By on December 11, 2017

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Nissan’s slow-selling, goofy-looking minivan debuted in the United States market for the 2009 model year and got axed just five years later. You can still buy a new Cube in Japan, but junkyards on this side of the Pacific are getting discarded Cubes in more-than-flukey quantities.

After seeing several in a Denver-area self-service yard last month, I decided to photograph one.

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
You’d think that a seven-year-old Japanese minivan that hasn’t been wrecked nor been the setting for a belt-sander homicide would be worth fixing no matter what mechanical ailment occurs, but— if we are to judge by three not-very-smashed Cubes in one yard— this must not be the case.

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The Cube’s power came from a 1.8-liter straight-four rated at 122 horsepower. In a car that weighs just a bit under one-and-a-half tons, that isn’t much by the standards of our current decade (yes, if you want to be a definition-crazed hair-splitter, the 2010s didn’t officially start until January 1, 2011). According to John Phillips back in 2010, the Cube’s engine “exhibits no noticeable power peak because there’s no noticeable power.”

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
So perhaps the Cube’s sluggishness is the primary reason its owners ditch their cars when a head gasket blows or a fender-bender scrapes up the paint.

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
My guess, though, is that most used-car-buying Americans can’t stand the asymmetrical design of this car, and all the Nissan reliability and useful interior space in the world can’t make them shell out real money for one of these things. If the sight of a Cube makes you angry, please explain why in the comments.

2010 Nissan Cube in Colorado Wrecking yard, brake drum - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Will rear drum brakes ever disappear from cars?


Just a year or two into the Great Recession, it seems unlikely that all the television ads in the world showing exquisitely trans-ethnic 25-year-olds preparing for a rich-folks urban party in a “Cube Mobile Device” could have induced real-world broke-ass 25-year-olds to get a new Cube instead of, say, a battered ’96 Tercel. (Yes, I get that this ad was aimed at 40-year-olds who wanted to feel like 25-year-olds.)

The New Young Pony Club tune is catchy, though.


As always, the Japanese-market ads for the same car are far superior.


Just the thing to take your pug out on the town.

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126 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2010 Nissan Cube...”


  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Actually would have gotten one of these for my daughter instead of the Soul, but only the barren “S” trim was available with a manual. Soul + simply ate this thing’s lunch in every way other than cargo space, which was hardly a deal breaker for a then-17 yea old.

    Hell the Soul has outlived them all… Cube, XB, Juke.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      What year is the manual Soul+? This exactly what I hope to find for my daughter

      • 0 avatar
        kvndoom

        2012. 2013 was the last year for the 2.0L 6MT combination. Got it January 2016, nearly 2 years of flawless service. I told her she can never sell it; if she ever gets anything else, I’m taking that car! :)

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I test drove a bare bones 6spd S back in 2011 when I was compact car shopping, what really put me off was the total inability to pair cruise control with a manual transmission. That, and the one I drove had really weird on-center steering feel. I helped someone buy a lightly used Soul of the same approximate year this past summer and it had that same overly heavy feeling steering. I believe it’s an electric powered system, maybe they hadn’t dialed in the feel yet (just like Koreans struggled with suspension tuning until very recently).

          • 0 avatar
            kvndoom

            The + trim had cruise with the manual. Well… some of them did. If you can dig up Jack’s review for the 2012 model, you’ll see the controversy. It was a listed feature, but Kia for some reason didn’t always bother putting a $30 part on the steering wheel. Some 2012’s did, some didn’t. I believe all the 2013 + models had cruise from the start though.

            That just triggered my memory, because the one I bought didn’t have it either. I bought the part myself off ebay and installed it. Took a couple hours (mostly cause I had never removed a steering wheel before) but it wasn’t a hard job. The cruise programming was all there, it just needed the buttons!

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            That’s very interesting. I remember poring over forum posts trying to figure out if the “+” got cruise or not, and I distinctly remember some PO’d people who ordered a manual + model assuming it had cruise (since the brochure said it did) only to find out it didn’t upon delivery of the vehicle. I can only assume they figured out your trick sooner or later. Just very bizarre all around.

  • avatar

    I’m glad that Nissan tried. Everyone hit a few foul balls.

  • avatar
    TheEndlessEnigma

    I was victimized by one of these as a rental in Chicago, 2011 model. This qualified as a dangerous at any speed 4 wheeled conveyance. Picture leaving O’Hare and *TRYING* to merge onto a Chicago highway in the rain with a 25 MPH cross wind hitting the panel van high center of gravity side of this beast. Not only could the engine not muster the hamster power to get up to highway speed with anything less than glacial urgency, the slab sides made for effortless unintended lane changes every time the gods decided I wasn’t in the lane they wanted me to be in.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      I’m guessing you never drove an old VW bus…

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      I really liked the looks of these, they had a Tokyo funky vibe that really did cause people to take another look (for better or for worse). On the other hand, the dedicated Red Bull can holder was just ridiculous age pandering, and the CVT absolutely terrible.

      Even with all of that factored it, it is amazing to me how quickly they are hitting the junkyards. Id agree with many posters that they are in the dumps because of costly post-warranty CVT failures. But if people have to let them go that quickly due to a transmission failure and lack of residual value, I have a strong suspicion that those people will never, ever shop a Nissan badge again.

      • 0 avatar

        Japanese soft drink cans are mostly the same diameter as Red Bull cans – Nissan didn’t solely have Millennial energy-drink dependency in mind.

      • 0 avatar
        Aron9000

        Thanks for the input Banger. Pretty much confirms what I’ve thought about Nissan since they were “bought out” by Renault around 2001 or so.

        Nissan makes absolute contemptible junk IMO. Not only are they unreliable, when they do break it costs a fortune.

        I feel bad for my brother in law, who had a 1999ish BMW 540i with low miles. It needed some sort of computer/electronic fix, I cannot remember what it was, but was around that $1000 range, car was running in a sort of “limp mode”.

        Anyways I recommended he sell it, as I’ve never heard of a reliable V8 BMW. His replacement was a 2008ish Nissan Frontier crew cab, V6, auto, 2wd SE model. Good looking truck, great shape, service records, had 80k miles on it.

        Hell it drove better than a new 2016 Tacoma, steering was tighter, less body roll, way more power from the V6, it actually felt fast.

        In the two years he owned it, the automatic transmission went out. This was due to Nissan putting in a low bid radiator that cooled both the engine and the transmission. As the years went by, the radiator failed, mixing coolant with automatic transmission fluid. There was a “recall” on this, but his truck was just outside the mileage window for a full free replacement, he had to eat half the cost which was like $2000.

        Then the cat converter went out, another $1000.

        Then the A/C quit, another $1000 which he didn’t get fixed

        Then the heat quit working, another $1000. At that point the truck was traded in on a new 2016 Tacoma.

        I kind of feel guilty about telling him to sell that old man’s 1999 BMW 540i with 100k miles that was pretty cherry. He owned that car outright, no payment. I’d imagine it would have cost him the same $3000 in repairs as that stupid Nissan Frontier, which also had a damn payment on it, since it was worth about $12,000 more than the BMW.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          I’ve driven a few lower mile 2-3 year old old body style Titan Pro-4Xs, both had inop A/C. The first one I figured was a fluke, but the second one makes me think Nissan trucks/SUVs might have a pattern failure with A/C. The internal trans cooler failure definitely sucks but it’s a well known issue now and I think most guys would just route the trans cooler lines out to an aftermarket external unit to prevent mixing. The same exact thing happens to 3rd gen Toyota 4Runners, granted at a much older age.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Same drive train from the first generation Versa hatch? With a more pricey body?

    In Japan Cube came available with a small electric motor in the rear axle. Extra help for a slippery start. The feature didn’t make it over here. Likely due to extra weight and urgent EPA mmileage claims of the day.

    Early retirement may be the cost of a replacement CVT but more likely lack of interest in funky styling.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      @ joss: agree about the CVT. First cube was a 5mt. Bad knee meant the wife needed an auto so traded the 2010 5mt for a 2013 with CVT. Holding.my breath since but no problems yet at 135kmiles. Drives well.

  • avatar
    Eggshen2013

    “If the sight of a Cube makes you angry, please explain why in the comments.”

    It makes me angry because it is so square.
    I am angry a lot as almost everything on the road today is a square.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    None of the above explains their surprising appearance in junkyards.

    Is it the CVTs junking them?

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      That would be my guess too – CVT replacement/fix too expensive

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Yes. That’s exactly what it is, I bet ‘cha.

      But a mechanical issue on a Japanese car? No way. That couldn’t possibly be it, so let’s grasp at straws saying it must be the lack of power or the weird styling. (Not that those are reasons for just simply not choosing to buy the damned thing in the first place, must be the reason sending a car to the junkyard.)

      The first xB was extremely gut-less and had love-it or hate-it styling. Is it showing up in the junkyard this quick? No, because it didn’t have a rubber-band transaxle that cost as much as its trade-in value to replace!

      If this was an American model with even the slightest hint of an unreliable component, Murilee would’ve had no issue going on about it for a couple of paragraphs as an explanation for its presence here. As its an Asian model, oh, it must be SOMETHING else, couldn’t possibly be that it broke down! That. Does. Not. Happen.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        John, as a fellow commenter with a soft spot for a different persecuted vehicular minority here, I understand the urge to overreact. But consider the possibility that Murilee simply hasn’t seen a bunch of Nissans yet with shredded CVTs and therefore simply isn’t as aware of the issue. He profiles a lot of older metal in this series and Nissan’s garbage CVT has only been out in force for a decade, with most failures probably occurring more recently and in vehicles worth a bit more than this Cube so they get repaired rather than scrapped.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Well I saw a Prius at the PRI show converted to RWD with an LS swap.

      But from a more practical standpoint, is there any conventional automatic from an earlier Nissan that could be swapped in for the CVT?

      • 0 avatar

        Probably yes. As mentioned above, a Cube is basically a Nissan Versa wearing the box it came in (I kid, I kid!)

        Cubes were generally a little better spec’d than Versas, or to look at it another way, you could get Versas with much less equipment than Cubes.

        Back to the transmission: In this generation, Versa base and S models got a conventional 4AT. In my sample size of one, it’s reliable out to the 180,000 km mark. (Automatic Versa SLs and Cubes got the CVT).

        Yes, you could probably swap the 4AT in, though that seems like a lot of effort to get a marginal reliability improvement out of a quirky small car. I’m surprised a 2010 Cube would be a write-off with a trans failure; either the CVT costs more than I’d expect, or the cars are more broken than it seems.

        I have a much more unusual reason for being angry at the Cube, which is that Nissan Canada did a cute promo for its release: “Hypercube”, a contest in which they gave away 50 Cubes (yes, really!)

        I was a finalist (500 nominees to win 50 cars) and the contest was a bit of a fiasco, as detailed here (Encyclopedia Dramatica is NSFW): https://encyclopediadramatica.rs/Hypercube

        Anyway, I didn’t win.

        That was the first of two times I was a finalist with a 1:10 chance of winning a new car…

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Someone must really hate on a car to junk it when it’s seven years old.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      More like it costs more than its worth to repair. People don’t usually send perfectly good, reliable cars that aren’t wrecked to the junkyard because they’ve grown tired of them. They sell them or trade them in. Some may even donate them as a tax write off.

      The only reason, aside from being crashed or stolen or burnt or having someone die a violent horrible death inside of it, to send a car to the junkyard is mechanical failure that isn’t worth fixing.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      Nissan’s low resale values probably doesn’t help anything when it comes to doing the cost/benefit analysis. Putting a $2000 repair into a car that’s worth $6000 is a bit of a losing battle.
      However, I’m curious just how cheap they’ve gotten. I smell a good time to be had with a cheapo rallycross car or a fun ride in a gambler 500.
      Edit: wow these things are cheap. Local craigslist has one for 100k miles, loaded for about $4500. One with a broken tranny is for about $3000.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I can almost guarantee that this was a CVT-failure-related junking. Could very well be a higher-mileage Lyft/Uber rig. My sister in law’s 2012 Rogue had sudden and total CVT failure on the highway last year, she has a long rural/highway commute and had racked up 186k miles on her Rogue. Cost of just the parts for a Nissan-reman’d CVT unit was $2200 IIRC, after a $800 core charge. My brother did all the labor, I forget what book time was but he said the replacement would be somewhere around $4k parts+labor at the dealership. $4k into a high mileage Nissan just doesn’t make too much economic sense. If it weren’t for my brother doing the labor, than Rogue would have gotten traded in/junked.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      My wife’s sister’s BF has a higher mileage (180k) ’09 Altima that he bought cheap from a shady guy on CL with previous accident damage that was shoddily repaired/repainted, that he’d been using to do some uber/Lyft driving with. I suggested very strongly he not buy the car, but apparently it’s been running just fine for him so far.

      This generation of Nissan CVT has a fundamental design flaw with an under-spec’d keyway that basically has to hold the full torque load of the engine. Over time you can see where the metal simply starts to wear away/deform and at some point it just totally fails and shreds the belt. I can only assume and hope that Nissan/Jatco has addressed this on newer CVTs of theirs, as I guarantee their engineers have seen hundreds of these torn down and have seen this failure pattern.

      EDIT: the Rogue mentioned above is a 2010MY, not 2012.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Gtem, did you tear down that failed CVT with your brother to see the damaged components, or is there a website that catalogues this? I’d love to see it.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          My brother has a teardown video on youtube, look around for Pine Hollow Auto Diagnostics CVT or something like that. The part with the failure analysis was behind a paywall initially ($.99) to recoup the core charge (he was afraid Nissan wouldn’t take it back if he had cracked the case open), but he did get the core refund so I think he may have already removed the paywall for that one, or else is planning to do so soon. On that note, you’d be amazed at the vitriol and incredible hate that spewed forth from some subscribers when this was the single time in his channel’s history that he had a non-free video, which he made sure to forewarn about and explained the justification for. But there you go, provide hours of free entertainment/education to people and they’re ready to eat you alive the moment you have a single video with a 99 cent charge (with a justified reason).

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Fantastic, I’ll check that out.

            BUT NOT FOR 99 CENTS!

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            Well that one made it to 186,000 miles. I’m not a fan of CVTs of any type, but if that life is typical, then probably not too bad.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            You gotta love the internets double standards

            Man goes to the trouble to rip apart a transmission, then asks for a dollar? NO

            Man plays free videogames, sells out to sponsors, begs for money daily, sure, have $100 each month!

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            indifan I’m kind of torn on how to look at it. 186k miles out of an automatic transmission in the historic sense is nothing to complain about, if we think back to the Ford AXODs, Ford/Mazda C4DE, late 90s Honda V6 autos, Ultradrive Chrysler vans, etc. But considering it was fairly easy highway driving, 186k and 7 years isn’t particularly impressive either. I’d expect any old traditional automatic to easily pull off that same feat and still be going strong. The other unpleasant aspect was the suddenness. Not much or any forewarning as far as excessive whining or weird behavior, the car just suddenly lost the connection between the engine and drive wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “If it weren’t for my brother doing the labor, than Rogue would have gotten traded in/junked.”

      Yes. Some cars are worth dumping 4 grand into, but FWD economy CUVs and sedans are not included in that category. The replacement transmission is expensive enough to abandon the vehicle at first sign of a problem, before it actually can become a mid-4 digit repair bill.

  • avatar
    JaredN

    This is not a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      Or is it? Today’s “minivans” – Pacifica, Sienna, Odyssey, etc. – are freaking huge, and better described simply as “vans”. In this scenario, the traditional “van” probably becomes a cargo van.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Yeah, there’s not a lot of “mini” in a lot of the 8 passenger “minivan” offerings on the market these days.

        • 0 avatar
          warrant242

          Where’s the line between minivan and CUV, then?
          Not arguing one way or the other – just wondering.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Sliding doors, mostly, and ground clearance (to an extent). I would have also said AWD, but there are some minivans that do have optional AWD.

            The other thing is that in the U.S., minivans only come in full-size (78″ wide), but CUVs come in 5 sizes. We used to have smaller-than-full-size minivans, but they’re mostly a footnote. Most buyers of minivans appreciate the space and versatility more than they dislike the MPG and driving dynamics.

            The term “minivan” is an artifact, when the first Chrysler vans were noticeably smaller than the full-size, RWD, V8-powered behemoths of the ’70s and early ’80s.

      • 0 avatar
        Carfan94

        @Truckducken

        Yeah 204″ long, and 80″(!) wide is NOT mini.

  • avatar
    JaredN

    This is not a minivan.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Definitely a CVT failure. I love these cars because they’re huge and comfortable inside, and I appreciate all the design quirks, but Nissan continues to birth their babies with cancerous time-bomb CVT transmissions.

    The chickens are coming home to roost.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Yep…the exact reason my best buddy scraped his Maxima versus attempting to fix it. The cost of the replacement transmission was just about what the vehicle was worth. Not a big fan of those CVTs.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Not my idea of an attractive design, but I like that Nissan tried something different. Now Lexus and Toyota, those make me angry…..

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    2010 is awfully young for a non-wrecked vehicle to be there. My guess is the CVT. If that went out of warranty the replacement cost could equal the value of the vehicle.

    It’s ugly but space efficient unique vehicles don’t anger me. The burning question is whether someone already swiped the optional dash-top shag carpet.

  • avatar
    Rasputin

    kvndoom explains it all. Junked Cubes were purchased as High School graduation presents for daughters – sons would have torched it on the spot. 4 – 6 years later, after a couple years in the workforce, the now adult daughters couldn’t wait to get out of these rolling embarrassments.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      Most people sell their cars when they don’t want them anymore. People like money!

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        But you don’t give the car to the wrecking yard, you sell it to them. So they end up here when they are the place to get the most money for them. The one local self serve yard I usually use often has cars that come in from the shady used car dealers, simply because they couldn’t sell them on their lots and they know it wont bring anything at the dealer auction.

        • 0 avatar
          KalapanaBlack7G

          It might be an oddball vehicle, but most junkyards only give $250-350 for a vehicle, and anything that runs even a little in the sub-10 year old range can be sold for more. This has to have been a catastrophic mechanical failure of some sort. Nobody would sell a running car for 1/10th its real world value. Even if they’re embarrassed by it.

          • 0 avatar
            Hydromatic

            Or it was totaled out by an insurance company for some reason (theft? flood? accident?) and the junkyard bought it to flesh out its inventory.

  • avatar
    jansob

    I love the fact that Nissan tried something as odd as the Cube. Here in Japan they seem to last, although the low power is not a problem, and Japanese driving is much less hard on those apparently fragile CVTs.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    “exquisitely trans-ethnic 25-year-olds preparing for a rich-folks urban party…”

    Murilee, as a great man once said back in 1874, your mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives. (I was going to quote Mr. Taggart’s response, but this is supposed to be a family-friendly site.)

  • avatar
    earthwateruser

    I owned a cube for about 5 years. It was a great, reliable little car (not a minivan). It had tremendous passenger space and was great in the city and surprisingly good on long road trips. The sofa soft front seats were quite nice and the “cubic hair” on the dash was a great place for sunglasses. My daughter loved it so I gave it to her as her first car. It was a perfect first car with awesome visibility. Sadly, she rear ended somebody about a year later and the cube was totaled. As the author alludes, it doesn’t take much to total a cube.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    I’m guessing these “new” Cubes were just over the wire for the Nissan extended CVT warranty. I had a customer whose Sentra CVT lunched at 9 years and 112k miles. Free CVT! The cutoff was 07/31/2010.

    nissanassist.com/ProgramDetails.php?menu=2

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    The hallucinogenic drugs that the Nissan designers used when they did the Juke were wearing off but not totally out of their systems when this thing was designed.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I’m pretty sure Nissan’s designers are still on drugs. Something milder though.

    • 0 avatar
      Trichobezoar

      “If it’s weird, it’s British; if it’s ugly, it’s French; if it’s weird and ugly, it’s Russian.”

      I believe the Cube and most of the other… interesting examples of design are a product of Nissan’s partnership with Peugeot.

      We simply don’t see any Peugeots or Citroens here in the US, so Nissan gets to be the ambassador and wins all of the ugliest car awards by proxy. It’s a whole different playing field for anyone who takes a trip to Eastern Europe, though!

    • 0 avatar
      KalapanaBlack7G

      This beat the Juke to development and market by several years. They are both Versa-based

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I’m sure it’s been said here before, but this series makes me miss mechanical odometers. I’d love to know the miles on this cube.

    As for little box car, I’m surprised how quickly this fad passed. The xB1 started the modern US incarnation of the little box car, continued by the Element, cube, and Soul (as kvndoom mentioned above).

    But only the Soul lives on, and it continues with strong sales. My guess as to why:
    xB1 (I had one; it was great): Buyers wanted more power, more sound deadening.
    xB2: Toyota provided more power & sound deadening, and consumers rejected it. 28 mpg highway is terrible.
    cube: Underpowered CVT with weird styling = fail.
    Element: SUV-like fuel consumption. 17/22 mpg, really?
    Soul: Just the right combination of power, utility, comfort, and price. And guess what – it’s FWD only. Oh, and don’t forget the hamsters. This is one case where I’d say car ads have actually worked.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      Yeah my short-lived xB2 was a gas hog. I rarely stomped the pedal (there’s no point with the 2.4L engine/automatic combo) and only got 17mpg on average. It still was noisy – not bad – but still loud enough on the highway that the stereo would get drowned out and you had to shout at any rear passengers to be heard.

  • avatar
    sco

    Agreed, the weird over-wrought styling of the Cube crossed it off my list without a second thought – and I’m an Xb1 owner so its not the boxyness. And as for the Xb1, its tempting to say that the consumer demands for more power and a quieter ride turned the Xb1 into a car that no one wanted to buy (the Xb2), but the Soul is exactly that – an Xb1 with more power and a quieter ride.

  • avatar
    porker

    Nissan; Reliability?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
    Surely you jest.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      Eh, my Altima that I’m about to put up for sale was made January 2007 and has about 165000 miles on it. Has served me without issue for 41 months and 43000 miles since I bought it.

      Granted it is a manual; their early CVT’s were some of the worst transmissions in history.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Feel free to laugh at the 250k+ mile mid 90s Maximas still roaching all around the US, or the beaten to death Hardbodies riding on bumpstops full of mangoes driving to market in Mexico and central America. I agree they were hit harder by cost cutting in the early-mid 2000s than perhaps any other Japanese auto maker and that coupled with the mass CVT roll-out did them no favors. But the older stuff is rock solid, if rust-prone.

      • 0 avatar
        KalapanaBlack7G

        But those Maximas and Hardbodies (I would add the Infiniti G20, a couple of generations of Q45, a couple of generations of Pathfinder, and the turn of the century Xterras, Altimas and Sentras to this list) are actual Nissans. They didn’t have rustproofing even close to right, but the mechanicals and electronics were very good. When Renault exerted its influence, and cost-cutting PhD Ghosn got involved, Nissan quality started its descent into a place Dante once wrote of.

  • avatar
    phila_DLJ

    As long as drums are cheaper, I doubt they’ll EVER totally disappear. Like hood prop rods.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Rear drums are still perfectly adequate for SOOOOOOOO many situations.

      Whenever I shell out for a 4-wheel disc brake job I sometimes get nostalgic for rear drums.

      • 0 avatar
        DougD

        +1 Rear drums are fine if you’re not road racing, collect less road grit, have non-goofy parking brake mechanisms and need servicing once during the life of the vehicle. All three of our cars have rear drums and work just fine. Front drums on the Beetle are a bit feeble though…

        Once again, manual transmission for the longevity win. I’ll bet none of those Cubes are a 3-pedal.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Agree 100%. They last forever, the parking brake is cheap and effective, and you just don’t need anything better on a low-powered FWD car. I fail to see any downsides of them in this sort of application.

  • avatar
    Marko

    Is that a Mercedes R-Class next to it? Talk about another car that the market hated! I remember a radio commercial for it that described it as a great car for grandparents.

    • 0 avatar
      Carfan94

      I think it is. They seemed to sell in decent(not huge)numbers in my upscale suburb. I wish he would’ve taken pictures of that too, It would have made an interesting junkyard find.

    • 0 avatar
      DownUnder2014

      It is indeed an R-Class!

      I wonder if it was salvaged in an accident, unless it’s had a major failure, that to fix, would outvalue the car itself…

      They sold rather badly here as well, and I rarely see them. I mean, I know of one (it’s a 2006 R500) in my area…and that’s about it.

  • avatar
    chopperjamie

    Finish making payments, throw it away.

  • avatar
    kcflyer

    This is the first time I have clicked on one of these articles. I like old cars but seeing them in the junkyard is just depressing, not interesting. Stuff like this though is very interesting. I would love a series like this which explored the reasons for a late model winding up scrapped other than for serious wreck damage. I have no issues purchasing a 10 year old car, so real world stories of problems serious enough to junk one would be most helpful.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I was disappointed to learn that the wraparound rear window on the Cube hid thick pillars just like in any ordinary car.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    The asymmetrical design doesn’t bother me but that front end is so ugly it broke the ugly stick that beat it.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    The bigger question is why they made it to a self serve wrecking yard, not why it ended up in a wrecking yard in general.

    The self serve lots around here just don’t deal in cars that new because they deal in cars that people bring in/sell directly to the yard and get them from the general salvage auctions where the wrecking yards that deal in late models are simply willing to pay more than the max a self serve yard is willing to pay.

    So that means that the wrecking yards that deal in late model vehicles to supply body and repair shops don’t want these. They want a car with good body parts for the body shops and engines and transmissions for the repair shops. So apparently these have proven unprofitable for the top tier wrecking yards. So they must be easy to total reducing the demand from body shops. That leaves the engine and trans as the profit centers. My bet it that the engine isn’t in high demand and if it has a bad CVT, the part they likely get calls for, they have no interest.

    So they aren’t paying more than the value of the metal, which puts them in the self serve yard’s price range.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Crabspirits would have had a field day on this one. I miss him.

  • avatar
    burnbomber

    Most definitely, CVT failure is driving these into early retirement. A friend of mine had an 09 which crapped out within a year. Auto transmission failure, which was a CVT. Fortunately he bought the extended warranty, so it was taken care of by extended warranty with only his co-pay out of pocket. Would have been big big $$ otherwise.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    7 years…. that’s worse than many unreliable POS sold.

    I test drove one 2 years ago when looking for a 4 door for my pregnant wife (ended up settling for a Prius v) along with used Scion xB. That “Made in Japan” has the interior light mounted to the fabric roof liner instead of the roof. I cannot imagine how the rest of the vehicle are corner cut….

    The Juke team (mainly the executives who OK on these quality tradeoff) should commit Seppuku for releasing something so disgraceful with the “Made in Japan” label …

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    They junked it because it is a miserable chitbox…that’s why

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    I just like how car writers (not Murilee, but the one quoted by him) can’t seem to grasp that their idea of “underpowered” has basically no relation at all to what the *market* thinks about power levels for this sort of car.

    Whatever killed the Cube (Styling? Being a Nissan? The CVT problems?), it wasn’t “too slow!!!!”.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I knew a guy that drove one of these. Somehow I can’t understand a guy being seen in one. I wouldn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      I’d definitely choose a Soul or XD over this if I had to get a toastermobile. Maybe it’s the asymmetry that bugs me.

      Side note, if you got a Cube in a RHD market, the rear window was asymmetrical the other way.

    • 0 avatar
      Banger

      I’m a man secure enough in his, uh, size, to be seen driving a cube.

      I don’t get the “chick car” crowd, who are convinced certain cars are for women and certain cars are for men. I recall an awful lot of folks saying the first couplea gens of the Miata were “chick cars” too, until they drove one.

      Which is not to say the cube handles anything like a Miata. Far from it. But it’s got a quirky, utilitarian charm all the same. It hauls my drum kit, or my two kids and a load of groceries from Aldi, pretty well — all while being easy to park and relatively cheap on gas.

    • 0 avatar
      scott25

      I’ve always loved Cubes. If I had unlimited funds I’d heavily modify one to oblivion, but I love anything Japanese. I used to own an xD, and I wouldn’t be caught dead in a half ton truck, and the fact any male would aspire to own any Jeep product is beyond me.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I don’t mind these. Useful cheap slow tinny boxes. Useful and cheap make up for tinny and slow.

    My wife, though… she gets angry when she sees them. More angry than she gets when I forget to buy one of the ingredients for the recipe she’s cooking. The asymmetrical styling violates her sense of everything that’s good, right, and proper about vehicles.

  • avatar
    scottcom36

    I hate the radiused-corner windows with the deep bevel surrounding it. I don’t want my 21st century car to have design cues from a 1950’s television set.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Wonder if it’s a flood car?

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I noticed that the rear pillar is always on the driver’s side (on the left in the subject car, on the right in the Japanese television ad). Good design.

  • avatar
    Banger

    I own two of these wonderful little boxcars, so I can speak about this with some authority.

    The likely reason for this car’s junk status is, as others have said, a CVT failure.

    Nissan CVTs of this era are particularly fragile. It behooves the owner to install an aftermarket auxiliary cooler to out-of-warranty examples. Also, you have to do transmission maintenance not just by the book, but more frequently than the book specifies. My owner maintenance handbook calls for a transmission flush every 60,000 miles. I do it every 30,000 as a precaution. Knock on wood, nearing 100,000 miles I haven’t had the first hiccup from my transmission here in relatively hilly Tennessee.

    My cube being a 2010, it thankfully is covered under the 10-year/120,000-mile extended transmission warranty. But my wife’s is a 2014 and is not covered. Some folks have told me there were minor changes in the transmission’s design after 2010, but I can find zero evidence to support that.

    And yes, the job to replace a busted CVT is about $3,000 to $4,000 depending on your shop’s labor rate. Typically, they don’t rebuild these. They replace.

    The other thing that takes out cubes prematurely — and this may surprise some — is piston slap. (All rights reserved to our beloved Sajeev.)

    The Nissan MR family of engines is kind of famous for this. Do a search for “Nissan Versa piston slap” and read owners’ tales of knocking engines, particularly when cold. The cube’s MR18DE — also found in the first-gen Versa Hatchback — was particularly famous for this. I had always thought my engine had a pronounced tick, especially when cold, but I did not read about this problem until recently. Word from folks who have had short blocks replaced (some under warranty) is that the #3 cylinder is usually the culprit.

    The solution to the piston slap is to let it die a slow, agonizing death and then replace with an MR20DE out of a similar-age Sentra. It’s a plug-and-play upgrade — you can even keep the cube’s stock ECM. Most sources say the MR20DE was more reliable and less-prone to the piston slap problem that plagued the MR18DE. Bonus for those who do the engine replacement is a slight bump in power that comes with the 200cc extra displacement. The block is physically the same size and uses the same motor mount locations.

    So I’m going to inspect my spark plugs closely when they come due for replacement in about 6,000 miles (Nissan specs a 105,000-mile replacement interval on the stock plugs) and if I have any signs of serious combustion problems on one of the cylinders, then I have a decision to make: Either dump my 2010 cube while it still runs reasonably well and isn’t burning any appreciable oil between service intervals, or start saving for an MR20 swap.

    I would try the MRA8, which is the current-gen Sentra’s stock engine, but I’m not completely sure it’s a direct swap like the MR20. Nobody has done it yet, that I can find, and I don’t want to be the guinea pig when we’re talking a couple thousand bucks in engine and labor.

    Anyway, if I have that problem and I spend the money to do the engine swap, then I *still* get to worry about the CVT lunching itself at any given moment. So as much as I love the cube, most signs are pointing to “sell” by the time it’s 10 years old.

    By the way, other maintenance on the MR drivetrains tends to be pricey, too. My timing cover has a slow oil leak. Nissan wants $1,800 to replace it, because it requires replacing the valve cover gasket and the front main seal, according to the service tech. Spark plugs require removal of the intake manifold, transforming what should be a one-hour job into a four-hour job. There are multiple reports of ECM failure online for these engines — which is nearly as expensive as a CVT failure, I’m told.

    I’m just lucky that between reviewing cars part of the year and having a short drive to the office, my annual mileage accumulation is about 6,000 to 8,000. If I were putting on 15,000 miles a year and depending on this car every single day, I’d already be leaning toward “sell” after seven years.

    I hate the thought of getting rid of it. It’s been a phenomenal, weird little car that brought both of my sons home from the hospital and ferried us to many great memories. It has brought us a lot of joy, inasmuch as a car can bring joy into our lives. But I can’t justify throwing that kind of engine or transmission money at it. I’d rather get something else and take a small monthly car payment than live with the uncertainty of a drivetrain that may choose to cost me thousands any given day.

    Perish the thought: I have an irrational love for Fiat 500s.

    Send help.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I love to read these thorough responses from long term owners, I feel like TTAC is particularly good at drawing these sorts of comments out from the ether.

      Thanks for the rundown Banger! I never would have thought an engine swap could be such a plug and play affair on a modern vehicle.

      For what it’s worth, on that Rogue I talked about above, the CVT fluid had never been changed, but closely monitored by my brother using the CVT’s computer that tracks fluid “life” as well as a visual inspection of the fluid occasionally. It still read 30% life when the CVT failed, in a way that the freshest of fluid could have done little to prevent (IMO)

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Great writeup, very informative.

      Dear god, a cheap subcompact should not be having these kinds of expensive issues in this day and age. Nissan is sucker punching owners here. People shopping in this price category out of necessity are not well positioned to have their car reduced to scrap value in only seven years.

      As you noted, I wouldn’t bank on the post-2010 CVTs being substantively improved. I have the cynical suspicion Nissan stopped offering their extended powertrain warranty after 2010 because it became too expensive rather than because they fixed the issue. My 2012 Altima was hinting at the famous transmission whine out of warranty at 85K, and this was with 40K fluid changes. I liked that car otherwise and would defend it, but now I’m pretty well soured on the brand. Their CVTs seem to be a nearly universal weak point, and that is all they offer.

      Good luck! I hope yours soldier on.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        gtem:

        I have heard that same description from many owners of failed CVTs. For this reason, when it comes to CVT fluid life, I don’t trust Nissan’s “CONSULT II” or whatever they call their diagnostic computer these days at dealerships.

        30-mile fetch:

        The scenario you describe is exactly my scenario. We bought the cubes because they were the right size and fuel economy at a price we could afford. We assumed we were making the right move, financially, by finally buying a couple of new cars after we had several used cars that each required correction of previous owners’ problems and issues.

        I know it’s probably a bad, bad idea — maybe out of the frying pan and into the fire here — but I have given serious weight to the idea of trading the cube for a basic Fiat 500 or 500X. The little 500 is my favorite, even though it’s probably too small to actually fit my family as the boys grow up. At least I’d know it would be cheap to buy and relatively easy to pay off. The 500X is more practical in size, but more thirsty than the cube by a little bit. Also, finding my preferred 1.4T/manual transmission in the 500X is a challenge.

        For the same money, though, I could probably buy a VW Jetta 1.4T with a stick-shift (again, maybe a poor idea given their reliability record) or if I wanted to give Nissan one more chance, I could get into a Sentra or Versa Note cheaply. But those all bore me a little, to be honest.

        So help me, I love cars that are a little (or a lot) weird. I can’t make myself drive something like a Corolla. The Jetta, while not exactly common in my neck of the woods, is pretty boring to look at — a standard three-box sedan like millions of others. I’d rather have a Beetle if I could buy it with the 1.4 and a stick. Instead they stick the thirsty 2.0 in the newest Beetles, and they all have automatics. At least they have character, though.

        From a practicality standpoint, the Subaru Forester is one car I really like. Big, boxy, large windows — it’s got the right elements. But it’s about 10 mpg inferior to the cube in my experience. My cube averages about 32-36 mpg. The last Forester I reviewed got about 24 in mixed driving.

        I’d rather be moving the other way, toward more fuel efficiency. Hybrids bore me to tears, however, and they cost more than I’m willing to spend. I tend to shop the sub-$20K end of the lot. That’s where small, cheap, fuel-efficient cars like the Fiat 500 lure me in. Doesn’t hurt that they’re fun to drive and look at.

        Anyway, I have time to think about my choices. We still owe a little bit on my wife’s 2014 cube. It needs to be paid off before we can seriously consider dumping the 2010. Hopefully we could then pay off whatever I buy and get a nice cushion prepared so we can dump her cube if it starts to show signs of trouble as it ages.

        She loves that car so much, though. She says she doesn’t think there will ever be another car she loves as much as the cube. She drove the 2010 for five years until we had baby #2, then we bought her the newer one and I took over the older one because two kids wouldn’t fit in my Ford Ranger.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          That’s tough. Cars with real character in both form and drive are rare. Seems to me like you’re doing it right: find something you really like even if it’s a bit risky. Some things are worth it and reliability only goes so far if you the car bores you.

          What are your thoughts on a manual transmission Fit? A bit quirky, very fuel efficient, lots o’room, and they can come in bright yellow, orange, red, and blue.

          • 0 avatar
            Banger

            I have considered a stick-shift Fit. I put the automatic Fit on my shopping list both times we bought cubes. But based on a poor experience we had with the local Honda dealer many moons ago, my wife wouldn’t even get out of the car to look at one at that dealer.

            It has a lot of the same elements we loved about the cube, though: great visibility for the driver, good interior practicality for hauling the kids and groceries, easy to park, fuel efficient, etc. The price is just about right, though Honda is a tougher marque when in comes to scoring a discount than Nissan or Fiat.

            I also like Jeep Renegade in 1.4T guise. Basically I kinda have a crush on that little Fiat turbo mill. It’s rorty and fun and reasonably efficient. Thing is, Renegades are becoming super common around here. Also, app but the most stripped Sport 4×2 models are usually above my $20k cutoff.

            Ditto that story for VW Beetle and Golf.

            You’re right, though. Life’s too short to drive boring cars. We knew about the CVT issues when we bought our cubes, but decided to roll the dice and have been rewarded with a funky, fun, and surprisingly practical pair of cute little boxcars for the last few years. Many great memories.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Good info there.

      Have you tried just snugging up the bolts on that timing cover?

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    A 2010 in the yard thats there not because it was wrecked but due to mechanical issues.

    I’m surprised there have not been any 2007-10 Calibers/Compass yet in the Junkyard Find. The CVT and “World engine” have to burn out prematurely sometime.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “I’m surprised there have not been any 2007-10 Calibers/Compass yet in the Junkyard Find. The CVT and “World engine” have to burn out prematurely sometime.”

      I’m sure they’re in there, and in good numbers, Murilee just hasn’t bothered to document them so far. But I agree with others in the thread that have expressed in seeing what sort of newer vehicles end up in the junkyard in not-obviously-crashed condition.

      As to the Caliber/Compass, that “World engine” might actually be the most reliable and longest lasting part of those cars.

    • 0 avatar
      ahintofpepperjack

      For some reason the CVT seems to be more reliable in the Caliber/Compass/Patriot. Maybe better cooling? Or do Jeep owners actually perform scheduled maintenance, unlike Nissan owners? There are several on the forums with over 200k. I actually hear of more failures of the 5 speed manual offered in those vehicles (usually input bearing).

      Also, the world engine, although somewhat agricultural, is strong and reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        Banger

        Probably better cooling efficiency in the ChryCo vehicles that had this trans. I read a piece on NICOClub by a trans guy who said Nissan’s problem is they run the trans cooling stack in the radiator, and the average Nissan engine runs about 20 degrees hotter (195F) than optimal CVT operating temp (175). If the Jeeps and Calibers run a cooler thermostat, maybe that’s it.

        FWIW, one owner on Nissan Cube Owners Club on Facebook recently reported she got 185,000 miles out of her stock CVT before it finally grenaded without much warning. Holding out hope our CVTs are as long-lived as that.

  • avatar
    davew833

    This was an IAAI salvage auction car as evidenced by the lot #19853341 on the back window and the sale tag on the windshield. It was salvaged for hail damage which is evident in the shattered windshield and some pockmarks visible on the hood in the above pics, it ran & drove, and had 72k miles according to the auction site.

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