By on April 25, 2008

cube1.jpg

After spending a few days in Nissan's Cube, I was reminded of Los Angeles' historic Mar Vista Housing tract. Built in the 1940s by designer Gregory Ain, the development deployed basic shapes (squares and rectangles) to give the suburban spread a high degree of architectural sophistication. Of course, people considered these "flat roof" houses a commie plot; builders only erected 52 of the planned 100 homes. The Nissan Cube sells for $11k in Japan. In the same way as Mar Vista, the Cube offers a whole lot of chic for a little bit of green.  

At first glance, all you see is a box. But the Cube is a subversive piece of sheetmetalistry. First of all, it's brilliantly asymmetrical. The rear hatch is in fact rounded glass on one corner, whereas the other holds the hinges. Second, the Cube rolls on four round wheels (surprise!). Yes, well, the circle motif playfully contrasts against the cubism. The grill, wheels, headlights and taillights are all actually circles on squares.  

cube10.jpgThe design brings to mind the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry orders a "Vanilla Bullshit" at Starbucks and starts exclaiming, "Coffee and milk! Milk and coffee! What a great idea!" Sometimes you don't need a grand, flame-surfacing language that speaks (only) to art school deans. More to the point, an entire coffee shop full of hot moms emptied out into a parking lot to "ooh!" and "ahhh!" over the khaki-colored Cube. Let's see you pull that trick in a Bangled Bimmer.

This simple-yet-clever styling motif continues inside. That's right, the dials, seat pattern and even plastic molding on the glovebox are all circles on squares. Other than that, there isn't much to write home about. On a postcard.

cube14.jpgCalling the Cube "Spartan" is like calling water wet. Yet there is much to like about the minimalist treatment. For instance, a column shifter leaves room for a bench seat. There's a hunk of plastic molding in back that stores an umbrella. And if playing drug runner is your thing, the Cube has more smuggling compartments than the Millennium Falcon. Handy cubbyholes abound, including two glove boxes. Most importantly, you can haul mucho stuff, especially with the back seats down and scooched forward.

A couple of points before I share my driving experiences…

cube5.jpgNissan was kind enough to lend me a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) car. That means the steering wheel's on the wrong (right!) side. The Japanese juice box's 1.4-liter engine has as much chance of making it to the States as Ron Paul has of making it to the White House… with Mike Gravel as his running mate. An all new, US-bound Cube debuts at this year's Los Angeles Auto show. Figure on the Versa's 1.8-liter four-pot scrunched under the hood.

The JDM car packs about 90 horses and not a lot of torque (if you can translate Japanese, have it). You'd expect that confronting American traffic in a low-po Cube would be a terrifying experience for all concerned. ("Honey, did we just squish something?") Here's the thing: it's absolutely not. Even with the extra weight of the Cube's all wheel-drive components (more on that in a bit), the Nissan tips the scales at just 2400 pounds.

I'm guesstimating a zero to 60 time of, oh, I don't know, 15 seconds. The Cube's statistical sloth makes getting onto the freeway a theoretically dangerous exercise. But the funny thing about reality is that it's always disproving the most logical theories. The Cube's no rocket, but around town it felt fine. Quick, even. While 90 mph is all she wrote, passing people is possible. Instead of lightly drubbing the Cube's throttle, you just bury it.

cube9.jpgEven better, once at speed, the Cube is wonderfully composed. I was shocked by its sporting agility; we're talking Honda Fit-like handling. Meanwhile, the high seating position makes you feel like one of the big boys.

As mentioned, our Cube featured AWD. More precisely, e-4WD, and it's not what you think. The engine never powers the rear wheels. Instead, Nissan fitted a small electric motor to one of the half-shafts. Stuck in some sloppy footing? Flip a switch and the alternator sends power back to the rear wheels; talk about traction on demand.

The final part of my endorsement equation is this: have you been to the pumps lately? Nissan made me promise to go easy on the Cube, as only five exist in the country, they don't have any spare parts and no one knows how to fix them. Regardless, the Cube returned an honest-to-goodness 40 mpg.

cube2.jpgSo, besides cost, brand cachet (but not cachet) and more power than you need (be honest), what are you giving up with the Cube? In a word, nothing.

[All photos by author; Nissan provided the vehicle reviewed, gas and insurance.] 

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85 Comments on “2007 Nissan Cube Review...”


  • avatar
    Robstar

    Outside of it being butt-ugly (this matters to the wife, not me), something small, economical ($11k? even with a weak dollar?), manual (5 speed standard please!), that returns 40mpg would be a hit with me. Assuming reliability is OK, this is a winner. Bring them to chicago and I’m in!

    P.S. I need the steering wheel back on the correct side :)

  • avatar
    yournamehere

    great review. i always liked the cube. i owned a 1st gen xB for a year and enjoyed it for what it was. sort of. i could only squeeze 26mpg out of the xB. i would love to read this review from the stand point of a current xB1 owner. bring it on nissan, very cool little car and a 130hp cant hurt.

  • avatar

    yournamehere:

    i owned a 1st gen xB for a year and enjoyed it for what it was. sort of.

    The xB lives! The Cube’s right out of the initial Scion play book. Which isn’t exactly genius is it? Federalize a JDM box, call it good. Why ToMoCo American-ized the xB I’ll never know. And it looks like they’re about to get some [non-Honda] insight the error of their ways….

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    At first I was worried that they were just copying the xB – I guess they still are, but not the current squared-off Matrix, but rather the last-gen that everyone seems to miss dearly (and my mom loves hers more than any car she’s ever owned).

    Who knew they would try to copy and end up filling a niche that Toyota left for dead?

  • avatar
    beetlebug

    Wow..I’m really impressed by this review. A nice snap shot of a very interesting auto. I much prefer its style to the Scion Xb since it has less attitude and more quirk. It’s reviews like this that keep me coming back to TTAC.

  • avatar
    andyinsdca

    lawnmokey: The Nissan Cube has been around since 1998. Cars of this sort (the “Town Box” for example) are all over Japan.

  • avatar
    BuckD

    What an awesome little car. I’ll take one in diesel flavor, please.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Yet another interesting rendition of a modern day mini-minivan.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Hooray! No longer am I the only one at TTAC who says that there is more to a good car than the ability to go from 0-60 in under ten seconds! Remember folks, standard 356 Porsches never did it quicker than in 13.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Thanks for the great review Jonny.

    And in particular:

    and more power than you need (be honest)

    Thank you for pointing this out! We CAN have fun with 100hp

  • avatar

    Why would you want a Diesel in this when it gets 40MPG on regular? That’s pretty decent from how I see it.

    The interior looks a lot nicer than an xB also, and being 6’3″, I could probably sit in this without hitting the roof as compared to the Honda Fit.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    Parallels to the xB are obvious, so my first thought was “they’ll have it ruined in five years.” Then you said that an all new US-bound cube will debut this year.

    Five bucks says I won’t have to wait five years to see it ruined.

  • avatar

    And on Wednesday we heard that 306 horsepower is “meh.”

    When one direction is tapped out, people revert to the other extreme.

    I’m seeing it in the vehicles bought and sold by TrueDelta’s panel members. People are trending to smaller, less powerful, and more economical vehicles.

    Over at the most active forum for the Smart, SmartCarofAmerica.com, there’s a guy who traded a Dodge SRT8 for a ForTwo. Go figure.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    How cute,an iPod with wheels.

    Instead of lightly drubbing the Cube’s throttle, you just bury it.

    I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you’re constantly having to bury the gas pedal to pass anything on the highway from a Smart to a tractor trailer, you’re probably not going to achieve the advertised 40 mpg.

    For that matter, it’s going to have to do better than a 15-second 0-60 time to get my attention. I don’t want a boulevard bruiser that can hang with a 350z, but I don’t want to have to time my on-ramp merges like I’m playing a game of double dutch either. Around where I live, the brake pedal is a magical mythical object, and I’d hate to have that asymmetrical rear end smashed in by somebody who couldn’t be bothered with slowing down or moving over a lane.

  • avatar
    italianstallion

    excellent review.

    a fuel and space efficient, fun to drive, lightweight box with a commanding view of the road? this type of car would meets the needs of so many people and WAS briefly available in the US until Toyota/Scion screwed up.

    there have been rumors of an invasion of these JDM box cars since the Scion Xb was launched in 2003. what happened? it seems that Nissan has been talking about bringing over the Cube longer than GM’s been hyping the Volt.

    maybe all the manufacturers are afraid that this type of car (a mini minivan, MPV, tall wagon, call it what you like) would make TOO MUCH sense – with adequate safety equipment and less quirky styling, many americans may realize that this is all the car that they need. this genre of vehicle could put CUV and SUV sales in the toilet, especially with rising gas prices.

    want one now? buy a lightly used first generation Scion Xb.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Cool little box; expect the “Americanized” version to cost more, as reversing the “asymmetrical” layout ain’t gonna be cheap.

    Edit: Nissan better get the efficiency up — the Fit (with its superior aerodynamics) will kick it’s butt in HWY MPG.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    Reading this review I could not help drawing a parallel to Scion’s xB. The Cube is all the previous xB was and the current model isn’t. It has just enough power (90hp now….120hp+ later) to feel quick around town, it’s very chuckable, agility is impressive and yes, it may be spartan but look at the tonne of space inside! No doubt, Scion buyers who hate the current gen xB (myself included) will flock to the Cube when it arrives (and that 4WD system is pretty nifty). With gas mileage all the rage now, that just drives home the point of the Cube being the kind of vehicle people want (who can argue with 40mpg!?) I’d be first in line.

  • avatar
    Orian

    Quasi – they tested the JDM version. The US version will have a larger engine with more HP. I don’t know what that will do to the gas mileage though. Hopefully not much – even at 35mpg I’d be interested in this for the usable space and the fuel economy.

    Nice review – I can’t wait to see what the US version looks like and it’s specs/price. Hopefully they keep it low like that version.

  • avatar

    You nailed it Supaman, as a 1st generation Xb owner who is disappointed by the 2nd generation xb, I hope Nissan hits it out of the ballpark in sales compared to the 2nd generation Xb and hopefully Toyota will see the error of its ways.

  • avatar
    zenith

    As someone who owned a 1984 Voyager with an engine
    rated at just 84 hp and was never run over trying to merge onto an Interstate, I say bring this one on! Just give it at least 5 gears–ya need lotsa gears with a small engine.

    With 16% more hp and about 1/2 ton less weight than an’84 Voyager, I don’t see how this vehicle is underpowered.

    Thi might be the replacement for my Ranger at city delivery. Even if I need to split the load in 3 instead of in 2, as I do now , the extra mpg will more than make up for the extra trip to the warehouse!

  • avatar
    RayH

    . Of course, people considered these “flat roof” houses a commie plot
    My dad is 78, he always associates a flat roof with communist… I’m going to have to ask him why his says that now since you said it.
    I picked up a ’99 Sentra (1.6) a couple months ago with a manual. Never less than 35mpgs, above average performance with the manual. NOT like my sister’s ’94 SE-R she had for 10 years, but 80% as fun. My Sentra has a curb weight of 2315lbs… I think the 1.6 with 115 hp would be a good engine in this thing and still return over 30mpg.
    The four-wheel-drive system sounds neat. I wonder how the alternator/battery keep up after 30 minutes of continued use in a snow storm or something?

  • avatar
    sbelgin

    As an owner of a 2006 1/2 XB I to was disappointed with the size and heft increase of the new model XB- which should have been called the TC wagon. Here in Silicon Valley gas is $3.85 for regular. The Smart car is now on sale here- drove one, car is cool , drive train is crap. The Cube will be a tremendous hit if it has the 120HP motor and a 5 speed auto transmission and 6 speed manual. This was all the original XB owners wanted – a little more horsepower- 15-20 HP not a 3200 pound porker. Anyone who has driven an XB will tell you how much fun they are to drive- and how much fun it is to go to Costco and load a 46 flatscreen TV into the back + it’s nice to get 30 mpg

  • avatar

    The asymmetric rear end is totally cool. Not sure they have to reverse it for US market, but maybe, so the door would open towards the curb. Not sure it really matters.

    A bench seat, huh? Can you seat 3 across? Is this the modern day Corvair Greenbriar or Falcon Econoline vans? There is nothing new in this world, just old ideas made better!
    -GBG
    http://www.autoclay.blogspot.com

  • avatar

    sounds like a terrific car, although I prefer the styling of the original xB. Among other thigns, I don’t like the asymmetry, but big deal, it’s not that important. And I love the AWD on demand feature.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    Now, the question is: when they move the steering wheel to the other side, are they also going to flip around the asymmetrical rear window, so that visibility is correct for left-hand-drive drivers?

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I suddenly have the urge to take my fridge for a spin. If this hit the market soon, I’m sure my sister would buy it, as would many others. For that kind of money nothing else is even close to as stlyish or practical.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    I just hope the new Cube looks similar in size to the current model. I have my doubts, though.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    RayH,

    “Flat roof” was actually code for “Jews.” Here in Los Angeles in the 20s and 30s while you could legally say “No negroes, no Mexicans” you couldn’t say “No Jews.”

    So, what you specified was “No flat roofs” if you were selling a piece of land. A good friend of mine owns a house and the original bill of sale specified “No negroes, no flat roofs.”

  • avatar
    ajla

    What would this thing be like when navigating a road filled with Tundras and F-250s? Scary? No Problem?

    Does the really thick C-pillar cause a bad blind spot or not?

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    I have to say that Nissan has the chance to hit it out of the ball park with this one. Two things hurt the 1st gen Scion xB; the lack of power (corrected w/ the Versa 1.8) and the poor side impact ratings. I think that if they can engineer a side impact airbag in there and give the car the Versa 1.8, this thing will sell like gangbusters (and possibly make me eat my words about not going into another Nissan vehicle soon).

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I’m pretty sure this car will sell like hotcakes because it will address everything that was/is wrong with the xB (lack of power)while retaining the right stuff (small size, agile handling). I’m pretty sure there’s a Toyota exec somewhere who’s reading this right now kicking his nuts.

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    of course you could just find a 07 Focus 2.3 wagon with the 5 speed but you mightn’t get quite the love.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    My ’85 Nissan Sentra had 69 hp and a 3-speed auto. I never was rear-ended merging onto the highway, although doing so occasionally had a high pucker factor.

  • avatar
    BabyM

    Cute, clever, I want one. I want one!

  • avatar
    Point Given

    Make an SE-R version and I’m there!

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Toyota really bombed on the second-gen xB. I don’t know a single Gen 1 owner who even acknowledges their existence, let alone expresses anything close to “desire.”

    It’s like they enlisted only people who refused to even sit in the Gen 1 to redesign the Gen 2. Oh well.

    Let me chime in as yet another Gen 1 owner: Keep talking, Nissan. I’m listening.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    Jonny, now you know why I loves my xB! And with the five speed stick and 108hp, it’s pretty zippy (0-60 in about 10.5).

    The real fun part is the low (high numerical gearing). I’m in fourth gear by the end of the block! Could use a sixth gear for flat freeways: 4k rpm at 80mph. I average 32mpg; 35 if I drive for economy.

    Just hope Nissan doesn’t screw up the new Cube. It will be a winner.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    If/when Nissan brings this stateside, do you think putting the hatch hinges on the correct side will happen? Or will they skip that bit in localization, like Honda did with the CRV?

  • avatar
    blautens

    This might be a very smart move by Nissan…

  • avatar
    JTSParts

    I remember seeing one of these at the LA auto show a few years ago. When the xB hit I thought “Nissan, whats the hold up?” I can tell you that I pass plenty of people in my 94 hp 3000+ lb 940 volvo wagon, it just takes a little advance planning is all! I would love one of these and a Figaro for the weekends…

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    My ‘85 Nissan Sentra had 69 hp and a 3-speed auto. I never was rear-ended merging onto the highway, although doing so occasionally had a high pucker factor.

    I think my 84 Mazda B2000 pickup had maybe 80-90 hp max from its carbureted 2l I-4. 5 speed with manual steering, too. Never got overrun, but on steep inclines I had to keep it in 2nd gear and crawl up at about 20mph (which is why I called that truck “the Silver Slug” – nobody would ever mistake it for a “bullet!”)

    It could also go about 400 miles on 11 gallons of gas. No airbags, no AC, no CD player, no extended cab, simple vinyl covered bench seat.

    I think HP is overrated. We’ve gotten so spoiled with cheap gas that we’ve demanded ever increasing amounts of power far beyond what vehicles really need. Even the steel dinosaurs of the 60′s (that routinely weighed in excess of 4,000 lb) rarely had more than 200hp on tap (yes, muscle cars existed but they were the exception to the norm.)

    This type of vehicle isn’t so much a departure from the norm as it is a (welcome, IMO) return to sanity.

  • avatar
    dean

    I love this thing. I’ll join the chorus about the powertrain as well: my ’94 Sidekick has similar weight and power numbers and even with an automatic I rarely worry about merging onto the highway save for a couple ramps with very short acceleration lanes. Yeah, it is slow on long grades, and has no passing power, but for an urban runabout that doesn’t matter. It is easy to park, decent on gas and bullet proof.

    I would seriously look at the Cube if it makes it here largely unchanged. 130HP might be nice, but I’d rather have the mileage.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Looks like a bread van. Once the novelty wears off, people will come to their senses.

  • avatar
    AlmostFamous

    Are you guys serious? That has to be one of the most CHEAPEST AND HIDEOUS looking interiors. That interior is on par with a early 1990′s Caravan. Even other sub $10k vehicles like the Chevy Aveo’s interior look class leading compared to the Cube.

  • avatar
    NoSubstitute

    One of the (many) great pleasures of spending time in Japan is finding yourself surrounded by cubizoidal vehicles like this one. Toyota was first to bring a moving phonebooth to the US, but inexplicably dropped the ball (the box?) with the Gen 2 Xb.

    Likewise, burdening the Gen 2 Cube with a 1.8 seems to be missing the point. The Cube’s natural audience LOVED Ron Paul.

  • avatar

    I think they’ll end up screwing it up in the end. Look at the new Mazda6. And Saturn sales are still flat. Not because Euro cars won’t sell here, but because none of the brands are willing to spend the time developing the market. I am sure it will just begin with an inch here and there, but, before you know it, it will be the current xB.

  • avatar
    atama330

    Ok, I just came back from Japan 2 weeks ago, and one of the cars I couldn’t keep my eyes off is this Nissan Cube. In fact, similar cars (high roof with box-like chassis) are very popular there, such as the ones from Daihatsu and Suzuki. I envy the author of the review for being able to get into one and try it out. All I was able to do is take a peek through the window and have a picture with one (very similar model and same color as the one tested here).

    These type of vehicles might have a market in North America, but that’s because the ppl who are traditionally driving the mid size vehicles are frowning at the ever rising gas bills. They don’t want to give up the cargo space for a ultra-compact, but don’t want to spend for a 2.0L or more engine.

    To be more specific on the several aspects:

    1) Looks: Ok, this is either a love’em or hate’em. It’s not that long ago that wagons are uncool, but look at the market now with the crossovers and stylish wagons. It just takes time for ppl to get used to them.

    2) Power: So apparently it’s not enough. Perhaps, but I will trade some power for 40 mpg when the gas prices are $1.30/L ($4/gallon). If you need to commute via highway all the time with several passengers, I can see that power being a problem. Otherwise, do I really need 200+ hp for daily commute? (although as the author said, the Japanese engine has slim chance of making it to here, so will it still do 40 mpg?)

    3) Price: The price point is really competitive (11k), but I doubt that would be the price if the vehicle is as equipped in what the Nissan Japan page said, unless Nissan strips off bunch of stuff like A/C, Navi (wow, please find a car at the price point with Navi included?). The base vehicle price there is 13k, and not even the same as the one tested here.

    So, would 13k justify for this vehicle? I think so for anyone just doing inner city driving. For the kind of “dangerous” merges on highway that some of our American friends have to deal with, perhaps Nissan should cater to the market with a bigger engine. Frankly, here in Vancouver, the 1.4L engine is more than sufficient.

    I was thinking about the Matrix 2009, but after reading some of the comments, perhaps I need to do more thinking on that. Had this vehicle been released… grrr!

  • avatar

    Great review, Jonny.

    Nissan: Bring the Cube to the U.S. as-is. With left hand drive, of course. Since Toyota bloated out the xB and completely ruined it, opportunity awaits you.

    The styling is perfect just like it is… leave it alone. While you’re at it, leave off the power windows, leather seats, electric butt warmers, nav system/big screen TV/espresso maker and other useless high-markup bullshit. Make AC optional for those who want it.

    Keep it S-I-M-P-L-E. Keep it light. Keep the 1.4l engine. Keep the 40 MPG. And most definitely, keep it around $11K.

    Bah… I know, I’m dreaming. Because all of the above would actually make sense, I’m sure it will never happen. It will weigh 3500 pounds, cost $20K and get 22.5 MPG by the time they’re done “Americanizing” it.

    Please, please, please prove my assumptions wrong, Nissan. If you can, I’d love to buy one.

  • avatar
    jpc0067

    “For the kind of “dangerous” merges on highway that some of our American friends have to deal with, perhaps Nissan should cater to the market with a bigger engine.”

    Nah keep the engine and load it with awesome impact protection. People needing to merge can make the morons/tailgaters in the right lane slow-the-eff down.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    Well, in parts of the U.S. gas is $4/gallon. However, I don’t think that the 1.8 will hurt it too much. The Versa, I believe, is rated at 30/36. This is still about equal to the 1st gen xB and probably better in the real world since you won’t need to stomp on it as hard in traffic. Remember, smaller engine does not automatically mean better mileage. You need to hit that power/weight sweet spot and I think the 1.8 will do it. Hell, if they could give the Versa a better suspension, I would grab one now. Just make a taller, cooler looking, better handling Versa for 15k and it will sell like hotcakes. I just don’t know if Nissan can do that. Then again, if Toyota can…

  • avatar
    Wolven

    OH boy! I can’t wait for the model T to be manufactured again. What a hit with the greenies that would be.

  • avatar
    Edward Niedermeyer

    I have to admit to some serious jealousy here, Jonny…

    Sweet ride and even better review. This thing will do well on small business sales alone. First-gen Xb’s are super popular as delivery vehicles, and I think this Cube is even better as a rolling ad.

    I don’t see the e-4WD making it stateside though… it’s a good thing too, as it should help counteract the inevitable larger engine and higher weight. Although, if it could switch to an EV mode…

  • avatar
    casper00

    uglier then the scion xb

  • avatar
    rtz

    If someone didn’t buy an xB, that same group of people isn’t going to buy a cube. Are xB owners/drivers going to buy cubes?

    Nothing special about it. A boxy PT Cruiser? They couldn’t even sell PT’s at the $9988 price point! Are HHRs selling?

    Scion is a dead brand. Why Toyota thought they needed a Saturn brand for themselves I’ll never know.

    The new Nissan supercar is cool, but I think their electric car will sell really good here soon.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    beater said: Keep it S-I-M-P-L-E. Keep it light. Keep the 1.4l engine. Keep the 40 MPG. And most definitely, keep it around $11K.

    Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, $11K-14K if decently equipped.

  • avatar
    Theodore

    Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    Once it gets the safety features to meet the U.S. Market, it’s going to be heavier. Just keep it as light as possible, and give it the Versa’s engine. Note to some commenters insisting it keep the same engine: underpowered cars are not practical. I’m not saying I want a speed demon, but at almost 14 seconds to get to 60, you’ll be pissing off just about every other driver on the road.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    @mikeolan: I’m not saying I want a speed demon, but at almost 14 seconds to get to 60, you’ll be pissing off just about every other driver on the road.

    As long as it has a decent stick, 1.4l is not bad at all. In most normal situations you won’t miss a larger engine at all. Last year I drove a 1.2l VW Fox (55hp) around Eindhoven for a week. It was a bit challenging at times to not get in the way of other drivers. Then I tried the 1.4l (75hp). It felt like a speed demon! :))) I didn’t feel the need for anything more powerful. In 1999 I drove European Ford Focus with 1.4l through the Alps back and forth, never felt in any way disadvantaged by the small engine. In fact, I have a picture to prove it was going steady at 160km/h (~100mph).

    With a slushbox the situation might change, but with some of the new DSG transmissions even that might not be so bad.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @hwyhobo: the Cube isn’t offered with a stick. The best we’ll get is a CVT. Edmunds has reviewed the JDM Cube and has found it a wee bit underpowered (putting it politely) , and, on top of that, they only managed 22mpg from the constant flogging necessary. That’s roughly the same as their 270hp Nissan Altima.

    While I champion these micro vehicles, a vehicle suitable for the American market must be at home on the highway at its seating capacity if it’s going to be taken seriously. Aside from the, let’s face it, underpowered engine, however, I really dig this Cube.

  • avatar
    crazybob

    100 horsepower is truly enough in a car that weighs 2500 lbs. I think the problem people have with small numbers like that is that they’ve never actually driven behind a good engine. If they equate 100 hp with the loud, rough, grumpy engine from their last Chrysler purchase, then they’re going to expect junk. They don’t realize that 100 hp feels quite different when the engine is peppy and likes to rev. The Honda Fit is a perfect example – let most people test drive it without telling them the numbers, and they’d guess it as well over 105 hp.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @Crazybob:
    Except the Honda Fit’s performance numbers are much better than the Cube. Though I test drove the Honda Fit with two other adults in the car and it could use another 15 horsepower on the highway (and a telescoping steering wheel.)

    Loud engine or not, having to rev the engine a lot to keep pace wastes gas. Give me an extra 20 horsepower so I’ve got enough for the 2% of the time I have to dart ahead of an inattentive driver or merge in aggressive traffic, and make up for the ~1mpg difference with a transmission geared for better cruising.

  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    @mikeolan: they only managed 22mpg

    That’s pretty awful.

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    The Versa engine would do just fine–the 1.8 in the 1st gen Xb is evidence for that. A 1.4 will be way too small for the U.S. because as soon as you put stuff in the vehicle, the already anemic engine will choke.

    …and Hondas are famous for smooth, high-revving four bangers, yet they are overall about the most fuel efficient car company out there. Maybe Honda should make this thing. Then, flog away!

  • avatar
    confused1096

    I’ll be very interested in taking a test drive when these become available. I had planned on buying a new xB this year. Then Toyota went and defiled it… Too bad, it was the first car to ever get me onto a Toyota lot.
    The Cube looks like a more than acceptable replacement.

  • avatar
    rtz

    Tell these Nissan chumps to bring the Cube to Dallas or Houston for some real world testing. Merge onto the interstate several times with it where people like to run 80mph+.

  • avatar
    Sanman111

    A few things,

    First, the first gen xB had a 1.6 liter engine. While the Honda fit gets along with a 1.5, it is a better built engine than Toyota or Nissan have. Also, the fit has better aerodynamics. 1.4 in the Cube would make it slower than the xB. While fine for running around town, it would be a dog on the highway if you need to accelerate past a semi or some idiot. Also, it needs an engine that will be fine with a CVT/slushbox since that is what most people drive.

    RTZ, based on the statement above, why do I get the feeling that you:
    a) Drive something high with hp and rwd

    and

    b) all the while scream P-O-W-E-R!!! while merging onto the highway a la Jeremy Clarkson.

  • avatar

    Wolven :
    OH boy! I can’t wait for the model T to be manufactured again. What a hit with the greenies that would be.

    Yeah, I’d love to have a model T. That’s a great idea! That would make me feel as good as my new superinsulated roof does. I wouldn’t mind chugging along blocking all the other traffic, because I would feel so virtuous.

    Uh, Wolven, those of us on this site who are environmentalists are nonetheless here because we love cars probably just as much as you do.

  • avatar
    ChartreuseGoose

    “What would this thing be like when navigating a road filled with Tundras and F-250s?”

    Probably exactly the same as it navigating the same roads in a Mini, Versa, Fit, or original xB, which is to say not bad at all.

    For god’s sake, people, it’s still a car. It’s not like you’re rolling around in a go-kart or something. The whole “big cars are safer” thing is largely an illusion anyway.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I bought a model T in 1960, I still have it, 20 hp. It might get 20 mpg at 30 mph. A green car it is not.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    Essentially a stylistic rip-off of a Mini Clubman Estate..

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/46843049@N00/1193381283/

  • avatar
    Michal

    “What would this thing be like when navigating a road filled with Tundras and F-250s?”

    I do wonder, is there something wrong with the driving standards in the USA? It seems that whenever a discussion starts about a smaller-than-large car someone always pipes up ‘it’ll get squashed like a tin can!’ or ‘I’m not driving around like a can of sardines’. Do drivers in the USA regularly run into smaller cars for fun? Is this some kind of new sport?

    I saw the Cube in Japan in 2004 (it is an old model, after all). Cubic cars are popular over there as it’s the best way to get the most interior space into a rectangular parking area. The Cube definately has a cool factor about it and would be popular with university students.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Does everyone forget that back in the 80′s, you could get a full-size Impala with a 3.8 V6? That engine could not have had more than 100 hp (or a lot of torque for that matter) in a car that weighed easily north of 3,500lbs. I have driven one of these mythical beasts, and I can report that I have never impeded the flow of traffic, all the while cruising at 80mph with it’s stupid 3 speed auto.

  • avatar
    zenith

    Honda should definitely NOT build this thing.

    They’ll f— it up with stupid rear doors that require you to open the front door first.

    Or they’ll make it hugely overweight, ala Ridgeline.

  • avatar
    davekatz

    It’s damn gratifying to see this box car hitting a nerve with potential buyers on this site; it really is plenty enough car! Maybe we can see the outlines of an emerging consciousness about limits not necessarily being limitations emerging…as a red-faced Eurocar fanatic since I was 8 in the mid 60s, I gotta say it again: Small, smart cars made sense to thinking people then. They REALLY make sense now. Too bad American buyers weren’t in the thinking pool over the intervening decades, nor would they shake off their pinhead adolescence in time to save an ocean of oil.

  • avatar
    i6

    I’ve driven a fully loaded 70hp Tercel wagon, including queen sized bed on the roof, at highway speed without drama. What exactly is everyone’s objection with 100hp and 14sec to 60? On-ramps in the US are a mile long, literally. Let’s get real folks. People don’t drive their cars like bumper cars. No, really, they don’t! If they did, you’d have to get yourself a Mack truck to commute or just stay off the road entirely.

    No, this type of minimalist hauler is just the reality check America needs. Just needs to be less ‘cutesy’.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @i6: I guess you were a spectacle for every other motorist with a full size bed on the roof of your Tercel.

    But seriously, a lot of modern cars already on the market combine excellent efficiency, performance, and safety. The car buying public now demands all 3, and 14 seconds to 60mph when the average modern four cylinder sedan is almost half that doesn’t. cut. it. Some people may associate an underpowered car with saving the planet but I sure as hell don’t.

    There’s not a single good argument for them NOT upping the power, especially given the miserable fuel economy numbers it achieved (Edmunds observed results) from having to mash on the gas.

  • avatar

    Umm as has already been stated the 1st generation Xb has a 1.5 liter 4 with 103 horsepower and does 0 to 60 in about 10.5 seconds what’s the problem. I drive 25,000 miles a year and have already put on over 50,000 miles (primarily highway). Never had any problems. Lets wait and see what engine Nissan brings out on the US Cube. Anyone know where its going to be built and what their production capacity is? Nissan should easily be able to sell more than the 50,000 annual production limit set by Toyota on the original Xb.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    10.5 seconds is not 14 seconds.

  • avatar
    BKW

    The Mar Vista housing tract is located west of the 405 freeway, in an area generally known as West Los Angeles which, the last time I checked, is in Los Angeles County.

  • avatar
    i6

    mikeolan;

    I was a spectacle! I kept thinking something was horribly wrong with my cargo because everybody kept slowing down to stare at me.

    Anyways, some quick number crunching tells me that a Cube with an 800lb load should be able to maintain 100mph on level ground, and 85mph up a 5% grade, assuming a Cd of 0.35 and the right gearing. With the semis probably going 50-60 up that same slope passing shouldn’t be a problem.

    But what if it is a problem? Why do we have to have the ability to get by every tractor-trailer on a whim? This is part of the reality check that I’m talking about.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Careful, folks, this horsepower nonsense is what led Toyota to destroy the xB and it’s almost certainly part of the reason Nissan has been all bark and no bite with the Cube. I’ve been having this same conversation since I bought my xB in 2005.

    Can we all PLEASE stop pretending we’re participating in police changes, instead of driving to the mall and sitting in traffic? If you want to buy a car based SOLELY on the nine-minutes-a-year you spend on highway onramps, that’s fine with me…tell your $125 fill-up I said hi.

    Still, as the xB2 so woefully demonstrated with its 22 MPG and nigh-unnoticeable power gain, even practicality to the nth degree can fall victim to the wrong engine. As one more first-gen xB owner who’s considering hiding his box instead of driving it…be gentle, Nissan.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    By the way, where do you people live, that other drivers on the highway will apparently plow into you as you’re merging, instead of simply hitting the brake pedal like normal people? I drive a lot of highways, and I don’t believe I’ve ever had to escape from an onramp.

    Do you live in one of the “Road Warrior” movies, perhaps? Or are you just horrendously impatient? I can’t imagine this much attention would be paid to 14 seconds (less than the time it took you to read this paragraph) if it wasn’t one of the two.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    I think the big complaint about the xB is the increase in weight, not the increase in power. I live in Atlanta, and I can tell you right now if you’re in rush hour traffic and you if you’re trying to merge onto northbound I-85 from downtown you have very little time to pick up speed. You run into a lot of drivers who don’t want to slow down (but will) , but more importantly, you run into a lot of drivers who aren’t paying attention (on their cell phones, etc.) I’ve already been slammed from behind by a driver on her cell phone after braking to let someone merge over. Atlanta’s not the only place like this- other cities I’ve lived in have their share of tricky merging situations and I bet where you live has some too.

    My question is, why are people here complaining about (a little) more power? Clearly the performance numbers (Edmunds) show it’s far behind the current performance numbers of a modern American automobile AND it’s less efficient (Edmunds averaged 20mpg- less than every mid-size sedan they’ve tested) due to the frequent gas-mashing. More power does not automatically equal worse fuel economy, and can help broaden this car’s appeal to someone who might otherwise would pass this up. I’m not saying more weight, but more power, yes, please!

  • avatar
    cjclaymore

    My first car was a 1989 Subaru Justy, with a very ahead-of-its-time CVT (Subaru called it “ECVT”). It had a goofy 3-cylinder, 9-valve engine putting out about 65hp. Top speed was about 90 mph. I drove it for 100k miles and 9 years. Normal mileage was about 35 mpg (but it only held 9 gallons of gas). I never had a problem merging with traffic, passing or anything else people worry about with such a “small” car. Time to get over the fixation we have with giant cars. As long as automakers can combine QUALITY with the decrease in size.


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