Corolla Vs. Cube: Why Choose Boring?

Doug DeMuro
by Doug DeMuro
corolla vs cube why choose boring

I recently inherited a Nissan Cube from my brother. When I tell people this, they have two distinct reactions. For anyone who isn’t into cars, it’s: “Your brother died?” Car people, however, usually respond with: “You have a Nissan Cube?” This is the same reaction that non-car people tend to have when I explain my brother did not die, but rather moved to Los Angeles, where his soul will.

People just don’t like the plucky little Cube, whether it’s my friends (“Why do you still have that thing?”) or my neighbors, one of whom left a note under the wipers asking me to move it away from the unrestricted street parking spots in front of his house. Truly. This actually occurred. Perhaps the worst reaction is from other Cube owners, who occasionally wave, reminding me that I can be seen driving the thing.

As you can imagine, I’m not the Cube’s biggest fan either. There’s a fuzzy piece of shag carpeting on the dashboard (the “Cube pubes”) that seems like it might keep sunglasses from sliding around, until you turn it over to reveal a warning label that says – truly – “Caution: Do not place anything on this product.”

The headliner is rippled, presumably after the designer got high (this part is definitely true) and, faced with the munchies, decided to pay homage to the Lays potato chip (this part is probably true). The rear is asymmetrical (see: the designer got high). There’s a cupholder to the left of the steering wheel. And, five carwashes later, my Cube still smells like my brother’s dog no matter how many times I tell my passengers “it’s probably you.”

But can we all agree it’s better than a Toyota Corolla?

I talked my brother into the Cube three years ago when his budget for a new car was around $15,000. He has since upgraded to a Nissan Xterra, apparently eager to reclaim some of the manhood he lost driving the Cube. But as I reconsider the situation, I don’t think I would’ve done it any differently. Except maybe I wouldn’t have left those retaliatory death threats under my neighbor’s windshield wipers.

At $15,000, you have two basic choices when shopping for a nearly new, reliable, fuel efficient car. You can go the boring route and buy a Civic, a Corolla, a Focus, or some sort of Hyundai that vaguely resembles some sort of Kia. Or, you can go the interesting route, which involves the Kia Soul, the Scion xB, and – of course – the beloved Cube.

For my money, it’s the Cube every time.

My thought process is quite simple, which won’t surprise regular readers. As mentioned, the two cars cost about the same, provided we assume ego damage can’t be measured financially. Fuel economy is also the same, in part thanks to the Cube’s smooth, spry CVT. Whrrrrrrrrrrr. (Before you say anything, consider this: the warranty on Nissan’s CVTs was extended to 10 years or 150,000 miles. That means I will probably get at least two transmissions for free!)

So what distinguishes the Cube from its dull sedan rivals? For one: it’s more practical. Put the seats down and you can get whatever you want in the thing. Based on the smell, for instance, mine once hosted a competition to see how many dogs can fit inside a Nissan Cube.

But most importantly, the Cube is unique. If you’re like most car enthusiasts, you probably spend a lot of time complaining about a) speed cameras, and b) how boring you find cars like the Corolla. The Cube is the antidote: it is decidedly not boring and – for those of you who don’t like the CVT – yes, there was a three-pedal version.

Same fuel economy, same price, more practical, more unique. Sounds great!

Except, the simple reality is, it just doesn’t sound so great to most drivers, even if they say it does. One of the universal automotive truths I’ve discovered in the last few years is this: people talk about how they don’t want to be just like everyone else. People complain about how everyone else is just like everyone else. People say they’re going to be different from everyone else. And then people go out and by the same car as … everyone else.

In other words, the Cube is the car for those few drivers who actually want to break the mold set by everyone else. Maybe that’s why other Cube drivers wave: to celebrate the fact that we think differently from everyone else. In exactly the same way.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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3 of 105 comments
  • Mvoss Mvoss on Apr 05, 2013

    C'mon, Doug! There's a reason it's probably not driven very much. Just like other car guys, I see a car as a representation of your personality. When people see you driving a cube, they don't see you as the guy who roadtripped in the Lotus; they see you as the complete opposite. BUT, you do have a point. It IS better than a Corolla. The problem with the Corolla is not only is it incredibly boring, but it's also driven everywhere. Just like one of the guys said in a previous comment, a manual Hyundai Accent or something is infinitely better than either vehicle. If I were in the market for a box on wheels, though, I'd go with a Kia Soul over this thing.

  • Corntrollio Corntrollio on Apr 08, 2013

    Is there a reason Doug's latest post disappeared -- the "please build me a..." one?

  • Del My father bought GM cars in the 60's, but in 1971 he gave me a used Datsun (as they were called back then), and I'm now in my 70's and am happy to say that GM has been absent from my entire adult life. This article makes me gladder than ever.
  • TheEndlessEnigma That's right GM, just keep adding to that list of reasons why I will never buy your products. This, I think, becomes reason number 69, right after OnStar-Cannot-Be-Disabled-And-It-Comes-Standard-Whether-Or-Not-You-Want-It and Screw-You-American-Car-Buyer-We-Only-Make-Trucks-And-SUVs.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Does this not sound and feel like the dawn of ICE automobiles in the early 20th century, but at double or triple speed speed!!There were a bunch of independent car markers by the late 1910’s. By the mid 20’s, we were dropping down to 10 or 15 producers as Henry was slashing the price of the Model T. The Great Depression hit, and we are down to the big three and several independents. For EVs, Tesla bolted out of the gate, the small three are in a mad dash to keep up. Europe was caught flat footed due to the VW scandal. Lucid, Lordstown, & Rivian are scrambling to up production to generate cash. Now the EV leader has taken a page from the Model T and is slashing prices putting the rest of the EV market in a tail spin. Deja vu……
  • Michael Eck With those mods, I wonder if it's tuned...
  • Mike-NB2 I'm not a Jeep guy, but I really, really like the 1978 Jeep Cherokee 4xe concept.