The Nissan Cube is a small crossover SUV sporting a boxy, whimsical body design housing a practical cabin. Small on the outside, it's easy to maneuver, easy to park, and it's EPA-rated at 31 miles per gallon Highway. Yet it's big on the inside. It seats five people, with miles of headroom and acres of cargo space.
Nissan refers to the Cube as a mobile hub, instead of a car, because it is meant as an affordable, moveable gathering place for young people, their friends, and their music. Its back seat reclines for comfort or can be deleted for van-like cargo space. Nissan markets its cube in fashionable lower case, like iPhone and smart fortwo.
Cube was new to the U.S. for 2009. For 2010, Nissan Cube changes are oriented around the information and entertainment systems. Bluetooth and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls are now standard on all but the base model; as is a six-speaker stereo with iPod interface, MP3/CD-ROM capability, Radio Data System (RDS), and speed-sensitive volume control. For 2010, the Cube SL with the Preferred Package and the top-level Cube Krom (pronounced chrome) add a 4.3-inch color audio display with USB connectivity and a rearview monitor, along with Intelligent Key and push-button starting.
The Cube may be a newcomer to the U.S. market, but it has been on sale for a decade in Japan, and the version sold here is actually the third generation of the product. The Cube predates the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Scion xB, Kia Soul, Toyota Yaris, and Honda Fit, all of which Nissan counts as the Cube's direct competitors. The Cube is built on the same Nissan B platform as the Versa, a roomy subcompact that also competes with those cars.
The Nissan Cube is powered by a 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine, the same engine that powers the Nissan Versa in this market. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or the Nissan-built Xtronic continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
We found the Cube perky in the big city and able to keep up with the traffic on the highway. Easy to park, it can make a U-turn in the tiniest of spaces. It made us smile, it's cute, it holds a lot of people and cargo, it's zippy, and it can be easily customized with accessories.
The Cube is the latest addition to an increasingly crowded segment of cute little cars aimed at younger drivers, but it can certainly be appreciated by older drivers who need a second car as a runabout or weekender, or those in between who are looking to downsize their car payment and fuel bills.
Nissan says its designers had in mind a bulldog wearing sunglasses when they were working on the Cube. This might explain the concave, rounded corners on each of the four side windows, with shorter windows in the front doors and longer windows in the rear. Even more odd (literally) is the Cube's odd number of visible roof pillars: a fairly conventional three on the left side but only two on the right, with the third pillar on right side covered by dark glass. This feature, as much as any other, gives the Cube its unique appearance.
The 2010 Nissan Cube is offered in a choice of four models, with two transmissions available: The base Cube ($13,990) comes only with a six-speed manual. Cube S is offered with the manual ($15,030) or a CVT automatic ($16,030). Cube SL ($17,130) and Cube Krom Edition ($20,120) come with the automatic only.
The base Cube is pretty basic. It comes standard with cloth upholstery; manual air conditioning; tilt steering wheel; six-way adjustable driver's seat; 60/40 split reclining rear bench seat; power windows, power mirrors and locks; a two-speaker AM/FM/CD sound system; rear privacy glass; and P195/60HR15 tires on steel wheels.
The Cube S adds niceties and conveniences: a more deluxe fabric interior; body-colored outside mirrors; cruise control; driver's center armrest; vanity mirrors; map pocket; and a cover, lights, and tie-downs for the cargo area, among other features. New for 2010 is a six-speaker stereo featuring an iPod interface, MP3/WMA/CD-ROM capability, Radio Data System (RDS) and speed-sensitive volume control; as well as Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
The Cube SL adds automatic climate control, auto on/off headlights, fog lights, and P195/55VR16 tires on 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Optional on the SL is the Preferred Package ($1,600) which adds a seven-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system with a new-for-2010 4.3-inch color display screen and rearview monitor, USB interface, XM Satellite Radio; and Intelligent Key with push-button starting.
The Cube Krom Edition is distinguished by an integrated body kit that includes unique front and rear fascias and trim, as well as extended side sills and a roof spoiler. Tires are the same size as on SL, but Krom's wheels have a unique look as well. The interior gets an equally individual two-tone treatment with black and gray fabric, aluminum pedals, a titanium-look shifter and 20-color accent lighting. Most of the super-zoot stereo from the SL Preferred Package is standard on Krom, as is Intelligent Key with push-button start.
Commercial buyers can delete the rear seat and other equipment from the base model ($3,200), creating a Cube cargo van; and that's about it for factory options. But more than 40 dealer-installed accessories are available, ranging from such mundane items as splash guards ($150) and a cargo organizer ($180) to an aero kit ($1,180) and the Krom's 20-color interior lighting ($290). There's even the Ginormous Package ($2,550), which combines a long list of popular interior and exterior accents.
Safety equipment standard on all models includes front, side and curtain air bags, active front head restraints, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist, traction control, and stability control.