Photos courtesy of Nissan North America
In 2004, the Scion xB (or the Toyota bB as it is originally known as in Japan) set a new trend in the automotive marketplace with its quirky design, affordable pricing and a marketing push that specifically targeted younger, first time buyers. Indeed, the first few xB’s that roamed the streets often solicited a universal response: “What the heck is that?” The first generation xB drew quite a crowd, young AND old, to dealerships across the country to take a closer look and, more often than not, take home the Kleenex box on wheels.
Fast forward to the present. The xB has morphed into something much less than its original self, losing that design “edge” and the fuel efficiency of the 1.5L engine, however anemic the power delivery may have been. And with these changes, the obligatory price of entry has gone up as well. The xB was no longer innovative nor affordable, distancing itself from the very qualities that made it so appealing to so many.
Thankfully, a new generation of the Kleenex box is hitting American car dealers and bringing back “the funk” in a major way.
The Nissan cube (yes, it’s lower case). Striking. Striking in a funky kind of way. The overall design is very organic in form, with no hard angles or solid corners to be found – which is rather the opposite of its namesake. The rear window wraps around to the passenger side, creating an asymmetric visual effect. The front driver and passenger window openings look more like portholes, as if you are looking through openings on a small submarine. The front fascia with its prominent headlights and low rear bumper treatment create an instant reminder of something… although that “something” isn’t apparent at first. Personally speaking, the word “octopus” comes to mind.
- Step inside and the organic theme continues – everything is characterized by soft lines and rounded corners.
- Unlike a commercial duty truck that is full of hard surfaces and sharp edges, the cube’s interior is inviting, a place where you COULD spend hours on end during a road trip; the seats, although lacking any significant side bolstering, are supportive and comfortable, and wrapped in good quality fabric.
- Look above and the headliner has a ripple effect, the dome light positioned as the centerpoint. The same treatment is found on the audio speakers and, to a lesser extent, on the HVAC controls, tying everything together.
- Our evaluation cube came equipped with a bevy of audio options – XM satellite radio, iPOD / USB connectivity, CD changer, AM / FM radio. The optional Rockford Fosgate sound system delivered decent bass with clean mids and highs
- The cube is also offered in the top-of-the-line “Krom” trim level, with a special front fascia treatment, unique design wheels and a host of other unique equipment – was this trim level name inspired by the character Crom in the movie Tron? Or perhaps by Conan the Barbarian’s god, Crom?
- There is sufficient room to comfortably seat 4 adults; even with yours truly at the wheel, with the driver’s seat slid all the way back, there was plenty of leg room available in the rear
- Storage space in the main compartment is everywhere and optional bungee cords, that allow you to literally hang things on the door handles, are available as an option
- With the windshield having little rake, it feels as if the front end is miles away when sitting in the front and takes a bit of getting used to
- There is a bit of liftover required to load items into the trunk, with cargo space seemingly at a premium – sure, you can fold down the rear seats to create more space, but if the cube is already loaded with passengers, you’d better pack lightly
If you’re expecting GT-R-like performance, look elsewhere. More than a handful of other reviews on this car speak of the cube’s lack of power under the hood. But really, is that even a relevant comment to make? Is the cube buyer looking for sub-4 second 0-60 times? 12-second quarter mile times?
The Nissan cube is intended as a stylish people hauler with a low cost of entry. The 122-hp 4-cylinder is certainly peppy and permits quick getaways from stoplights. Surely, it’s no VQ38DETT found in the GT-R, but power delivery is smooth and linear. The continually variable transmission does a great job of delivering what power the Cube does brings to the table and makes the little wagon feel quite a bit more crisp and powerful than it really is. And when things do get a little dicey, it’s good to know that traction and stability control come as standard equipment on this Nissan.
Handling is definitely aided by the placement of all four wheels at the farthest points of each corner possible. This creates an ideal weight distribution over each wheel, creating handling characteristics that belie the tall design of the Cube. For those aftermarket-inclined, they may opt to upgrade the stock 16-inch wheels and 195-width tires, but the stock set up is more than sufficient for the most of us.
Braking was steady and consistent. Initial bite, even when cold, was good and predictable. Even though the Cube is equipped with drums in the rear, you would never know it unless you took a peek under the wheels.
In terms of fuel efficiency, the cube generated an average of 27.5 miles per gallon based on a 60/40, city to highway split. That’s excellent gas mileage from a vehicle that can transport 4 adults quite comfortably.
New car sales have been flat over the last twelve months due to the economy sinking like the Titanic and people opting to keep their cars longer. As a matter of fact, the ratio of used car sales to new car sales went from 3:1 in 2008 to 5:1 in 2009, according to RL Polk.
Newer model cars just aren’t that exciting any more. Same, mundane designs across the board, uninspiring performance and rising sticker prices plague offerings from many manufacturers. With that being said, it’s good to see Nissan take the leap and bring this quirky, fun car to US shores. It’s certainly worth a look for new car buyers looking for a car with personality, good performance and value for money. We’re betting that the Cube will give Toyota’s Scion offering a run for its money.
Nissan North America
P.O. Box 685003
Franklin TN 37068-5003