2011 Nissan Cube Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 1, 2011

The 2011 Nissan Cube looks like nothing else, while being surprisingly practical.

The Nissan Cube is hard to pigeonhole. As part city-friendly microvan, part tall compact wagon, and part utility vehicle, it's unrivaled in style and packaging. The 2011 Nissan Cube is an oddity, no doubt. But for those motivated by style and fashion—yet still needing a healthy dose of practicality—the Cube hits the right buttons.

Rounded snout aside, the Cube is quite boxlike, but the details make the design feel special. Like the Scion xB, the Cube has a boxy design with rounded corners everywhere, but with its asymmetry and flared sheetmetal for the wheel wells and rear fascia, the Cube is far more distinctive than the xB. The Cube also stands out inside, where it's also a lot more functional than the weird exterior might suggest; designers follow a "Casual Lounge" theme in the cabin and give it the curves of a Jacuzzi tub—with a rounded, recessed instrument panel running through to the door panels and carving out areas for the front occupants, along with water-ripple styling cues that echo throughout.

All Cube models come with a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, powering the front wheels. The engine is offered with either Nissan's Xtronic CVT automatic or six-speed manual transmission, and in either configuration it's enough to move the Cube quickly, but not with the verve of a performance car. Between the two transmissions, it's a tossup; Nissan continues to improve the CVT's calibration and drivability, so it's smooth going and there's none of the lurching feeling on moderate acceleration that we still observe on other CVTs. The six-speed manual has a nice linkage, but the slow-to-react electronic throttle doesn't encourage spirited driving.

Review continues below

Surprisingly, while the Cube has quite the personality in terms of styling, design, and function, it doesn't possess much of a driving personality. The Cube is maneuverable but not particularly nimble, handling well in ordinary driving but demonstrating lots of roll and lean in hard cornering. The steering wheel brings no feel of the road, and it stays almost fingertip light whether parking or cruising at expressway speeds. It's a bit susceptible to crosswinds, so we found ourselves overcorrecting sometimes when thrown off course. The soft suspension is a smart setup for most city driving, as it soaks up jarring expansion strips and even modest potholes without drama.

The Cube's interior is actually more spacious for passengers than the exterior design suggests. Front seats are soft and supportive, and a step up from those offered in the Nissan Versa and Sentra models, while the bench in back has plenty of space for two tall adults, with a pull-down center armrest. In a pinch, three can fit across—though it's quite narrow—and the rear bench not only slides fore and aft but the backrest reclines somewhat (though not flat). Cargo-wise, the Nissan Cube isn't quite as stellar. Inside, though, it's far quieter and more sophisticated-feeling than most shoppers in this price class will expect. Road noise is well muted, and we didn't sense any of the boomy resonance that's common in other small-car models at high cruising speeds. The engine is luxury-car smooth at idle and has none of the roughness or vibration transmitted through to the floor or pedals while accelerating as we've observed on some competing models. What's more, the ride is on the soft side but never pitchy, as short-wheelbase vehicles can be.

Considering the Cube's almost shockingly low base price—$15,040 for 2011, including destination—Nissan had to skimp somewhere, and it appears that up close, materials and plastics is where. There's also significant wind noise at highway speeds, which isn't all that surprising. The top Kr?m model gives the 2011 Nissan Cube a dressed-up appearance—including a roof spoiler, a chrome grille with horizontal bars, bright painted alloy wheels, interior accent lighting, aluminum pedals, and a different front and rear fascia, plus various extras, such as Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, and a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.

Factory options are very limited. An SL Preferred Package brings push-button ignition, Intelligent Key, fog lamps, rear parking sensors, XM Satellite Radio, an upgrade to Clarion speakers, and the subwoofer. New for 2011, and also available on the SL, is an SD card-based navigation system with five-inch color screen, plus XM NavTraffic capability and USB connectivity. Nissan is also offering more than 40 dealer-installed accessories that allow the buyer to customize his or her Cube; some are appearance related, while other possibilities include cargo organizers, wheels, and decals.

9

2011 Nissan Cube

Styling

The 2011 Nissan Cube is full of eccentric detailing, and unapologetically aimed at the young and trendy.

The 2011 Nissan Cube is an oddity, no doubt. But for those motivated by style and fashion—yet still needing a healthy dose of practicality—the Cube hits the right buttons.

Rounded snout aside, the Cube is quite boxlike, but the details make the design feel special. It's one of the most overtly asymmetrical vehicle designs seen in recent years, and that's one of the reasons it stands out in the market. The rear hatch opens at the side and is hinged at the left; the rear window curves continuously—almost uninterrupted—around the right rear corner and right side of the vehicle. The windows are bordered all around by a beveled "frame," and the middle pillar on either side tapers at the middle. Yet especially from the front, the Cube has a surprisingly macho stance, enhanced by the wide-set headlights and strong horizontal themes in front and in back; designers call the inspiration "Bulldog in Sunglasses."

Like the Scion xB, the Cube has a boxy design with rounded corners everywhere, but with its asymmetry and flared sheetmetal for the wheel wells and rear fascia, the Cube is far more distinctive than the xB.

The Cube also stands out inside, where it's also a lot more functional than the weird exterior might suggest; designers follow a "Casual Lounge" theme in the cabin and give it the curves of a Jacuzzi tub—with a rounded, recessed instrument panel running through to the door panels and carving out areas for the front occupants, along with water-ripple styling cues that echo throughout. The dash has two scooped shelf areas, and trim pieces and other styling cues show off prominent oval designs.

Review continues below
6

2011 Nissan Cube

Performance

The 2011 Nissan Cube isn't at all sporty, but it performs adequately.

All Cube models come with a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, powering the front wheels. The engine is offered with either Nissan's Xtronic CVT automatic or six-speed manual transmission, and in either configuration it's enough to move the Cube quickly, but not with the verve of a performance car. Between the two transmissions, it's a tossup; Nissan continues to improve the CVT's calibration and drivability, so it's smooth going and there's none of the lurching feeling on moderate acceleration that we still observe on other CVTs. The six-speed manual has a nice linkage, but the slow-to-react electronic throttle doesn't encourage spirited driving.

Surprisingly, while the Cube has quite the personality in terms of styling, design, and function, it doesn't possess much of a driving personality. The Cube is maneuverable but not particularly nimble, handling well in ordinary driving but demonstrating lots of roll and lean in hard cornering. The steering wheel brings no feel of the road, and it stays almost fingertip light whether parking or cruising at expressway speeds. It's a bit susceptible to crosswinds, so we found ourselves overcorrecting sometimes when thrown off course. The soft suspension is a smart setup for most city driving, as it soaks up jarring expansion strips and even modest potholes without drama.

That said, the Cube accelerates adequately, with enough reserve power for passing on two-laners, and brakes have a nice, firm feel, even though under it they're just drums in back.

Review continues below
7

2011 Nissan Cube

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Nissan Cube has a very comfortable, refined interior that, aside from some disappointing materials up close, belies its $15k base price.

The Cube's interior is actually more spacious for passengers than the exterior design suggests. Front seats are soft and supportive, and a step up from those offered in the Nissan Versa and Sentra models, while the bench in back has plenty of space for two tall adults, with a pull-down center armrest. In a pinch, three can fit across—though it's quite narrow—and the rear bench not only slides fore and aft but the backrest reclines somewhat (though not flat).

Cargo-wise, the Nissan Cube isn't quite as stellar. There's not a lot of cargo space behind the back seats when they're up in place, and when they flip forward they don't provide a flat, continuous cargo floor. There are, however, plenty of places to put smaller items, including door pockets, dash cubbies on either side of the steering wheel, and cup holders up high and down low. The side doors even have bungee hooks.

The Cube is truly surprising in terms of refinement. Inside, it's far quieter and more sophisticated-feeling than most shoppers in this price class will expect. Road noise is well muted, and we didn't sense any of the boomy resonance that's common in other small-car models at high cruising speeds. The engine is luxury-car smooth at idle and has none of the roughness or vibration transmitted through to the floor or pedals while accelerating as we've observed on some competing models. What's more, the ride is on the soft side but never pitchy, as short-wheelbase vehicles can be.

Considering the Cube's almost shockingly low base price—$15,040 for 2011, including destination—Nissan had to skimp somewhere, and it appears that up close, materials and plastics is where. There's also significant wind noise at highway speeds, which isn't all that surprising.

Review continues below
8

2011 Nissan Cube

Safety

With a good list of safety features, as well as top crash-test results, the 2011 Nissan Cube is safer than most other subcompacts.

With an extensive set of safety features and excellent crash-test results, the 2011 Nissan Cube is a safety standout and one of the best picks in its bargain price range.

The Nissan Cube still hasn't been crash-tested by the federal government, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has tested the Cube in all of its test categories and given it a top 'good' score in each, including the new roof-crush test. It's one of the few small vehicles to be named a Top Safety Pick under the more stringent qualifications for the award.

There's also nothing major missing from the Cube's feature set, which includes standard active head restraints; side and side-curtain airbags; electronic stability control, and anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist.

Thanks to the expanded corner window and large side mirrors, outward visibility from the driver's seat is quite good.

Review continues below
8

2011 Nissan Cube

Features

The 2011 Nissan Cube appeals to the younger set with a generous list of standard features and plenty of room for customization.

The Cube is offered in four different models: base 1.8, 1.8 S, 1.8 SL, and 1.8 Kr?m.

Remote keyless entry, power windows, air conditioning, a trip computer, and a sound system with auxiliary input are all included in base models. The 1.8 S gets cruise control, map lights, and a host of upgraded interior appointments, while the 1.8 SL is only offered with the CVT and includes alloy wheels, automatic climate control, and an upgraded sound system with iPod connectivity.

The Kr?m model gives the 2011 Nissan Cube a dressed-up appearance—including a roof spoiler, a chrome grille with horizontal bars, bright painted alloy wheels, interior accent lighting, aluminum pedals, and a different front and rear fascia, plus various extras, such as Bluetooth, steering-wheel audio controls, and a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.

Factory options are very limited. An SL Preferred Package brings push-button ignition, Intelligent Key, fog lamps, rear parking sensors, XM Satellite Radio, an upgrade to Clarion speakers, and the subwoofer. New for 2011, and also available on the SL, is an SD card-based navigation system with five-inch color screen, plus XM NavTraffic capability and USB connectivity

Nissan is also offering more than 40 dealer-installed accessories that allow the buyer to customize his or her Cube; some are appearance related, while other possibilities include cargo organizers, wheels, and decals.

Review continues below
7

2011 Nissan Cube

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Nissan Cube is a very green choice—especially if you plan to do most of your driving in the city.

While the Cube's highway fuel economy is unimpressive—probably due to its brick-like shape—and not any better than most mid-size sedans, its city ratings, of 25 or 27 mpg, are quite impressive. And city streets, after all, are going to be where most Cubes see the majority of their use.

In especially rapid stop-and-go on a short driving loop, TheCarConnection.com saw 24 and 25 mpg in two different CVT Cubes.

Review continues below
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May 23, 2015
2011 Nissan Cube 5-Door Wagon I4 CVT 1.8 S

Unlike my accord, this actually runs without problems.

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Lots of rattles and wind noise, but reliable and trouble free. I have had no problems since purchasing it in 2012 as a left over model. Unlike my accord which I punted after 6000 miles because of so many... + More »
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