By on January 8, 2010

Cubism

Driving enthusiasts, given the choice between the Soul and the cube, will opt for…a Honda Fit. So this comparison between Kia’s and Nissan’s boxes-on-wheels assumes different priorities. Which provides the most relaxing refuge from the seriousness of work when commuting to and fro? Short answer: the cube.

The hipster haircutLike the Soul, the cube is a riff on the basic box popularized in the U.S. by the original Scion xB. Unlike the Soul, the Nissan’s major lines are either parallel or perpendicular to the pavement. In other words, it’s a box.

And yet, unlike the classic xB, it’s not simply a box. There’s some subtle surfacing in the bodysides. The window openings have rounded corners. Further outside the box: the cube is asymmetrical. There’s a small window in the right side C-pillar, and the pillars around this window are blacked out, but no corresponding window on the left side, where the pillar is body color. This asymmetry is even functional. From the driver’s seat you couldn’t see out such a window on the left side anyway. And with no window, there can be a storage bin inside the left C-pillar.

Yes, many people hate the cube’s exterior. Or find a car that looks like a Toontown escapee both silly and pointless. But this silliness is the point. Some people want a car that doesn’t take itself seriously, and that displays a clear disregard for convention. If you’re going to diverge from mainstream auto design, why stop short of challenging people? The Soul’s design isn’t challenging. The cube’s is.

The Soul’s styling is optimized for 18-inch wheels. The cube’s exterior is far less wheel-centric, so its 16s are plenty large. This one’s all about the box. The tested cube was a krom model, meaning a unique grille with Ford-like faux chrome bars, side skirts, and unique wheels. I’d pass on these bits, as they don’t add much to the appearance of the car, and the side skirts make little sense given the overall mission. 100_5610

With some notable exceptions, Nissan wasn’t as adventurous with the interior design. The most notable exception: the headliner far above your head is molded to form a series of concentric waves around the dome light. Think Japanese rock garden. A sunroof would interrupt the pattern, which might be why none is offered. The instrument panel similarly includes some very zen circles and curves, and forms a wave when viewed from above. This wave motif continues with the floormats. Very calming.

But why is the cube interior only available in light gray or (in the car I drove) off-black? The VW Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser, and (to a lesser extent) Kia Soul all offer vibrant color inside the car. Nissan offers colorful vent surrounds as dealer-installed accessories, but these hardly compensate for the overwhelming colorlessness of the rest of the interior.

The instruments include a weak attempt at whimsy, with blue and white graphics that are too obviously painted on. But why did Nissan’s inexplicable infatuation with orange LED displays have to infect the cube? Not only does the orange trip computer nestled between the tach and speedometer clash with the blue and white graphics, but orange simply isn’t a soothing color. Consult a zen master for better alternatives. Perhaps a cool blue?

The driver can select among 20 colors for the ambient lighting in the footwells and cupholders. This feature would be more compelling if you could change the color of all of the instrument panel readouts to something other than orange. As it is, the carpet doesn’t match the drapes unless you opt for even more orange. One electronic feature the cube could do without: the $100 alarm system that goes off if you attempt to open a locked door. Or breathe on the car. It’s not entertaining.

Ripples in the CubeThe problem with striving to be whimsical is that some jokes are bound to fall flat. Case in point: the cube’s optional (and removable) “dash topper.” What’s a dash topper, you ask? Well, it’s a small circle of shag carpet velcroed to the top center of the instrument panel. No doubt the intent was to make being inside the cube more like being inside one’s family room, to give you a little piece of home the moment you leave work. The original concept might have called for covering the entire top of instrument panel with shag carpet, 1970s custom van style. The airbag engineers would have nixed any such concept. Cut a little here, and little there, and you get the small circle in the center. Even in the context of the cube, the car toupee (as I came to call it) seems pointless.

Once past color and the car toupee, the interior gets better. When packaging the cube, Nissan made much different choices than Kia. The cube’s windshield is much more upright than the Soul’s and its instrument panel was designed to take up as little visual space as possible. The downside: unless you have long arms, you’ll have to lean forward to operate the radio. Or use the redundant controls on the steering wheel. Also, the upright windshield yields huge front side windows. Generally a good thing, but the non-extending sun visors cover only the forward half of said windows. So, expect bright sunlight in your eyes if it’s westward ho in the late afternoon.

The upside: from the driver’s seat the cube’s interior feels much more expansive than the Soul’s. No cockpit effect whatsoever. You feel like you’re navigating a small room. The broad seats, similar to those in the Quest minivan, are softer than most these days. Lateral support? What would be the point? Much more missed in their absence: heated seats. Wait for the automatic climate control to do its job, power up the Rockford Fosgate audio, then kick back and enjoy the comfort of home on the way home.

Which brings up the name. The point of such a silly car is to forget about life’s necessities, most notably work. Say “cube,” and the first thing most people will think of is the place they spend their time at work. Few want to be in a cube once they leave work. The name originated in Japan. Does “cube” lack this usage over there? Fire and ice?

The cube’s roominess extends to the sliding and reclining back seat, which is mounted high enough off the floor to provide adults with thigh support. My kids loved how well they could see out. Credit the low, unraked beltline.

There’s not much space between the rear seat and the left-hinged tailgate. Enough for groceries, but luggage for four probably isn’t happening. As in the Soul, the front passenger seat does not fold. A pitty, as this feature would be especially useful for long objects given the non-invasive IP and upright windshield. Unlike in the Soul, there’s no hidden storage compartment beneath the cargo floor. While this does provide a deep well, it also means that when the rear seat is folded the cargo floor isn’t remotely flat. Nor can the rear seat be removed or flipped far forward. No magic here.

On the spec sheets, the Soul has a power advantage. Out in the real world, the cube’s 1.8-liter four dramatically outperforms the Soul’s 2.0 even though both vehicles weigh about 2,800 pounds. The cube’s secret weapon: a CVT. This CVT isn’t without its disadvantages—one’s ears often convey the impression that the clutch is slipping. The relationship between engine noise and vehicle speed is decidedly non-linear. And said engine noise is overly buzzy—“buzz box” entered my mind, and stuck there until the phrase (almost) became endearing. But, to give credit where credit is due, the CVT enables the 1.8 to boost the cube to 40 MPH much more effortlessly than it has a right to. There’s no sluggishness off the line or lugging at higher speeds. A responsive six-speed automatic might yield similar performance with a more natural feel—but no competitor offers such a transmission. The Soul’s quick-to-upshift, slow-to-downshift four-speed automatic is decidedly inferior.

Also, recall that you’re not driving a conventional car. In the cube, it seems oddly appropriate to simply prod the pedal and then let the powertrain hoist you up to speed. Too bad you can’t just push a button, as in an elevator. MPG in typical suburban driving came to 25.8.

Zen garden?Handling…how do you want a family room on wheels to handle? Body motions are fairly well controlled, and the door handles remain well off the pavement in hard turns. Agile…not really. And yet more fluid and natural feeling than the Soul, despite vague, overboosted steering that feels directionless on center. Intent on running the Tail of the Dragon? You’re shopping in the wrong class of vehicle.

Given the cube’s mission, ride quality is more important than handling. While the cube’s ride quality is far from luxury class, and can feel a little busy at times, it is smoother and much more forgiving of road imperfections than the Soul’s. You have a much better shot at relaxing during that commute to the cube in Nissan’s cube.

At the cube’s price (still just over twenty grand when loaded up with the krom bits) you expect some shortcomings. And the cube has them. Nissan needs to change the IP lighting, kill the (engine) buzz, tighten up the on-center steering, extend the sun visors, and heat the seats. But even with these shortcomings the cube outpoints the competition in combining an offbeat exterior with an expansive interior and relaxing driving experience. Those that “get it” should get it. The rest of us…well there are plenty of more conventional cars for us.

[Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, a provider of pricing and reliability data]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

100 Comments on “Comparison Review: Kia Soul Versus Nissan cube: First Place: Nissan cube...”


  • avatar
    Disaster

    The Cube screams, I’m a dork (substitute “tool” or word of your choice) and I’m afraid you wouldn’t notice so I had to buy this car to prove it.  Look at me……..Please.

    • 0 avatar
      lightford

      Your opinion is yours to keep but, as an owner of a cube, I must disagree with you on my own behalf.
      When I first saw the cube and subsequently decided to buy one I really wasn’t thinking about what other people were thinking of me.  I wanted something a little more whimsical and wanted to take myself a little less seriously when making a vehicle purchase.  The vehicle I traded in was a 540iT which, I’m sad to admit, was an attempt at making a statement like “I have a family and dogs but I can still drive a handsome car because I’m cool”.
      Ultimately it was a breath of fresh air for me to be able to make a car purchase that involved less car-snobbery.
      @friedclams:  My around town mpg is about 30.  That’s with a reasonably light foot.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniorMint

      yes, anyone who doesn’t want to drive a Camraccord lookalike -MUST- be an attention-whore!  IT’S ALL SO CLEAR NOW

    • 0 avatar
      Disaster

      Yes…maybe a bit too harsh.  The Cube strikes me as a design trying to hard to be different…pretentiously.  An owner either has to really want to be different, style be damned, or not really have a sense of style/design, IMHO.  Either one of those does not put the owner in the “cool” category….quite the opposite.
       
      A design doesn’t have to be ugly to be different.  Take the Mini for example…or the VW Beetle.  These vehicles have a sense of coherent design and look cute…not awkward, like the Cube or the Pontiac Aztek.
       
      While I agree that style is a bit of an individual thing, there is still good design and bad design.  Rounded window corners are almost always a bad design.  They separate the individual frames, break apart the flow…something that is rarely good in an automobile (where flow is a look you want.)   Asymmetry is something that also rarely works.  There is almost always an angle where it will look awkward.  Cars shouldn’t look awkward….we have a tendency to connect looks with abilities.  Awkward looking…awkward driving.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Thinx

      Disaster:
      The Cube screams, I’m a dork (substitute “tool” or word of your choice) and I’m afraid you wouldn’t notice so I had to buy this car to prove it. Look at me……..Please.

      Really? You actually _prefer_ that everyone drive the same-old white-bread-and-vanilla Camry or Accords?

      I actually don’t have a problem with the cube’s styling – quirky, but nothing garish or tasteless. When I was looking for a commute-appliance to complement my CL550 (great car that, but a waste to use it for commuting to my crappy job) but did not buy for two reasons:
      1. The packaging wasn’t quite there – luggage space wasn’t great, and the shoulder/hip room in the back seat was tight, especially with a car seat in the middle.
      2. It seemed a little unrefined, especially at highway speeds. My commute is about 50/50 street and highway, and I wasn’t happy with the noise and handling in that scenario.

      In the end, the perfect fit for my commuting and kid-schlepping needs was a hybrid, and I settled for a Prius — 56 mpg in real-world driving on regular unleaded 87 octane. Not too happy with the handling, but if you have my kind of commute you wouldn’t care either.

    • 0 avatar
      PJ McCombs

      while I don’t generally like cars that seem designed to elicit attention, I do respect cars which fulfil this common consumer need WITHOUT asking compromises of other motorists–reasonably sized, OK on gas, easy to see past (eg Mini, this)–a lot more than those that do (eg Escalade).

      And in this case, there are actually plenty of good reasons for shaping an econocar like a box. theyre easy to get into, incredibly spacious for their exterior footprint, and so on. one of the reasons Scion sold more xBs to old farts who value practicality than they may have really liked to.

  • avatar
    cnyguy

    “At the cube’s price (still just over twenty grand when loaded up with the krom bits) you expect some shortcomings.”
    Why?
    Why not spend the money on something you don’t have to make excuses for?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Why not spend the money on something you don’t have to make excuses for?

       
      With the possible exception of the Toyota Corolla, you have to make excuses for everything.  In the case of the Cube, it’s just funny-looking, but think about the excuses you need to make for, eg, a Porsche 911 or Chevy Tahoe.

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      Is there a car at 20k that doesn’t have some shortcomings?  Or at 2000k, for that matter?

  • avatar
    friedclams

    Is anyone buying these? I live in Cambridge, MA… you’d think it would be fertile ground for the Cube. Yet I’ve only seen a couple. I wonder if this is just too weird for people. The MPG certainly isn’t compelling.

  • avatar

    I was going to dig up some sales figures from Automotive News, but it appears that the amount I pay for a subscription no longer includes access to their data. For that they want another $199.

    Update: possibly just a computer glitch–EN seems to have gotten in, see the figures below.

    Unlike the Soul, hardly any owners have reported a repair so far on TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey. Two things I couldn’t fit into my already oversized review: in sub-freezing temps the otherwise solid-feeling  instrument panel creaked until the interior warmed up, and the door-to-IP alignment was subpar on the passenger side.

    The more owners participate, the better the information we can provide. If you haven’t already signed up, details here:

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

    • 0 avatar

      Cube sold 3,057 in December, Kia Soul sold 2,816… so they’re pretty comparable at this point. In 2009, the Soul sold 31,621 to the Cube’s 21,471, but the Soul hit dealers in March while the Cube didn’t drop ’till May. So… they’re pretty close at the end of the day, with a slight advantage to the Kia sales-wise so far.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “At the cube’s price (still just over twenty grand when loaded up with the krom bits) you expect some shortcomings.”
    What?
    To riff on cnyguy’s comment: If this car were from a domestic maker, the flame brigade would be out in force. I find it hard to believe that Mr. Karesh wrote that, must have been a moment of weakness, as I find the VAST majority of his reviews fair and evenhanded.
    The Kube Krom is just odd, I’m definitely in the camp that doesn’t get “it”. Between the two, I’d much rather go for the Soul, it seems like it has some.

    • 0 avatar

      “Expect” is not the same as “must accept,” much less “must be happy about.”

      There’s a reason why you cannot buy an S-Class for $20,000, and that reason is not excess profits.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      What do the domestics have that is better in this price range? (No, the Fiesta isn’t here yet.)

    • 0 avatar
      cnyguy

      @Michael Karesh
      ““Expect” is not the same as “must accept,” much less “must be happy about.” 

      Then what is the definition? Tolerate? Make excuses for?  Your review  points up poor IP lighting, iffy handling, a noisy engine, a less-than-useful load floor…ect.  The cube sounds like it is mediocre at best. Twenty grand to look ‘different’ is one thing, Twenty grand to look ‘different’ and own a car that you constantly apologize for is something else.

      There’s a reason why you cannot buy an S-Class for $20,000, and that reason is not excess profits.
      And there is a reason Harley and Jeep can make excessive profits on obsolete hardware: they are selling a lifestyle. Maybe Nissan should start putting “If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand” stickers in the cubes’s rear window.

  • avatar
    nmcheese

    The thing that annoys me most about this car’s design is that the dome light is not round. It is a rounded square in the center of a circular waveform. Sweat the details.

  • avatar
    racebeer

    Well, neither of these crap-boxes are on any shopping list of mine, period.  However, I’ve gotta say that the Cube guys are missing out on a real slick marketing trick.  They ought to rename the carpet patch on the dash “The Pube Spot”.  They could offer multiple colors, as James Bond would say, “so long as the cuff and collars match”.  In any event, I think I’d take a HHR over either of these two offerings.

  • avatar
    midelectric

    I once rode with a realtor that had a dash topper in his Jag, basically just a pad of rubber that he could place his cell phone upon to keep it from sliding or bouncing around while driving yet remain within view and easy reach.  Maybe that swatch of carpet is supposed to work the same way but I have a hard time believing shag will do as good a job as a piece of rubber.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    A major point in every other review of  the Cube I’ve read that isn’t mentioned here is the terrible stability on highways in the wind. It is bad enough that other reviews have stated the Cube should be considered a city only vehicle. This factor would way heavily on anyone using it as a commuter vehicle. I happen to like the Cube’s quirky styling but it’s very poor highway performance stopped me dead in my tracks. No review of the Soul I have read mentioned poor highway stability. My biggest criticism of the Soul is the lack of at least a 5spd. auto trans.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    Driving one is its own punishment.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This really is an excellent car.  The space is good, the ride is good, the detailing is interesting.  I’m sure that if you like your cars long, log and sleek the Cube will piss you off, but then you get people like me, who hate anything with two doors and two rows of seats, curse the coupe roofline that infects every mainstream car made today and think that 1960 was the nadir, not the apex, of car design.
     
    I’m just a pinch over 6’8″.  I can sit behind myself in the Cube.  There are minivans and full-size sedans I cannot do that in.  I can load my son into his car seat easily, without bending or twisting.  I can sit in without ducking down; allI have to do is step in.  I can fit all sorts of crap into this car.  It’s what I wanted when I settled on a Honda Fit instead.
     
    I’d also like to note that Mr. Karesh’s review is about the only one I’ve ever read that gets the point of a CVT: yes, it doesn’t “thump” your shifts and, yes, it’s behaves differently from an AT in terms of how engine and wheel speed work, but it actually is faster and does give better mileage.

    • 0 avatar

      Some CVT implementations are better than others. This one is about as good as it can be given the engine it must work with.

      My next review will be of the Suzuki Kizashi. Much worse implementation of a CVT.

    • 0 avatar

      The cube and Fit are similarly priced. Why did you have to settle for a Fit if you wanted a cube?

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Michael…the Kazashi…?
      I was hoping somebody would address this car.
      Looking forward to the review.
      But from what I saw of it at the LA show, it has a long way to go to beat the competition when it ends up around 28 grand.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Michael…the Kazashi…?
      I was hoping somebody would address this car.
      Looking forward to the review.
      But from what I saw of it at the LA show, it has a long way to go to beat the competition when it ends up around 28 grand.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Review the Suzuki and the manual transmission combo, it’s the only set up anybody on this site gives a rat’s ass about!

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The cube and Fit are similarly priced. Why did you have to settle for a Fit if you wanted a cube?
       
      The Cube wasn’t available when I bought my Fit (2007).

  • avatar
    stuki

                    Exactly why do car makers still build side hinged tail gates? Is there anything positive about them whatsoever, except for in trucks carrying a giant off road tire there for departure angle reasons, or a jerry can or two?
     
                    Anyway, I’d take either a Fit or Element over any of these two. Isn’t interior flexibility and practicality the whole point of boxy cars?

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Isn’t interior flexibility and practicality the whole point of boxy cars?
      As a 6’7″ Gen 1 xB owner, interior space was a huge attraction.  Like psarhjinian, I can sit behind myself in the xB, which makes it a favorite for hauling real people.
       
      The Fit is much smaller inside, and the Element is a gas hog.  And I don’t need to hose out the interior of my car, as the Element claims you can with it.
       
      Also, I have personally come to prefer the offset speedo of the Echo/xB/Mini genre.  It eliminates the problem of not being able to see 30-90 on the speedometer for tall drivers, along with some of the warning lamps and signals.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

                      Being more average sized, I didn’t think of that particular reason for choosing a boxy car. In that vein, that wretched side hinged tailgate may even make sense, as a top hinged one could require excessive bending over to get under.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      Top-hinged hatches can present a problem for closing by small and/or lightweight people, and I don’t see a motorized hatch as a likely option for a cube.

    • 0 avatar
      Joel

      Top hinges are also a pain for people taller than the roofline of the car as they have to bend down to walk up to the tailgate of the car, which can make picking up heavy or awkward objects more heavy or awkward.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I hate to be “that guy” but I think if the manual transmission versions of the Cube and Soul were compared, the Kia would have fared better.  That 4-spd auto really kills the Soul’s engine.

  • avatar
    jaydez

    Here are the following reasons why I would never own one:

    WTF is up the the headliner?
    CVT – I cant stand how they feel
    No flat load floor
    Since they have been out I have seen a few dozen of them.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM was driven by a retiree.  They were aimed at people my age (25-35) and Nissan missed like a blind guy in an archery contest.

    • 0 avatar
      xyzzy

      I am down with your first three reasons, but saying you would never own a car because of who else you see driving it, is lame.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The flat load floor isn’t there for a reason: if you dropped the seat cushion to the level where it would work, the result would be the ass-on-the-floor feel of a sedan that people who buy tall cars like this would hate.   Even if you hinge the seat cushion and fold it forward you’re still lowering the edge
       
      You could compensate for that by creating a false floor that meets the edge of the seat cushion, but that would eat cargo space already at a premium.   Take a look at, say, the Toyota Matrix: that stupidly high load floor kills cargo space.   This is what most people do to acheive the flat load floor, and it’s really, really irritating because you lose all sorts of space when the seats are up.
       
      Or you could do what Honda does with the Fit, which requires an entirely new floorplan that mounts the fuel tank under the front seats and kills long-distance cruising range.   Seriously, I own a Fit and you can barely get 35L of fuel into it’s tank.
       
      About all Nissan could do is what Chrysler does with the PT: allow the seats to be removed entirely, or what Honda does with the Element (fold them up and to the sides).   I suspect being stuck with the Versa’s bones obviated these options.
      If it bothers you, you can always put a shim in to raise the cargo area’s floor when you fold the seats

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    It is a square AMC Pacer.
    Like the Pacer, the Cube is all about itself and it’s marketing message. It is an insider joke on wheels. Worse, it tries too hard to be different, like the teen wearing the orange mohawk with matching nipple piercings. “Yeah”, the teen says, “this haircut is cooler in the summer, and the orange is good for hunting.” “Oh, and these cool nipple piercings lets everyone know I have two nipples.”

    Like the Pacer, the Cube has many credible functional reasons for looking like it does, then decides to take it to extremes. Yes, you will find a lot of room within it’s interior, but the entire time you are in it’s interior, it will constantly remind you that you are driving it. Some cars do this – they are puppies on wheels which never let your forget that they are in your lives. Or like marrying a hunchback with a Mensa membership, you can always point to how smart and compact she is, while everyone arounds you gawk and throws up in their mouths.

    Instead of designing a really functionable vehicle that becomes a part of you and an extention of you – this car wants to remind you of the joke you had the day you signed the papers. Like an old frat brother who constantly reminds you of something that was funny for a moment a decade ago, the Cube will constantly remind you that you once thought “Mac And Me” was better than “ET”.

    And that is how far this design actually fails. Instead of designing a truly functional automobile, Nissan decided to create a rolling marketing statement, not a car. As a fashion statement, it works. As a real car, it is utterly dishonest.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      And how is a box, the most space-efficient form, suddenly dishonest? Try being 6’4″, and see how honestly unfunctional most cars are today.

    • 0 avatar
      Joel

      My personal favorite was sitting in the previous gen Grand Cherokee and not fitting in it.  I’m 6’2″ so tall but not as tall as others, and the only way my head would not hit the ceiling was to recline the seat significantly.  And this was in a suv.  Tall. Lots of “space.”

  • avatar
    Rday

    While I like the Cube, the power window controls [as noted by CR] intrude into the driver’s leg area and make it  seating uncomfortable for many people. Outside of that feature, which is a deal breaker for me, I think the vehicle is over priced.

  • avatar
    Rday

    While I like the Cube, the power window controls [as noted by CR] intrude into the driver’s leg area and make it’s  seating uncomfortable for many people. Outside of that feature, which is a deal breaker for me, I think the vehicle is over priced.

  • avatar
    Ernie

    There’s enough people expressing my sentiments on the exterior (although I give it a more moderate “what the HECK *IS* that???” on the road).
     
    Here’s the deal-killer:
    The HVAC is WAY too “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t let you do that.” to buy this vhehicle . . . please tell me it’s not backlit in red :o
     
    :D

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    while i understand people’s vitriol towards this vehicle and how it is ‘dishonestly’ “marketed to Americans” as if that’s the most important thing in the world… look past the end of your own nose
    This car has its roots in Tokyo’s Ginza. This is a car that is uniquely Japanese just like the Skyline. It was never meant to leave Japan until Nissan found out that Toyota had reasonable success with their Scion boxes and they thought they could cheaply sell this JDM car to hapless Americans and Europeans. As usual Kia took ages to cotton on and they just came out with their version.
    I seriously dislike these cars. They should never have left Tokyo where I admit the concept works fine there. These cars are horribly contrived but Nissan have the idea that they can sell that to that 1/2 of 1% Americans who are kooky enough for this. And that is enough. They’ll sell a damn sight more of these than they’ll ever sell of the flagship R35 Skyline GTR.
    Nissan aren’t particularly evil for trying this car on for white folks. They are just testing the waters and if it doesn’t work, who cares. Buy a Versa instead. But if it does work… expect to see a Generation IV or maybe Hyundai or Mazda can get in on the act.
    You know they’ll sell the Gen IV in Japan. Would be peanuts to federalise it. Let’s just hope there’s enough kooky Americans/retirees to try it on.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      These cars are horribly contrived but Nissan have the idea that they can sell that to that 1/2 of 1% Americans who are kooky enough for this.
       
      This is true, but how much more contrived is it, really, that the Mustang, Camaro or Challenger.  How much more contrived than any of the tall-bedded pickup trucks?  The Porsche 911? All those cars make serious compromises in the name of image, but we rag on the Cube?

  • avatar
    FromBrazil

    Well, I seem to be in the minority. I do get and like this car. I’d take it in a heartbeat over the Fit, for example. Though I’d test it out w/ the Soul first, I think the Soul is the car that tries too hard. I think the Cube is what it is, take it or leave it.

    Down here we don’t have the Cube. The Soul however has been doing well, selling at a brisk pace. In this market the Soul propaganda is that this car is the first car that is purely “design” (whatever that is, but the ad’s lame explanation is that since it’s not an SUV, not a jeep, not a minivan, not a hatch, it is a “design” car…LOL!!!).

    Down here it must compete w/ the Fiat Doblò and Renault Kangoo (which call their cars multi-use vehicles). Though these European competitors are commercial vehicles to begin with, both “hide” this relatively well in the passenger version.  And I’d take any of them over the Soul…The Cube, well, both the Doblò and Kangoo have much more trunk space, so as they are family vehicles down here, I’d take them over the Cube, too.

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    Styling wise I liked the original Xb and like the Soul and Cube but since styling is strictly a personal like/dislike it’s only my opinion. Equally, I can understand those that don’t like these vehicles. To me they are fresh ideas and markedly different from the norm. Functionwise they’re pretty much in a class of their own. What other vehicles at anywhere near their prices have similar interior room? As mentioned, two people 6’7″ and 6’8″ can sit behind themselves in them. They are obviously not everyone’s cup of tea but IMO a welcome addition to the marketplace.

    • 0 avatar
      FromBrazil

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Kudos to you sir.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Those people would have to have short legs and long torsos to “sit behind each other” in either vehicle (according to CR – Front/Rear Legroom: Cube – 40.5/29 Soul – 40.0/27.0).
      Avoidance maneuver: Cube – 54.5MPH Soul – 56.0MPH.
      0-60 Acceleration: Cube: 10.0 sec Soul: 9.8 sec
      Overall MPG: Cube – 28 Soul – 25
      Cargo Area: Cube – 28cu/ft Soul: 24.5 cu/ft.
       
      So, actually, they’re closely matched vehicles separated by their particular “take” on what the original xB’s replacement should have been.

  • avatar

    Goofy? Silly? I don’t think so, at least not from the exterior. To me it looks like a thug in a hoodie.
    I do like its practicality, but I greatly prefer the appearance of the original xB.

  • avatar
    Scottdb

    Several people, including the author, have mentioned/complained about the lack of a flat load compartment.  For $180, Nissan offers an optional cargo area organizer.  Quote:

    This cargo area organizer drops right into the deep cargo area and includes a handy cover
    Custom-fit to create a flat flooring when rear seats are folded down
    Allows you to keep items hidden when covers are closed
    Passenger-side compartment locks to help keep valuables safer
    Easy to clean and removable when you need to carry larger items

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Before I bought my (used) xB1, I drove both the Soul and the Cube. Having driven both was my reason to seek out a lightly used 2005 xB. Hate to say it, but the original is still the best.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      +1
      Although I think the Cube is the next best thing. My review:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/review-2009-nissan-cube/
      The Soul is not really a box; it feels more like a small CUV

  • avatar
    tonycd

    “Instead of designing a really functionable vehicle that becomes a part of you and an extention (sic) of you… Nissan decided to create a rolling marketing statement, not a car. As a fashion statement, it works. As a real car, it is utterly dishonest.”
    I’m not myself a big fan of the Cube, or really of any car in this class. Unless you live in the middle of a big city, I’d much rather spend my $20G new car budget on a 4-cylinder, 6-speed Malibu and get 32 MPG city with infinitely more style, comfort, quietness and roadgoing prowess. But I honestly have no idea what your “utterly dishonest” statement means.
    Is the Cube’s aesthetic self-conscious? Sure. Does it compromise any aspect of the car’s usability? From legroom to parking footprint to feature function to performance, I don’t see it.
    Can you cite one meaningful example of where a bland appearance would have made the Cube work significantly better?

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      Firstly you can not buy a 6spd 4cyl Malibu for $20k. The 6spd is available only on the LT and LTZ models. $20k is the discounted price of the LS which is available only with a 4spd.
       
      Secondly, the only way a 6spd 4cyl Malibu will acheive 32 mpg in city driving is if the street includes Niagra Falls and you are driving over it with a strong tail wind. 32 mpg is the highway mileage for the 6spd 4cyl combo.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    All these vehicles are just glorified, hip, mini minivans.
    Square box with power? Heck, you can take a 1991 – 1995 Chrysler Town & Country and load it up /customize it to your heart’s content. Hmmm… let’s see…
    3.3L, 160+ horsepower
    Leather Seats
    Captain’s Chairs
    More Space (Flat and otherwise)
    Far more stable
    Good looking
    A good one from a retiree will set you back about $2k. Throw in some Michelin Tires and modify the interior to your liking, and you have everything except an 800+% price premium.
    Oh, make sure you get a JC Whitney tranny cooler…
     

    • 0 avatar
      cnyguy

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      Steve, you missed one very important fact on your list. Having traded a ’92 Caravan for an “05 xB, I can tell you that they’re as different to drive as day and night. The Caravan was a dreadful bore, and the xB is a ball. And I’m not just rationalizing either. Also, the xB averages 32 mpg; the Cravan was lucky to get 22; more typically 19-20 mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Geotpf

      But you can park a xB/cube/Soul in an urban parking spot that you can’t dream of doing in a minivan.  And the gas mileage is nearly double.  And they are much cheaper new.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I’m not comparing new to new.
      I’m comparing new (or slightly used in the Xb version) to used.
      The Cube is a fadmobile. So are the Soul and Rondo. They all go through a couple years (or months) of interest and then fade in the morass of overdone hipness. Been there. Done that. Seen 700+ crappy Beetles at the auctions..
      I do like the Xb as a five speed but I’m just not a fan of modern day Toyota ergonomics. That damn instrument cluster is a pain in the middle and offers as much visual feedback as a…. base Chrysler minivan.
      The Town & Country display on the other hand is a cornucopia of 1980′s era digital controls, genuine shiny fake wood, and a trip computer that can give me words instead of hieroglyphics. I even have a genuine $5 red push button to start it up (take that Nissan!) and all the options and space of a real road car that won’t get blown around on the highway like a defective Metro.
      The space between the two middle roads  is enough for a cooler full of lunches and drinks, while the seating comfort of the T&C can give any of these cars a genuine run for their money.
      Finally, you have this…
      http://www.allpar.com/model/m/1994.html
      Scroll down and you will see a feature that middle-aged pubescent Cube owners (or is that Cubescent pube owners) could only dream about. A bed. A god honest, Lee Iacocca tested, perfectly contoured for two adults… bed. Now I will grant that the Element has some benefits being fully washable. But the 1994 and 1995 Chrysler minivans were truly made for passionate lovers of the open road.
      Why I can see Lee Iacocca now shooting a commercial in his skivvies for this unique option. Talking about building America, family values, and those Japanese ruthlessly dumping their children into California schools.
      (By the way, for those who don’t know, Lee Iacocca at the time had a major boner for the Japanese dumping their vehicles at below cost while blocking the American car companies from selling in their markets.)

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Cube is a fadmobile. So are the Soul and Rondo.
       
      The Rondo?  The Rondo is the modern take on the Magic Wagon.  It’s about as fad-less as it gets.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Without cars like the xB1, Soul, and cube, cars like the Malibu would look exotic.
     
    When I got my 05 xB1 new, I never realized it would have a 5-year resale level of roughly 70% (given my mileage, etc.).  There is apparently a segment of the population that loves boxes.  If I ever sell it, at least I can get something out of it.

  • avatar
    peachtartsandtea

    The cube is little more than an optioned-up Japanese delivery van. It was designed for narrow streets and speeds not to exceed 45mph. It does not belong on American roads, much less American highways. Further, I’ve been on message boards and its fuel economy is disappointing.  Car companies are just re-badging whatever foreign tiny econoboxes they have in their overseas stables and sending them to the States, with no real notion of whether they belong here. The only micro-cars that have any aptitude here are the Fit and Versa. Everything else is treacherous, esp. the Smart car.

  • avatar
    bunkster

    The car was never intended to appeal to a mass audience like a Camry or Malibu. I drove one on a long trip and it was fine.

     I drove around 65-75 on the highway and was very comfortable. I can see where high winds would be an issue but as others have suggested this is not intended to be a highway cruiser.

    The krom addition is a bit much. 

    I’d like Nissan to make an EV version of this!!!

  • avatar

    Funny to see people razz on this little box.  To be honest, I liked the first gen Cube better.  This one’s seemed to pack on a few pounds in anticipation of it’s American debut, specifically in the bumpers (federal regs can be a pain).  I also see why retirees love these things — they don’t have to sit on the floor, they can simply slide in and out instead of plop down, they can load things in it easier, and they get good gas mileage.  The 25-35 market segment they’re aiming these at usually end up buying used cars or brand-new Civics and Corollas, if they haven’t already bought a minivan or a suv for schlepping the kids around.  The under-25 set have their parents buy them new Mustangs, or they get around with beaters or public transportation.
    Personally, I wouldn’t buy one.  The Soul’s interior is a sight more vibrant and the 18-inch wheels stand out.  Plus, as I said before, this one’s gotten a bit pudgier in places.  And then I’d have to worry about the CVT.
    Cars like these and the Skyline would probably still be relative unknowns if it wasn’t for Gran Turismo and other racing simulator games.  Why else would Subaru finally be bothered to introduce the Impreza WRX?

  • avatar
    davejay

    If you like the practical parts of this car, but want fewer interior disconnects, better crosswind stability and no reduction in comfort or visibility (for a slightly lower price, too) just get the Versa. Mechanically identical, not trying to be wacky-trendy, and quite comfortable.
    Also: the Cube does have an optional trunk insert, like the Soul’s, that makes the floor flat when the seats are folded (with storage underneath.)

    • 0 avatar

      I must be the only cube driver that has had no wind problems on the highway. It comes with stability control, which has made it easier to handle than my previous autos, the PT Cruiser and the Eagle Talon / Mitsu Eclpise. The Talon surprised me with poor handling in crosswinds in KS, considering it’s shape and wide wheelbase.

      It even keeps it’s stable feel above 80 (I was getting around a truck chucking beer cans out the window and decided to get ahead of a drinking driver). Combined with a long straight down hill grade, I was surprised at the speed I came down from since there was no shimmy or handling problems to indicate that I was going so fast. The car parks great since it’s a foot longer than the mini – gets 7mpg shy of a smart-car, but is a real car that can carry more than 2x the cargo (seats down) of the Cruiser (the thing is a freaking tardis).

      It bases at 13.5k, and my SL was less than 18. I don’t have problems with console reach, but I’m 5-11, reviewer must have long legs. I prefer the door to a lift gate since I’m tired of lift poles that don’t work in cold weather – or at all after 5 years.

      It’s got SUV comfort in a mini Cooper size with the most airbags and traction control, stability control and anti lock breaks all included in the cheapest model. Yeah, the styling is extreme, but I like it’s Asian / LA looks plus it looks like a 2010 car (to me) while everyone else is spending more than 30k on neo-retro challengers and chargers. (although I like the challenger’s looks, it’s mushy handling and price puts me off)

      I think the handling is between the Talon and the cruiser. Overall, it’s just a fun drive, and it’s turning radius is insane making it a nice in-town car that has also logged a 1000 mile highway jaunt just fine.

      Obviously I’m biased since I own one, but I did my research beforehand and I’m happy with the results.

  • avatar
    ctoan

    What’s with the obsession with flat floors?  I’d rather have more cargo space than a flat floor.
     
    Now, they pretty clearly were targetting this at the middle aged and older, with how comfortable they decided to make it.  I’d call this a smart decision, given how the original xBox managed to hit that target but had such a poor ride — a tradeoff with the entertaining handling.
     
    I do find it entertaining how people hate this car for somewhat gimicky polarizing styling, but love the Camaro…for gimicky, polarizing styling.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    So…is EITHER the Cube or the Soul as good as the first-gen xB?  General consensus seems to be ‘no.’  So what the hell am I supposed to buy if my toaster gets totalled?!
     
    Also, something that hacks me off about the cube:  has anybody noticed the tail light placement?  Has anyone else noticed that they are in the rear bumper?  Isn’t the entire point of having a rear bumper to prevent minor accidents from doing massive damage to very expensive parts….such as…oh…I don’t know…the tail lights?

    What moron decided that was a good idea?  That bumps tiny, minor accidents from $500-oopses into four-digit fixes.  My xB’s rear bumper has been repainted four times in as many years. Trust me, this is NOT a good idea.

     
    Yes, many MANY details were not sweated.

  • avatar
    CV

    An item of interest, both the Soul and the Cube have recently been named top safety picks by the Insurance Institute. They meet the new roof crush requirements, as well as having good overall crash tests.

  • avatar

    I really like the wackiness of the cube.  The reason I didn’t buy it (last fall when I was looking for a new car) was the CVT- uknown long-term reliability and very expensive to replace.  Also,  some reviews critisized the light reflections in the vertical windows at night or during  rain.  CR has nothing nice to say about the performance of the headlights and the handling.  Too bad.

    • 0 avatar
      vetterun

      Concerning light performance, I have a Vette with HID lights and the cube’s standard lighting throws just about as far as my HIDs do. Not as bright, but still great lights. Only issue is when they are on high beam, the roadway just in front of the car is little dark, but if you have the foglights installed, these fill it in perfectly. Great lights, not to worry. Just because nobody has said anything positive about them, doesn’t mean they are not good. I’l put it this way, since I bought the cube, my Vette has been getting lonely!! LOL!

  • avatar
    CV

    I do mostly in-town driving so this would work for me. I actually like the Krom model’s looks and seat fabric better than the other versions.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Looked at a Cube in the showroom the other day when the wife’s car was in for service. Had no interest in driving it. Makes taking the bus appealing. The salesman said they’re not selling, and this is Canada where lots of people like quirky, small cars.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    If ever there was a vehicle that made the Aztek and xBox look pretty good this is it. The interior isn’t much better including the 70′s WTF round piece of shag carpet on the dash or the mood rubberbands that strap around the door handles that really must have the rainbow crowd jumping up and down for joy. It’s higher price, more controversial CVT(how is it going to hold up down the road), cheap looking colorless interior(rainbow mood bands excluded),  poor headlight performance, poor highway driving experience/handling and high price tag beg the question: why bother.

  • avatar
    NickR

    The waves on the ceiling and the speaker gimmick are just ridiculous.  Reminds me of a person affecting an accent just to appear different.  And the optional grille looks like they stole the rails from a hospital gurney.

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    sorry for being nitpicky (cuz i hate it too) – you mean Northward ho? so as the setting sun would be on the driver’s side?

    the exterior i don’t mind (sans chrome-ish bars). the interior is ridiculous. when i saw the picture of the dash toupe i totally cracked up. whoever at Nissan said that was a good idea should be fired, or at least demoted.

  • avatar

    very good & thorough review of the Cube!

    But… apples to apples.

    The reality is the Cube is not the Soul.. is not the Element.. is not the Fit.

    Each one has merits and curses, each one has something unique and beneficial.

    The Fit.. compact, with alot of interior versatility.. and for a cheap price.. with great gas milage. Looks are not the major feature, though it is “cuter” then the Civic, it still is not a “stand out” in the looks department. It is simply a reasonable car (though sadly dealing with unreasonable arrogant Honda dealers, was my reason to not purchase a Honda fit) The selling features of the Fit for me.. the versatility, the price & option of navigation system built in.

    The Honda Element. unique & utilitarian.. it can be a cargo van, or people hauler. It has it’s limits, as just 4 seat belted positions are available (but you could pile people on the floor, since there is plenty of space there). You can camp in it, literally (they have a tent extention for the back,, plus the fold flat or flip up seats). This is a versatile vehicle, which inspired the box trend.

    As with any unique car, box, or whatever.. there will be people who LOVE it or absolutely hate it. There is not alot of middle ground. I do get a kick when people think someone who chooses something unique just is doing it for attention. No, often the reason is because they #1 want to find their car in a parking lot, and #2 they want something that does not put them to sleep before they open the door.

    (note: I have had my 2003 honda Element since it rolled off the truck.. I love it, but I heard those folks who called it ugly, and some still do.. but I still think it is different, fun, functional, and wonderful! 7 years and no regrets)

    The Nissan Cube.. interesting, and like the Element would not appeal to all.. but those that it appeals to love it. Naturally there will be those who will “need” to attack it, maybe because they lack the guts to have anything more then a beige sedan or suv. But the bottom line it does not matter, as along as you like it, and it fits that need. I saw the ads for this when it came out, and it did draw some interest, because I like different, this just was not quite different enough for me to consider.

    Kia Soul. I also own this car.. I definitely was drawn by its looks, it is friendly looking (the houndstooth interior is so much fun), unique enough, fun too drive, functional, great gas milage. It is not a power house, but I honestly do not expect any new car under 20k to be a power house, and definitely not when it has great gas mileage.

    Refelcting on the Cube again.. I am so glad to see Nissan come out with this car.. because there needs to be less boring cars in the world. Before I purchased the Soul last year.. I looked at alot of cars.. it is blinding how many sedans there are, finally hatchbacks are making their way back! Finally! But the selection was uninspiring as I was searching for over a year (I take my time). I ultimately decided on the Honda Fit, but went with the Soul when I could not take the arrogance & games the Honda dealers were playing. Honda makes great cars, but perhaps needs to evaluate who sells them, or they will start hurting like GM & Chrylser have and are. Quality & realiability are one thing, but customer service and how they treat their customers counts too!

  • avatar
    vetterun

    First, everyone needs to get the story straight. The Scion xB is NOT the “original” the CUBE is!! The “original” model came out in 1998, WAY before the Scion box car. Now, I am a relatively new cube owner (just over a week)have put over 1200 miles on the car, bought it at first for a utilitarian purpose (work car, nothing else) and have fallen in car love with the ugly duckling. If you want sportscar fun, get a Vette or Ferrari, but if you want cool, fun, commuter life, get a cube. From the ripple ring in the ceiling to the ripple waves in the floor mats, wave stitching in the seat covers, orange day-glo knobs, dash lights, and all the other little oddities it has that make you feel as though you are in a waterworld or jacuzzi, you feel at ease in the cube from the first non-shift of the tranny. It is comfortable, relatively quiet (flat nose, flat windshield, etc) gets great gas mileage (have the cvt tranny but NOT the KROM edition), avg 28.6 city/hwy, flat 32.8 highway driving. Easy entry/exit (just step in and sit!), great head/leg room, radio IS a reach so that just tells you how MUCH room there is in this little box. It is not a travel car for a family, it is NOT an RV or SUV. It is just a cool little car that is comfortable, economical, adaptable, and ‘different’. No matter your size, you will fit. If you are 5’5″ and weigh 350lbs or 95lbs, or are 6’10″ and weigh 350lbs or 150lbs, doesn’t matter. The seat adjusts for height as well as leg length. All I can say is, bought it as a disposable car because it really is affordable (mine, an SL model, with an additional 5yr, 100k mile b2b warranty, options were: interior decorator package, spoiler, mudflaps, and black chrome grill, only $17,940.00, out the door, tax/title/license, total!)

    Now, when I bought this, the Nissan dealership was next door to a Kia dealership. Drove both cars, back to back, even picked up the Soul and drove it to the Nissan dealership and left it while I drove the cube. Yes, the Soul has more ‘stuff’ is a more ‘normal’ looking car, still cool looking, but I felt cramped in it, more noisy than the cube, lower gas mileage, but still a nice car, and cheaper by nearly $1500.00. The room and comfort of the cube sold me though. Truly heads above the Soul for comfort and ease of driving, very maneuverable and really short turning radius. If you want a cool car with great stereo, just buy the cube and get their upgraded stereo or have an aftermarket one installed after you buy. I just can’t say enough good things about my ‘box’. To each his own, but once you try it, you WILL like it. Just remember it is NOT a sports car, NOT a van, NOT a station wagon, it is a cube.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I know that I am joining this thread very late. Just happened across it and new to TTAC (getting rid of Jalopknik addiction). My wife liked the look of the cube so we bought one. I haven’t stopped grinning since. Fun to drive. With a six speed we hit 34 mpg pretty routinely. Live on two lane blacktop but have to drive in the city as well.

    I think most of you folks who feel compelled to badmouth those who would drive this car need to get ahold of yourselves. I am 68 years old and have lost track of the cars I have driven from the 46 stude that I learned to drive in to the 57 chevy I still own. I understand the cube was the best selling of it’s class in Japan. That included toyota, nissan, isuzu, and others. I see the reasons. When I find something this little car doesn’t do well, I will be sure to tell you. By the way, the side opening hatch has yet to hit my head and I don’t think I noticed the rippled ceiling even once when I was driving. Now that I have time to kill, I might put a little trailer behind it for suitcases and fishing poles and just take off. If you see me, be sure to wave.

  • avatar
    Dipstick

    I go often to a certain city and rent different cars to get around. I do the same route every time and there is a tight double curve portion of the road where I have compared a lot of cars. I can tell you this:I have had to hit the brakes on a mustang but not on the cube going the same speed.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Amazing how things turned out:
    http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/autos/1112/gallery.most-disliked-cars.fortune/10.html
    …The Cube went on sale in May 2009 and since then has suffered an acute case of design decay, i.e, the novelty car blues. Its edgy styling — pun intended — hasn’t worn well with buyers, and its sales have fallen to a trickle. The Cube’s performance is especially glaring when compared with the similarly rhomboid Kia Soul, which is attracting far more buyers in its third year on the market as it outsells the Cube six to one. Still, Nissan is betting on a surge in gas prices for the Cube to turn the corner.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India