Can TTAC’s Future Writers master the tough job of a car review? During Future Writers Week, you chose the writers you want to see again on TTAC. Here is the first car review. Do you like it? Tell us. Remember: The cars had to be scrounged somewhere, but at least the reviews should be uninfluenced by flacks or PowerPoint’s.
It was going to be one of those nights, and I knew it. The roommates were heading for a get together and they wanted me to join in. Parties are really not my gig, especially a party where I am the odd old one at thirty nine and the rest of the participants are under twenty six. But I said yes for some reason that still eludes me to this day, especially since we were going to take the roommates car. Now most folks know I am a touch of a car snob, yes I drive a Peugeot that should be getting a pension, and I have an odd taste in cars as a general rule of thumb. But let me tell you about my experience with ’the box’.
The box I am referring to is not the cheerful and hip Kia Soul, or the original box for America, the Scion Xb. No this box that my roommate owned is the 09 Nissan Cube. I find it to be a bit bling in the grill department, yet not funky enough to be memorable on the exterior for anything else save the way the rear door glass wraps around the left side. Kei car cute it is not, and I love Kei class cars. The Cube is just too large to be cute in that way, sort of a ‘Hello Kitty fart can exhaust’ cute to me really. In other words, I really wanted to put a paper bag over my head when I drove the thing because I am a bit old to drive such a generation Y oriented car.
On the inside, it is not too bad. Fit and finish appear to be the current Nissan quality, the plastics are not bean-counter cheap, and the buttons, while logical on the center stack, look like something out of Star Wars. Having to look to use the climate control is a tad annoying, but set it and forget it auto climate control makes that forgivable. The seats are moderately supportive with an upright seating position that gives good visibility even with the high belt line, but unfortunately the thick pillars kill the visibility just after you think it might be good. Let’s not forget the shag rug on the dashboard that says ‘Do not place objects on’. What am I supposed to do with it then? Wipe my feet? Let’s just say I tossed my black berry on it, which did not go sliding around the dash at lethal projectile speeds thanks to its rubber case.
I do have gripes on the inside. The steering wheel buttons are for the Play Station generation. Directional pads? Can I do up up down down left right left right B A start for unlimited lives? After a few minutes I figured out the cruise control and audio controls, and I have to say the upgraded audio is not half bad for a stock system. The back seat is my largest gripe; it does slide forward and back and the seat back even folds down, but you have to undo four bolts to remove it. It would have some serious potential to hold really large cargo in the back, if the back seat did some trick origami to fold into the floor, or at least up against the back of the front seats. Leave the seat in and the cargo room is paltry at best – I can fit more in the trunk of my Peugeot.
Now that I had it loaded with some pretty inebriated twenty-six and unders, it was time for the drive. Unfortunately this particular Cube was saddled with the Jatco JF009F CVT. I hate to say this, I really am a fan of the left pedal and few automatics impress me. This one, just like the Dodge Caliber with the CVT, did not. Let’s just hope in the long term it is more reliable than the one in the Caliber. With the 1.8 liter engine, the thing drones and makes some pretty unhappy noises when flogged onto a freeway on ramp. It feels snappy to 30mph sure, but after that the drone grates on my nerves pretty bad, though once up to speed it quiets down and becomes a competent cruiser. The rubber band effect was there too, and I think that is what pretty much turns me off to CVT gearboxes.
I could not get a real test of handling since I had three in the back that looked a bit green by the time I got on the freeway, and close proximity to an impression of the Exorcist is not something I really look forward to, so there was no finding a parking lot and flinging the thing around to find the limits of adhesion or rollover. The steering is light and rather vague for my tastes, but the tight turning circle is really good and at low speeds it darts where you point it pretty well. Shopping center parking lot antics could be a lot of fun in it. The ride spoils all of that pretty quick, however. It is bouncy and crashy over pot holes, and on Denver’s broken pavement freeway system it hobby horses badly enough that my head tapped the head restraint. I have been in smaller cars that ride way better. I did not get to test the brakes all that well, but when I whipped it into a parking lot for tacos at break neck speeds and they hauled the thing down respectably with pretty decent and firm pedal feel.
Having only put thirty or so miles on the little Cube I can’t say how good it is going to be to live with day-to-day. In town at lower speeds I would think it is a good little car, save the ride and small luggage space – not half bad, if you are under forty. For longer trips, I would opt for something a touch more comfortable and conventional.
The Nissan Cube was provided by roommate, complete with insurance, the fuel light on, and four inebriated passengers.
Michael Peerson resides in the Californian Eastern Sierras. His day job is in the telecommunications industry as a high level fiber technician. On the side, he builds odd cars and drives an old Peugeot. He owned over forty cars since he was able to drive. A few trips to Europe resulted in a love affair with two-stroke East German vehicles. At home, he has a Subaru 360 to keep that perverse fetish under control.