By on August 19, 2009

When I was a small child, I would spend hours sitting in a cardboard box pretending it was a car. Now, I spend hours sitting in a car that pretends it’s a box. As a card carrying cubist, I’m always ready to jump in when a new carton appears. The last time I did that, it was about as traumatic as when my older brother tried to duct tape me inside my favorite cardboard “ride”. I couldn’t get out of the gen2 Scion xB, and my review left no doubts about it. My progeny liked the Kia Soul, but it’s not a real genuine box. But a new package has arrived at the local Nissan dealer named Cube no less. So how does it square up?

First a little history lesson in automotive cubism. This is the third generation of Nissan’s box, although the first one, from 1989, was not terribly distinctive given Japan’s long history of tall-boy wagons. Nevertheless, it beat Toyota’s bB (Scion xB) to the Japanese mobile loft market by a year. But the gen2 Cube, which arrived in 2002, became a cult classic. Jonny Lieberman gave a glowing review of a JDM version here.

As much as I like my xBox, the gen2 Cube is way cuter and more playful. If you’re not too self-conscious to drive a box, it might as well be one with some real character. The gen2 Cube has it by the crate-full: asymmetrical rear hatch and windows, a truly inspired B pillar, and a perfectly charming and characterful front end, with none of that xB underbite.

The gen2 Cube has one big problem, though, that it shares with all brilliant designs: where to go from here with the successor generation. Downhill is pretty much the only option when you’re standing at the peak. Well, at least its design decline isn’t anywhere near as bad as the gen2 xB’s descent to hell.

What exactly did the new Cube’s designers do for inspiration? They sat in a Jacuzzi®. Seriously. And what did they do while soaking? Or, more accurately, what did they pass around? The all too obvious answer is to be found in such aqueous details as the ripples in the headliner emanating from the central dome light (see here). Far out, man.

But their real challenge lay with the exterior. The result is best described as cubism meets Dali. The Cube droops and melts, especially at the ends. And its features are all . . . so exaggerated. I wonder why? But in their enhanced efforts to make the Cube more vivid, they spaced the best one: the blacked out A and C pillars made the prominent body-colored B pillar look like it was supporting the delicate roof by itself. It was the single most prominent and delightful Cube element, along with the asymmetrical rear; but it’s gone, up in smoke.

The result is a serious loss of levity (for the Cube, anyway) and not just in looks alone; the Cube has put on 400 lb. All those munchies are taking their toll. And the hot tubbing was obviously an intramural activity, because the Renault Kangoo be bop seems to have sprung from that same fertile session.

All my carping on stylistic details aside, the Cube design still has a lot going for it, and it will undoubtedly be the replacement vehicle of choice for those businesses that use the gen1 xB as rolling billboards. It’s highly distinctive and eye-catching, to say the least, and 99.9% of Americans will never know what they were missing with its delightful predecessor.

Unlike the current xB, the Cube has stayed true to the cubist ideal: the package is almost a dead-ringer for the gen1 xB in all its dimensions. Curiously, even though it’s a tad larger, the Cube still can’t meet some of the gen1 xB’s interior dimensions (42.6″ front headroom vs. 46.6″), or its luggage space (11.4 cf vs. 17.9 cf). Still, there’s plenty of room for hanging your favorite black light posters.

It’s the distant and near-vertical windshield, perfectly vertical doors, upright seating and gobs of headroom that create an effect that is unique in this day of pseudo-coupe sedans. Like a double-cab truck riding on a small car platform, except even better. There is a unique social aspect to riding in one of these boxes: you’re fairly close together, yet there’s a large amount of “social space”, from the shoulders up. Perfect for conversation or passing large bulky objects around.

Okay, I’ve spent 700 words talking about a box, what it’s like to sit in, and what a nice space it is to share with others. How about the other features of the Cube? Well, it sits on the Versa platform and shares its mechanicals. Translated: reasonably competent all-round: a fairly compliant ride (unlike the gen1 xB); light, yet somewhat better than average steering; safe, predictable handling, although not nearly as sporting as the xB, which lacks those extra 400 lb and has a stiffer suspension. Wind noise begins to intrude fairly early.

Performance is decent, with a (just) sub-ten second 0-60. The CVT is what it is, for better or for worse (worse for me). It works well enough, but stick shift for me, please, especially since it’s a six-speed. The EPA rates it at 28/30. That sure beats driving around in a huge double-cab truck with a perpetually empty bed. A little utility trailer will do the job for those twice-a-year runs to the dump.

The Cube’s interior appointments are as good or better than average. Lots of textured and waaavy plastic, but with padding in the right places it’s much nicer than the current xB. The rear seat passed the 6′4″ Paul Niedermeyer leg room test with flying colors: with the front seat all the way back, my knees were still well-surrounded by free air (the current xB fails). The rear seat also slides, and or course folds to compensate for that little cargo area. At least it’s deep; shopping bags will like snuggling there.

Cube pricing starts at $13,990 decently equipped with all the basics. The S model, which I sampled, starts at $14,690 and includes “premium cloth upholstery and driver’s side arm rest”. So maybe the base model upholstery is a bit Spartan. It’s not like there was one on the lot to check out—C4C has Cubes in tight supply.

I bemoan the fact that a gen2 Cube will forever remain an unattainable cubic ideal for me. But this new Cube will undoubtedly corner a large share of the market for wheeled boxes. It’s practical, efficient, reasonably fun to drive, and almost as much fun to sit in as a Jacuzzi®. Now if they could just get those ripples on the headliner to actually move without having to be under the influence.

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72 Comments on “Review: 2009 Nissan Cube...”


  • avatar
    Ronman

    Sorry, i know you like rolling boxes, but this Nissan is Very Fugly… i liked sitting in boxes and pretend they are cars, even better i drew wheels on them…and glued a few together, so cubism is not a problem. i think the Daihatsu Materia is the best application of boxes on wheels on the market today. (not sure if it’s available in the US). the Scion comes in a distant second, and the new Nissan Cube, well that i think wont finish the race.

    note: Nissan were using a cube to test their EVs, how can you evaluate aero efficiency which is vital to EVs when you use a square box?

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    Agreed that the 2nd generation Cube (not sold here) was a cleaner, more cohesive, and attractive design.

    Much like the 1st gen Murano looked funky, yet still somewhat crisp and sleek, and then the 2nd gen debuted looking all bloated, angry, and alien…this “melting box of ice cream” 3rd gen cube lacks charm, and ups the ugly factor.

    Have seen a few on the road, and the ‘Krome’ package(?) helps, adding a small rear spoiler, bigger wheels, and wide horizontal chrome front-grill bars, which make the exterior sharper, and less “melty”.

    Still, compared to the crooked/distorted funhouse styling that disfigures the Versa, the Cube is almost a beauty.

  • avatar
    Rusty Brinkley

    I have to agree with Paul here. The latest Cube to come out of Nissan’s design studio isn’t as great as the previous two editions. I’ve seen both here on Okinawa. But, 75% of the vehicles here are vertically oriented in nature. They love the “rolling box” design here! I have to say that the first gen Cube is the best. It’s smaller, not as bubble-like, and not as fadish.

    You say that the new US-bound Cube has a six-speed option? I don’t think that would ever sell here. On Okinawa, at least 90% of the vehicles only have the PRNDL option.

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    Take a look at another box on wheels – Citroen C3 Picasso:

    http://www.autowallpapers.biz/images/wallpapers/citroen-c3-picasso.jpg

    Also very practical and spacious albeit immeasurably better looking.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    I love these box-cars. I don’t own one yet, but someday… (And no CVT for me, just give me a real 6sp automatic, please.)

    I’ve always said that when people went to trucks, it was a rejection of the excessive streamlining of cars, the sun visors at your forehead, the sunroof half in the back seat, the general lack of room and visibility.

    Now the box-cars are a rejection of EVERYTHING. It’s IKEA on wheels.

    Nice review Paul, and glad to read that your growth wasn’t stunted by ‘that stuff.’

  • avatar
    paul_y

    Good review — if I find myself having to replace my xB (god forbid), I’d certainly track down a 6-speed cube. While not as cool as the unattainable 2nd-gen model, it’s certainly a good successor to the xB1.

  • avatar
    walksatnight

    I’ll be glad when this box fad ends. People used to think that fake wood panels on a station wagon looked good. Of course that took decades to go away so I suppose we have time yet. *sigh*

  • avatar
    357Sig

    I guess I understand why folks would want a car that says, “Hey, look at me!”. But these “clown cars”, of which this cube is the new king, say “Hey look at me and laugh!”. Why would people do that to themselves?

  • avatar
    carm

    There is not enough money in the world that would allow me to be seen driving or getting out of one of these things.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I love these box-cars. I don’t own one yet, but someday… (And no CVT for me, just give me a real 6sp automatic, please.)

    Why? Nissan’s CVTs have proven to be reliable, work very well, get better mileage, are more reliable and are actually faster (in the same car; driving the Versa with both proved that, though the AT “feels” faster).

    I drove this car and it’s a sight better than the Kia (which is good, but compromises itself in trying to be a small crossover). The detailing of the exterior is “meh” in some ways, but the interior makes up for it. It’s gimmicky, but there’s a cohesiveness that you don’t expect in a cheap car. And it’s fun to drive, in a French car kind of way

  • avatar
    Strippo

    $19,005? For that? Really?

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Now that’s a box for a metro-sexual to drive.

  • avatar

    Psarhjinian, how did you find the seat comfort and the reach to the steering wheel? I sat in the car at a dealer (didn’t drive it). I found the seat fairly comfy, except for the missing lumbar support – that spoils it quite a bit.
    How can anyone design a modern car and give it seats without a lumbar support is beyond me. How much extra does the feature cost?

  • avatar
    Strippo

    I’m just glad that the designer of the 1996 Ford Taurus finally found another gig.

  • avatar

    I still need to drive both this and the Soul. The Soul might not be a true box, but that might be why my eyes prefer it. Is a little rake to the beltline really a mortal sin?

    The styling analysis is spot on. Too many updated models have been pushing the previous generation’s styling a bit too far in an attempt to offer something new without offering something totally different.

    TrueDelta will have an initial reliability stat for the Kia Soul around the end of this month. We’d like to also have a quick result for the cube, but need more owners signed up:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    AKM

    I sat in one in the dealership. The ripples around the ceiling light are decent enough, but the round shag rug installed in the middle of the dashboard had me get out and into a Mazda3. Still wonder what it’s for, though…

    As as a proud former owner of a Fiat Uno 1989, I DO love boxes on wheels!

  • avatar
    commando1

    I love this car until my eyes scan across it and it comes to that gawd-arfull droopy-azz tail.

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    The 6 speed manual makes this interesting, but the Versa hatch is probably a better car for most people.

    This car is IKEA on wheels, affordable post modern design for the masses, just don’t pay too much attention to the details. It’s probably held together with cam locks.

    Amoung small hatches for people that don’t care about a manual transmission or sporty handling it’s hard to beat the Insight and Prius. They’re a bit more expensive, but not really when comparing equal levels of equipment. The hybrid stuff is basically free.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Common Nissan! You should know better?

    CVT on Nissan is not great at all. Put that CVT on the new Altima and you will be in for a surprise.

    MY GOD this jolly design is a sore eyes, really!
    I still prefer the fast Scion Xb and forget about the Cube.

    Second Demotion: $19,005 for that, Really!!!
    You can buy a descent Hyundai Elantra fully loaded with 100,000 miles warranty for $15,520 and you can buy a Lancer,Corolla and a Civic for that price.

    It is not worth it. you will laugh at yourself after driving this Cube for a month.
    “Have you ever thought or experienced when park beside a nice looking not so expensive car and you said to yourself Damn I should had bought this one?”

    Be Honest you felt that way 100%.

    Please Versa needs a coffin in the back. looks like a modern hearse

  • avatar
    gslippy

    As a Gen 1 xB owner, the Cube is what the Gen 2 xB should have been. Scion ruined the xB with bloat, and if I ever replaced mine, I’d consider the Cube.

    By the way, I also said I’d never be caught dead in an xB, until I sat in one. At 6’7″, my car selection is limited, so the first spec I look for in a car is headroom. Most vehicles have less than 40″, which is close to my lower limit.

    So the beauty I see in the Cube is definitely within.

  • avatar
    Monty

    It looks far better live than in pictures. I took Mrs. Monty to see one at the local Nissan dealer, and she loved it (you could have knocked me over with a feather when she said that).

    The dealer had no base models at all, and the lowest sticker price was just under $19,000 Cdn, with the most expensive one at the lot just over $25,000, which is a lot of coin for what’s essentially a Versa. However, it has a striking exterior, and excessive interior space; the perfect vehicle for two empty-nester adults. It’s a versatile little hauler with a competent but uninspired drivetrain (only got to look at the CVT). I would think that it will be a noisy highway driver, but meh, unless you’re spending egregious amounts of coin, most modern vehicles are noisy at high speeds.

    It’s on the short list for the future Mrs. Monty car, along with the Versa, Fiesta, Euro Focus and updated Escape.

  • avatar
    postman

    Since the 1990′s, aerodynamics have dictated an ideal shape for a passenger car. For fuel efficiency’s sake, most manufacturers simply take this shape and affix their name to it. Badge engineering run amok.

    Somebody above noted that the rise of this trend caused a lot of buyers to move into trucks, rejecting this generic car styling trend. I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

    THAT’S the intent of these cube cars. A rejection of the “here is yet ANOTHER Honda Accord” genre. For that, I applaud them.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I like this car… but I don’t really think it would beat a 1st Gen Xb in any meaningful way Paul.

    Did you find it to be true? Or is there some redeeming value in buying one of these over a used Xb with good miles?

    By the way, a friend of mine bought a 2004 base with 113k for $4700 the other day. It’ll need new wheels and a few dings and dents removed. But if he hadn’t, I would have.

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    Gen 1 xB with all its excellence had two exceedingly annoying issues:
    – Inside door handles which do not unlock the doors, at least in front (this is fixed on Gen 2).
    – The button-operated rear gate, which is ok on a luxury liner, but not ok on a car that can run out of battery juice (I forgot to check it on Gen 2).

    I think these days Fit is what xB used to be, especially in the headroom.

  • avatar
    twotone

    If I was delivering flowers for a living, it would probably an OK vehicle. For everything else, I’ll pass. It looks less like a car and more like the box it came in.

    Twotone

  • avatar

    Gotta tint those windows SO NOBODY KNOWS ITS ME.

    I can’t ride around in anything this ugly without tinted windows.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    As much as I love my sedan, I miss the three Taurus wagons I had. Fun-to-drive they were not. But their ability to swallow huge amounts of stuff and their relatively good fuel mileage made up for all of that. One even had a trailer hitch. I can definitely understand the attraction of the Cube and its ilk every time I have to stuff one or more guitars in the trunk and there’s no room left for anything else.

  • avatar
    Old Guy Ben

    I’ve seen a couple of these around town, thanks for the report.

    The comments are priceless ;)

  • avatar
    Mekkon

    Owner of a 2006.5 xB here. Wasn’t a huge fan of the aesthetic until I got in one this year, then was impressed enough to promptly buy one. (Criteria: Competitive street parking, furniture hauling, manual transmission, fuel economy, rear-facing child seat. No other car can compare. Additional Bonus: ∞ reliability.)

    The clarity of design (interior + exterior) is unparalleled at anything near the price – except perhaps now by the Cube. (Note to US car manufacturers: You need to “design” interiors too – not just treat them like the underside of a seat.)

    As for the new US Spec Cube – it is important to note that while it’s based on a Versa platform, it is actually CHEAPER when comparably equipped. Which, given the extra functionality and style, makes it a screaming bargain. I wouldn’t give up my xB1 (Bauhaus>Cartoon) – but I’m heartily recommending the Cube to a friend.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    I like how it is original or has some very established uniqueness. It is not a copy of a Mini Cooper. It is not a copy of a VW design. It is different from the Scion.

    Funky cube city car! Funky, artistic, kind of strange. Maybe a hint of nerdy.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Wheeled boxes have never appealed to me but they are very practical and do look cool in a cartoonish sort of a way. With most suburban streets overflowing with cookie cutter cross-over SUVs, this youthful design is a refreshing change.

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    @Paul Niedermeyer

    I love me them boxes on wheels, too! I think all the naysayers are right, too. This kind of car is for those who get it. If you don’t you never will. (And that’s a good thing in my mind!)

    I lke the Kangoo, too. Shame they’re so expensive down here. I love the Fiat Doblò, too, especially in “Adventure” guise. The Citroën Brlingo, not so much. We don’t get Jap boxes down here. Maybe in 10 yrs when I flip my Palio I’ll bite the bullet and get one. By that time I’ll have some kids,too, so it’ll be perfect.

    @AKM
    +1! Had and loved my (3) Unos!

  • avatar
    sco

    The Cube isn’t fugly but it definitely has crossed the cute/precious line. The Xb1 has just enough mean/robotic attitude to pull off the look, and when I wear my RS4 out, I’ll find another, not a Cube.

    Does the Cube backend remind anyone else of an evening dress?

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I am not sure I understand why there is so much approval of this box-like vehicle from a group who iirc seriously disdained the PT Cruiser, which to my eyes is exactly the same sort of vehicle with a very large and flexible interior space.

  • avatar

    My friend, Paul, not at all a car guy, loved the original xB, as do I. He was sorely tempted to buy one, and I tried it out when I was looking for a car in 04. This gen3 cube is not a temptation for either of us. It’s ugly, not cute. That’s too bad. I really like the concept, and I like the gen2 version.

    Contrary to fincar1, I don’t disdain the PT Cruiser in principal. I love that concept, too. But it’s a lousy execution. Pokemon eyes on cars are bad enough, but they ruin something that’s supposed to be retro.

  • avatar
    nearprairie

    Looks like it was designed for Wallace and Gromit.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    When the Honda Element first came out, the reviews talked about Honda aiming this vehicle at young people due to its funky styling and cool features. Who ended up buying them? Old people who were thrilled about a small vehicle that would actually fit all the stuff they wanted to cart back and forth to the cottage.

    Styling aside, there are people who buy vehicles for functionality (what a novel concept) and a square vehicle is about as functional as you get. Of course there are now sleeker vehicles that approach that territory such as the Fit and previously mentioned Soul.

    Keep in mind that cubic-feet of storage is not necessarily cubic-feet of usable storage. Some SUVs are almost laughable with their large size, but tiny cargo areas that have non-square openings when you open the gate.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    It’s interesting, but for all of the styling cues, they neglected to match the Fit in rear seat flexibility. Like the Versa, with the rears folded, you don’t get a remotely flat load floor, which is a glaring error in such a boxy vehicle. Sooner or later an owner is going to pay for this design flaw. Presumably the rear seats tumble forward after folding, but what a waste of cubic space. After chatting with an owner, I was under the impression that the front passenger seat was also incapable of flat folding.

    No flat floor, no sale.

  • avatar
    werewolf34

    How about something with the same utility but less design non-sense? Oh wait, it’s called a Honda Element.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    fincar1

    The PT Cruiser is just a compact station wagon (or if you believe Chrysler, a very small truck), albeit a tall one, and it’s heavier and larger, and thus gets worse mileage, than the xB or the Cube to accomplish somewhat less space.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    eh_political: “No flat floor, no sale.”Spot on. That flat rear floor will forgive a mulitude of sins and, for the life of me, I fail to understand why Honda with the Fit (and no one else) is the only one to have gotten this message. Is it really that difficult and expensive to design that feature into a small car? I mean, I know it means relocating the gas tank under the front seat and reducing the size but, c’mon, I see that as a good trade-off with a high fuel mileage car.

    Simply adding the flat rear floor to the Aveo would exponentially improve sales of what is universally considered to be the worst small car in virtually every other category. Imagine what it would do for the sales of a relatively competent design (which is what the Cube appears to be in most respects).

  • avatar

    Kia Soul owner here, and I sat in one of these at a dealership. It’s a little bigger up front, but it wasn’t something I was totally into. I can see the attraction for some people, and it’s pretty cool to get more space efficient cars on the road.

  • avatar
    OhMyGoat

    Finally saw one on the street yesterday. A little too whimsical for my money. I’d imagine purple polka dot mushroom seat covers will be a popular accessory for the Cube.

  • avatar

    I hate the 1st gen Cube, 2nd gen isn’t quite there, 3rd gen is just right. The rear with the hidden pillar is what makes the package. Now granted, I wouldn’t own a slow econobox on wheels, but I’d love to rent one and drive it around. I would consider it if I was young and needed something cheap. The 2nd gen xB is definitely blah.

  • avatar
    zaitcev

    PT’s engine is too big, and the car sacrifices volume vs. its track in order to get some styling. The 2G xB is exactly what PT is actually, and 1G xB was what Cube is now trying to do less well.

    There’s a different market for bigger vehicles, and it may be a sweeter spot. When RAV4 grew in 2006, its sales jumped 100% and stayed there. However, abandoing the market that 1G xB served lets someone else in.

    Shame about the flat floor. Like I said, Fit does it better.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    The 6-speed, 122hp Cube gets the same highway fuel economy as a Chevy Camaro and we’re supposed to believe this is an economy car?

    Even the Cobalt sedan gets 4mpg better in combined ratings.

    Wack.

  • avatar
    eh_political

    @Buick61:

    Your mileage may vary. My Fit averages roughly 40mpg. I live in a rural area where stop signs and lights are infrequent. I can go 4 miles north before my first stop sign, 4 miles south before my first stop light. Usually I drive normally, but as two tickets in less than a year will attest, sometimes I get a bit carried away.

    Now then, if you can get the same mileage out of a Camaro as a Cube, then you have no business in a Camaro. A Cobalt won’t carry enough cargo–or three passengers with anywhere near as much comfort.

  • avatar
    AlexD

    I can see the Cube doing really well in my neighbourhood, er excuse me, neighborhood.

    I live in an urban and gentrified area – a lot of the Baby Boomer and retired folks drive Smart cars, Honda Fits and Minis. This car would blend right into the Audi/VW/Subie crowd parked in front of the cafes and outdoor gear shops.

    As for the rest of the suburban hell that describes North America, maybe not so much.

  • avatar
    shoes

    If this is a 4 star car, then I am also 6’4″.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    I love all these boxes. Finally some useful vehicles.

    But eh_political: “No flat floor, no sale.”

    I actually carry heavy things every week (sound equipment) but I do need a flat floor along with the low loading height. (Probably the reason I see mostly empty pickups is because they are so difficult to load and unload.)

    The Ford Transit Connect would be perfect except for its terrible MPG rating. I’m waiting for an easy to load box with Prius running gear.

  • avatar
    lutonmoore

    Now that’s a box for a metro-sexual to drive.

    You got that right.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Psarhjinian, how did you find the seat comfort and the reach to the steering wheel? I sat in the car at a dealer (didn’t drive it). I found the seat fairly comfy, except for the missing lumbar support – that spoils it quite a bit.

    I truly didn’t notice because I wasn’t in the car that long—only an hour or so. What I did notice is that the Cube is one of those rare, rare cars where I can sit behind myself without splaying my legs and/or slouching. Much like the Versa, the rear seat space is astounding

    Did I mention I’m 6’8″ and have a 36″ inseam?**

    You can get lumbar pillows akin to what Obusforme sells with their products and they work pretty well, I’ve found.

    No flat floor, no sale.

    The Versa and Cube are actually not too bad in this respect. Most cars that offer a flat load floor do so by raising the trunk floor to the level of the rear seats, which badly compromises rear cargo space with the seats up. Examples: The Toyota Matrix and Yaris, Mazda 5, most wagons and just about every crossover.

    The Versa and Cube maintain the low rear floor for the sake of cargo. They could have put a plastic barrier there, but that would have rendered the rear space useless with the seats up.

    The Honda Fit is indeed an automotive TARDIS, and it manages it’s magic by relocating the fuel tank to underneath the front seats. I own one, and you can hear the sloshing sometimes. You also feel the short cruising range of the Fit. But it’s a great idea for a city vehicle and Nissan would do well to swipe it, if it’s not patent-encumbered.

    How about something with the same utility but less design non-sense? Oh wait, it’s called a Honda Element.

    The Element has a much more uncomfortable rear seat (as in “your ass is on the floor” bad), problematic rear doors, worse mileage, much more problematic sightlines and not much more cargo space.

    It’s a cool car, but the Cube and xB are definitely have more utility.

    ** If you care about your passengers, the Cube and Versa are as good as it gets before you hit minivan territory. Unlike even the Altima and Maxima, never mind just about every other car, you don’t need to slouch or crunch to fit in these two. If you are significantly taller than average, I highly recommend them.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The 6-speed, 122hp Cube gets the same highway fuel economy as a Chevy Camaro and we’re supposed to believe this is an economy car?

    Well, gee, do you think it might be because the Cube is designed as a city car and not an interstate queen? What’s the city mileage on the Camaro? Or the Cobalt?

    While we’re on the topic, how about you try loading four people over six-five into the Camaro or Cobalt? Or try loading a fifty-inch TV—or wait, how about a suitcase—through their ridiculous trunk openings? Or, in the case of the Camaro, parallel-parking it without either radar or a spotter?

    This is a pet peeve of mine: people dragging out the highway mileage of what are effectively city cars. The same criticism stings the Fit, as well as any number of other cars. How about I turn it around thusly: call me when your Camaro gets, realistically, better than 15mpg in the city.

  • avatar
    Mekkon

    FWIW: The first generation xB was significantly more aerodynamic than a Lamborghini Countach. (in terms of Drag Coeffecient x Frontal Area)

    Aerodynamics is a curious science, and looking at something and guessing doesn’t equate to fact very often. I can’t speak for the Cube, but the first xB was pretty good.

    And despite the shape, the Honda Element is not in the same class. It’s significantly bigger and has serious SUV aspirations – which, of course, don’t work. My neighbors hate theirs but the damn thing won’t die!

  • avatar
    ajla-

    Speaking as someone that stands nearly a foot shorter than Mr. Niedermeyer, I’ve got to say that at $18900 this would be a tough sell for me over a 2010 SX4 FWD hatch.

    The only big negatives I see is that the SX4′s MPG ratings are 23/30/26, and if I make any 6’6″ friends they might be happier riding in the Nissan.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    The revised EPA fuel consumption rating for my 04 xB is 29/33. In real life, I see 37-38 from late spring to late fall, and 32-33 from late fall through early spring (the combination of cruddy winter gas and living in a snow-prone area is a killer for efficiency). Since I’ve owned my car, I’ve had exactly four tanks of gas where I got less than 30mpg, and have occaisionally cracked 40mpg.

    My secret: observing speed limits, and generally not driving like a jerk.

    Yes, it’s a city car, so it’s geared short and has a high strung engine. At 65mph, it’s at 3300rpm in 5th.

    I imagine the Cube will be easy to wring 20%-better-than-advertised fuel consumption from, so the EPA numbers don’t mean squat. That said, never having driven a Cube, I already assume it’s top gear ratios aren’t nearly as tall as they should be.

  • avatar
    phillyjim

    I didn’t think it was possible but somebody has actually built a car uglier than the Chevy HHR

  • avatar
    onerareviper

    Rinji news o moshiagemasu!
    Rinji news o moshiagemasu!
    Godzilla ga ginza hoomen e mukatte imasu!
    Daishkyu hinan shite kudasai!
    Daishkyu hinan shite kudasai!

  • avatar
    Flipper

    I came thisclose to buying a Cube. But when it came down to it Bought a Scion xD . The Nissan dealership experience left me less than satisfied. And for a little less $$$ the xD seemed like more car.

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The Cube is just delightful. It’s not my kind of wheels but I am really glad someone is willing to build a design that says something other than “I am just another jellybean with a ridiculously high beltline.” Let’s see how long it takes for Toyota to realize one of their dumbest moves of the decade was to change the Scion xB.

    Now if we could only have another iconoclast who also wants to build a car unlike anything else you can buy new today, only this time it’s LONG and has fins, or a wagon body with fake wood . . .

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Here’s a Video of Cube and xB

    You decide.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Space efficient doesn’t have to mean cramped as these vehicles demonstrate.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    BEAT: That’s a comparo with the old Cube, which clearly was not competitive to US spec cars (except looks, of course).

  • avatar

    The opening sentence is priceless. Nice review!

  • avatar
    noreserve

    werewolf34 :
    August 19th, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    How about something with the same utility but less design non-sense? Oh wait, it’s called a Honda Element.

    We have an 08 Element SC. There are a lot of similarities between it and the xB/Cube. I like the looks of all three from a funkier-than-thou standpoint, but I might have to wear some camo stepping out of the Cube – just a bit too cute. They are all very functional and all have their strengths and weaknesses.

    The Cube is too slow. The Element’s gas mileage isn’t that great. The xB is sort of a cross between those two. Both the Element and the xB have a very good safety rating, along with excellent reliability. Not sure about either for the Cube.

    I like that I can easily fold up the rear seats against the sides or even remove them in the Element to make for an even larger box. I don’t like that it only seats four or that the ride in the backseat is really only fun for kids – not a space issue, just a seat comfort and bounce thing.

    The original xB was certainly more of a radical little box. I have always thought that it looked far too fragile. I never considered it when we looked at the Element. The new Soul caught our eye, but it has nowhere near the utility of the Element, nor does it have its safety and reliability track record.

    I bet the Cube does great with the teens, particularly the girls. At least any of these would be a lot more fun and practical than a boring Corolla or equivalent. I would be a bit concerned about getting down below a 3,000 lb curb weight out on the mean streets of suburbia, so the Cube is marginal there.

    Just yesterday, I put a 74″ high wine rack in the back of the Element lying down diagonally and could still close the rear. Not sure that you could do that with the other two. It’s just a great little hauler.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Paul - I dig the steelies, but you need to get yourself some trim rings! And there’s a great center cap part number floating around ScionLife… Good color choice…the polar whites are really the only ones who can pull off red wheels.

    Noreserve and Werewolf34: The Element and the Cube aren’t even in the same vehicle class. In 2005, I waffled on the Element and the 1st-gen xBox for some time before deciding the Element was a little too soccermom-y and going for the hipper, cheaper, more efficient option.

    Honestly, the earlier Elements had some pretty significant things wrong with them. The max listed load capability only exceeded the curb weight by a few hundred pounds, so it was actually possible to exceed the vehicle’s load capacity with passengers alone. Kind of a big trade-off for a hose-down floor.

    Also there was the “Chauffer Door” problem, where front-seat riders had to get out (or at least open their doors) to let out the back-seat passengers. I hear they’ve solved that problem, but it struck me as a glaringly stupid oversight.

    Bento box-car utility is pretty universal…I once drove a set of 10′ tall shelving uprights home in my box, with the liftgate closed. They went diagonally from the front right corner to the rear left corner, but I think a 74″ wine rack would be just fine. Also, that is a lot of wine – when’s your next party? I make a mean artichoke dip.

    Really, the Element is for young families with young kids, and the Cube is for teens or 20-somethings who want to make a statement, and old people who don’t give a shit.

    And the Gen2 is for nobody, judging by the sales figures.

  • avatar
    noreserve

    JuniorMint :

    The Element does compete with the xB. The xB competes with the Cube, so perhaps a bit of a level away in terms of price and such, but I’d still say that people would look at the Element SC, xB, Soul, and Cube if they are in the market for that type of vehicle. They may appeal to slightly different audiences, however, there is no denying that they are similar in layout, engine, cargo capacity, etc. The Cube is more like a 3/4 size – a little brother.

    Keep in mind that I’m talking about the Element SC and not the regular Element. The SC appeals (supposedly) to a more youthful demographic that is looking for something a bit more hip as you say – lowered, dark tint, different grille, interior trim, larger wheels, etc. Still, at 45, I’m not in that demographic, but Honda found that out with the first release of the Element. Older folks snapped it up alongside the dorm crowd.

    I agree that the Element’s payload is low at 675 lbs, but not as low as you are stating. Not sure what the Cube and xB’s specs are in that regard. Wiki even mentions that a number of people think that Honda erred on the conservative side with that number. I think they have upped the number for 09/10. Who knows?

    I think that the Element is more of a two-person vehicle that is very practical and roomy. It can carry four, but is more suited to kids in that seat as I mentioned. I think the same thing is going to apply to the Cube and the xB. None of these four-cylinder boxes is going to be a Ford truck when it comes to payload. And I feel comfortable that the Element is surely as robustly constructed in its platform as the others. I would much rather be in the Element in a rollover (Top Safety Pick and a 2nd place in the iihs.org test’s roof crush strength in its class) or other crash than the little Cube.

    The Element’s rear doors are a bit of a pain with kids. Honda hasn’t changed this. I do like the huge side access they offer when open though.

    As for the early ones having “some pretty significant things wrong with them”, I’d have to ask you to cite references there. The only thing I”m aware of was the windshield problem on the 03-04 models (warranty extended after a class-action lawsuit). The Element is Honda’s most reliable vehicle, according to CR – “Much better than average” every year since inception in 03.

    That wine rack is also a glass holder, drawer, etc. It was in the Element without messing with the front seat or anything. The rear seats were out, which provides a huge, tall cargo area. It was a close fit though. I’m not much of a wine drinker (just some basic Australian cheap reds like Pillar Box Red, Evil and Boarding Pass). More of a beer drinker of fine ales. :-)

    The SC drives a good bit differently than a regular Element for those that aren’t familiar with it. Check out http://www.vtec.net/news/news-item?news_item_id=633563 where they say that some were faster in it than in the Civic Si in the slalom. It’s fun. I’m much more likely to hop in it than my boring Accord. I’m not sure what Camry drivers do to numb themselves to an even greater degree. ;-)

  • avatar
    tech98

    If the design isn’t cubist enough for you, see if Daihatsu will sell you their ‘Town Cube’ concept car from 1995 –

    http://www.carstyling.ru/en/cars.1995_Daihatsu_Town%20Cube.html

  • avatar

    @Michael Karesh:

    We reviewed the Kia Soul (actually two of them) last month. I hated the Soul Sport, but rather liked the Soul +. Weird, I know, but the two are totally different.

    http://www.automoblog.net/2009/07/03/2010-kia-soul-sport-review/

    Never cared much for the styling, and I care even less for the Nissan Cube’s styling.

  • avatar
    joeveto3

    I like it! Cool color too. I just wish the rear seats folded flat into the floor, along with both front seats folding forward. Then give it a sunroof. That would make the Cube a cool car to camp in.

  • avatar
    shagster

    Ok, before responding I have to admit my wife purchased a cube against all of my wishes. I simply could not get past the look of this vehicle. It reminded me somewhat of the XB’s but something was drastically different. Once I drove the car I realized that I shouldn’t judge the book by the cover. This thing is simply a gas to drive. The previous post hit the nail on the head when they said functionality. For our family this car meets and exceeds all of out needs. It fits 5 passengers with full comfort. Yes, 5. The Element not hardly. The XB? Are you serious? I’m not bashing the element I actually would have really pushed for one if it seated 5. The fuel efficiency exceeds the EPA ratings with a consistant 35+mpg and she drives 80mph on interstates everyday. Back to the XB. I’m sorry but that thing takes the prize when it comes to ugly. Character? It has none. The cube? When you see it in person it’s hard to expalin it has so much personality. The ride quality is excellent where on the XB I found it jarring and not pleasant to drive so much so it was yawning. Yes, the cube can get pricey just like any vehicle when you add on the bells and whisltes. Climate control works awesome. The multiple cell phone blue tooth capabilites are the best I have seen to date. The ipod controls and connectivity out of the box was as simple as plugging it it. Could we get the same functioanlity from a mini van? Sure but what fun is that? Could you get the same functionality from a cheaper vehicle? I seriously doubt it. What is the base on this thing like 10k? I personally think this is not a fad and we will see more vehicles such as this come onboard in the future. You can get in line and bash this car all day long but I dare you to find another vehicle that has drawn so many thumbs up as my wife gets when she is running around town.

  • avatar
    Aerio

    Hello form Toronto(Richmond Hill) ON.

    Lots of great comments Here. Looks like the the Cube is a “love it or leave” type car – kind of like dog owners – Pugs and bulls are liked by a small group in comparision. I did a long post on the Soul as it is the #1 contender on my list for repalcing my 04 Aerio. I may drive it another winter just to see reviews from folks that have drove these for a while.

    I like the Cube looks more the the Soul – drove the Soul only so no comparison there.

    I liked sitting “feel” of the Cube more but until you drive for awhile you can’t be certain.

    Things curretly turning me away from even test driving the cube is the 3.9% financing and the side way tailgate – I do allot of opening and closing with my job of the rear for parts so that does not cut the mustard – and Kia is doing 0% for the first 36months which in these ecomomic times makes no sense why Nissan is not following suit – I think they will change as we get closer to Xmas or there soon after – but the Tgate has turn me away for as a choice for my next car.

    The Fit is a no go as well – want something taller — 44yrs old and getting in and out all day for work!

    Cheers
    Patrick


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