Every vehicle on this Earth is built for a specific purpose; the Miata for auto cross; the Corvette for 1/4 mile track events, the Lincoln Town Car for use as a limousine. The Nissan Cube seems as though it was specifically designed for Best Buy’s Geek Squad or those looking to be a little ‘different’ than the rest of the crowd. The vehicle’s precise balance of practicality, catchiness and pricetag make it the ideal service car, or the perfect solution for boxy vehicle lovers. One thing is certain though, whether out of delight or disgust, the design of the 2009 Nissan Cube definitely turns heads.
The first generation of the Cube made its debut in 1998 and shared the same platform and engine as the Nissan Micra. It was the perfect city-car sold only in Japan until the third-generation. When Nissan planned the second-generation, they decided the Cube could fit in other markets only if they make it a bit larger and attractive. Come the third-generation, Nissan decided to unveil the 2009 Nissan Cube at the 2008 LA Auto Show and announced that the car will soon be available to the U.S. and Canadian markets. Well, here it is, the 2009 Nissan Cube and it sure is a funny looking thing.
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Reviewed: 2009 Nissan Cube:
The exterior design is extremely unique, making this car easily identifiable from a distance. Certainly, the styling is not for everyone’s tastes – people either absolutely adore the Cube or show complete utter disgust for it. Most of the questions we received, and we received a lot, had to do with the asymmetrical C-pillar (D-pillar on the opposite side). From what we could surmise, the asymmetrical design was a matter of structural support; it was needed to support the rear door mount which swings outwards instead of upwards.
Not only is the door mounted in a way to make the car aesthetically unappealing, but it also hinders practical functionality. At first glance, the rear door design seemed innovative and practical; especially the carefully mounted rear door hinges, considering the fact that they did not displace, the already tight, 11.4 cubic feet of cargo room. We soon discovered the flaw of the design, we were unable to take pictures of the crowd surrounding the car in Times Square simply because we were unable to open the trunk to access our equipment, as a car had parked behind us.
The finish on the Cube however, is excellent. All panels on the car were painted in even shades of the same color, which is a concern on even many higher end vehicles. The car also sports some nice exterior details such as the front fender side markers, and a stubby roof mounted antenna.
After only a brief inspection, it is evident that this car is an econo-box. The tops of the doors flex excessively, the fenders are too flexible for comfort, and the roof flexes about a half of an inch in the center with the doors shut. The seemingly small wheels exaggerate the car’s low stance; they are actually 16″, but appear no bigger than 14″ in diameter. As low as the car seems upon visual inspection, it is actually quite tall; perhaps excessively so. A 6-foot passenger could comfortably sit in the back seat with about 6″ to spare. Which brings us to the interior of the 2009 Cube.
The interior of the Cube is right inline with the styling of the exterior, as it also leaves much to be desired. Our tester, the 1.8SL, had power windows and locks, keyless-entry/keyless start, an excellent Rockford stereo with MP3/WMA playback, iPod and Bluetooth connection, and climate control. Nissan claims seating for 5, but the Cube can accommodate no more than 4 adults comfortably. The rear seat is a 60/40 split, reclining for a comfortable road experience, or folding flat to enhance cargo space. The rear bench also sits on a rail that enables it to slide back and forth, allocating more legroom or cargo room according to the needs of the driver.
A tilting steering wheel is always a nice feature, but on the Cube, it was necessary to keep the wheel in the uppermost position in order to see the dynamically backlit gauge cluster. The radio and voice activation controls on the steering wheel were definitely convenient, given the very spread out nature of the interior. The Cube also has some not so conventionally placed accessories, such as the driver side cup holder, which is mounted in front of the driver side AC vent (our Editor in Chief Omar Rana loved that future for some odd reason). Other random, gratuitous details we found were: slits in the front doors’ armrests for optional bungee cords to hold a receipt or letter; interchangeable knobs in various places to hold bags and a very small (can hold a carton of cigarettes) storage compartment in the C-pillar. The ceiling has a ripple-like design with the center dome light. The ripple theme is carried throughout the interior, also being found on the speakers and in the cup holders.
The interior is not without its flaws however. Despite the car’s roominess, the seats are pretty uncomfortable and offer little support, making it difficult to confidently refer to them as “˜buckets’. The lack of armrest in the front passenger seat is a major flaw, creating for an awkward feeling seat, especially on longer rides. The design of the rear armrest also leaves much to be desired, as it is practically useless in all but the rear most seat position. The sun-visors are enormous and too far from the driver, the driver may have issues reaching the visor as the steering wheel and seat-belt limit range of motion. The same goes for the passenger side visor, which is way too far from the driver to even begin to comprehend.
It was difficult to pick the worst attribute of the interior, but we came to the conclusion that it would have to be the poorly designed window surrounds. The windows appear to be oval on the outside, this is not the case from inside the car, and the sheet metal and rubber moldings in the corners of the windows are exposed to the passengers. Changing the shape of the door-cards or using a molding on the inside could have easily resolved this.
The Cube is also very loud inside, not only does it suffer from road and motor noise, but being a cube, the car has intense wind noise at higher speeds.
The car has a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 122hp and 127 lb-ft of torque, which allows for a very peppy drive for a vehicle of this size. While this car is no torque monster, weighing in at less than 2,900 lbs. certainly helps the car scurry along, and we found that the motor can be planted at 5,000 RPM during hard acceleration for maximum torque output. The braking is not exceptional but better than expected. Brake feel is on par as well. The ride is very comfortable for the class but taking turns, even at slow speeds, can be a bit frightening: the heavy glass, which there is a lot of, does nothing to aid body roll. Although the car is small and light with a small motor and a CVT, we got an average of just 26.1 MPG, a number we were not pleased with. EPA rater fuel-economy comes in at 28/30 mpg (city/highway).
The argument that the car is in the entry-level segment and you cannot expect luxuries or performance is a valid one. However, compared the rest of its recently broadening class, this interior is sub par and the styling questionable at best (depending on your taste). Only the performance is on point. This is not the worst choice in the segment, but it is certainly not the best. However, if a buyer finds the exterior and practicality of the 2009 Nissan Cube appealing the interior and performance will play little part in influencing their decision to purchase the car.
Our 2009 Nissan Cube 1.8 SL was priced at $16,790. A base 2009 Nissan Cube 1.8 starts at $13,990 and tops out at $19,370 for the Nissan Cube Krom.
Reviewed: 2009 Nissan Cube:
– By: Ari Klots
– All Photos Copyright ©2009 Omar Rana – egmCarTech.