protection, and roof strength. It's also one of the few vehicles its size to earn the Top Safety Pick nod.

The Cube includes standard electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, front, side, and side-curtain airbags, and active head restraints. Side mirrors are large and effective, and the wide expanse of wrap-around glass behind the driver's rear shoulder helps with outward visibility.

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2014 Nissan Cube

Features

The Cube's fun also comes in the form of tech features and in some 40 dealer accessories.

The list of options for the 2014 Nissan Cube isn't long, but there are a lot of standard features to keep you entertained.

The range-topping SL model gets you automatic climate control, alloy wheels, an Intelligent Key system, Bluetooth connectivity, and an upgraded sound system that includes iPod connectivity.

If you're looking for a manual transmission, you'll have to choose the lower S trim, as the top SL is only offered with a CVT. All models include air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, a passenger-seat armrest, map lights, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, and an audio system with auxiliary input.

If you want appearance extras, you're in luck. There are more than 40 different accessories available at the dealership, and they range from practical items like cargo organizers to custom wheels, decals, and other appearance options.

Beyond that, options are quite limited, especially if you want additional convenience items or tech extras. Most notably, on the SL you can opt for a Preferred Package that adds an SD-based navigation system with XM NavTraffic capability, plus Rockford Fosgate audio with a subwoofer, XM satellite radio, and front fog lamps.  

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2014 Nissan Cube

Fuel Economy

City gas mileage is acceptable, but the Cube's highway numbers are fairly low.

Maybe it's due to aerodynamics–or lack thereof–but the 2014 Nissan Cube doesn't get especially stellar fuel economy.

With a manual transmission, the mileage sits to 25 mpg city, 30 highway—decent if you plan to keep most of your driving to urban areas.

The Cube earns EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 31 mpg highway with the CVT, for a combined rating of 28 mpg. That's a much narrower spread between city and highway figures than in most vehicles, and if anything, those ratings may be a tad optimistic. In quite rapid stop-and-go driving over a short test loop, our drivers saw just 24 and 25 mpg in two different Cubes fitted with the CVT.

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April 23, 2015
2014 Nissan Cube 5-Door Wagon CVT SL

cute in silver color and portable

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My car is cute and more spacious than what I taught before I bought the car. The one thing I don't like it doesn't have much horse power when I'm on the highway. It's also very light with wind.
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