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October 21, 2009 > Auto Review: Nissan Cube

Auto Review: Nissan Cube

And now for something that looks a little different (drum roll please)... the Cube from Nissan. The Cube is a vehicle that stands out in a crowd because of the way it looks. This also means that you either like its shape or you don't, there is not much middle ground here. I didn't like the styling of our Cube SL to start with, but then I grew to like it over the test period. What do you think of it?

The Cube has been sold in Japan for about 10 years and this one is the brand new, third generation. All four Cube models now being sold in the USA share the same mechanical package (with one exception). A four-cylinder engine of 1.8-liters drives the front wheels. At 122 HP, the engine is not highly stressed and provides reasonable acceleration and power. The base Cube gets a six-speed manual transmission. Other models (like our SL) are fitted with an electronic Continuously Variable Transmission or CVT. This is effectively an automatic with no "gears" so that there is no up shifting or down shifting. The net effect is very smooth acceleration and better gas mileage.

Cube has a great interior that is easy to live with. The dash is laid out well and the display is clear and easy to use. Outward vision is good and it has great mirrors. It is easy to get into and out of the Cube. Many times, in a vehicle of this size, the rear seats are very cramped. However, the Cube's rear seats are comfortable for two adults to use, however, three large people would be quite cramped back there.

For an additional $490 you can add interior "mood lighting" that lights up the floor and cup holders in one of 20 different colors. Or you can set it to cycle through all the colors. A really unusual interior feature was the "Shag Dash Topper," a dinner plate sized shag carpet remnant velcroed to the top of the dash. I couldn't figure out what it was for, but it did cause reflections in the windshield that make you think it is very dirty. Another unusual interior item was the bungee cord wrapped around the front door handles. It must be to hold notes or other small items.

Cubes have a good array of safety features. Six air bags are standard. All models have an electronic vehicle stability system and active head restraints in the front. Also included are ABS brakes and a tire pressure monitoring system. Their EPA testing produced 28 mpg in the city cycle and 30 in the highway test.

The base model starts at $13,990. Moving up to the "S" ($14,690) adds cruise control, overhead interior lights, two more speakers and other items. The SL is next for $16,970 with the CVT, IPod connector, and automatic temperature control. The top-of-the-line Cube Krom gets different front end styling and outside trim items. It also has a Rockford Fosgate sound system, special Krom wheels, and nicer interior fittings.

The Cube is very maneuverable in all driving situations and also has a tight turning circle that eases parking. It had a smooth ride but the handling was just OK in that it leaned when you pushed in the turns. It will be a strong competitor in its class.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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