The Nissan Cube is part of a new generation of boxy small cars that can also be viewed as small crossover SUVs. The Cube sports a square, whimsical body design that houses a large, practical cabin. Small and light, the Cube is easy to maneuver, fun to drive and fuel efficient, with an EPA rating of 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, and it can be deleted for van-like cargo space. Nissan markets its cube in fashionable lower case, like iPhone and smart fortwo.
The Cube was new to the U.S. for 2009, 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 Nissan 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 6-speed manual transmission or the Nissan-built Xtronic continuously variable transmission, or CVT.
We found the Cube to be 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 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 designing 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 bit of whimsy, as much as any other, gives the Cube its unique appearance.
The 2011 Nissan Cube gets only minor changes, mostly to equipment in packages. A new SD-card based navigation system with a five-inch color touchscreen is available with XM NavTraffic and a USB port.