2009 Nissan cube 1.8SPosted on August 25th, 2009
Does Nissan’s funky box fill the squares for active lifestyles?
By Nina Russin
The box-shaped crossover is to the new millennium what microbuses were to the 1960s. What made the microbus so popular, aside from its anti-establishment image, was its functionality. It was cheap, inexpensive to operate, and it held a lot of stuff: enough to function as a home away from home. The question is whether or not the new Nissan cube can do the same.
The cube’s exterior design is simpatico with the Scion xB and Kia Soul. All three fly in the face of mainstream aerodynamic design, giving them a certain cache. Nissan’s model designation as a common rather than proper noun is a nod to text messaging: devoid of punctuation. Nissan’s marketing strategy focuses on non-traditional media as well, with a “mobile hub,” accessible via a “text to” number, and a unique iPhone application.
Entertaining though they may be, these communications strategies aren’t enough to drive value-conscious customers into the showroom. But the cube’s base price of $13,990 is a good start.
An ALV super value
Base price on the test car is $14,690, putting it within our ALV super value category. The S is one of four available grades, the others being the base model, upscale SL and Krom. Standard safety features on the S include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and electronic stability control.
Power comes from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission. Buyers can opt for a continuously-variable automatic transmission in place of the manual, but considering the engine’s dearth of horsepower, I’d recommend against it. The manual gearbox has a very light clutch pedal, minimizing its inconvenience in stop-and-go-traffic.
The cube’s independent front and torsion beam rear suspension give it surprisingly good performance. The car handles better on the highway than one would expect, considering its standard fifteen-inch wheels. The manual transmission gives the cube competent acceleration. It won’t win any street races, but the cube can easily keep up with the speed of traffic.
Front and rear stabilizer bars minimize rolling in the corners. On center response isn’t exceptional, but at no point does the driver feel disconnected from the wheels. The electric rack-and-pinion steering system provides plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuvering around a parking lot. The cube’s small wheelbase gives it a favorable turning radius: 33.4 feet.
While the rounded-off windows make me feel as if I’m driving a fishbowl, I have to admit that visibility is pretty good all the way around the car. I have no problems seeing cars in the adjacent lanes on the freeway. Over-the-shoulder visibility is good, making it easy to weave through traffic.
The shag dash topper that comes as part of the interior designer package is positioned right in the driver’s line of vision. I am guessing that the design team members are too young to remember why people originally put shag carpeting on the dashboard: it was the cheapest way to cover up cracked vinyl. Shag is also an effective way to absorb water from a leaking windshield, but only if it covers the entire dashboard, as opposed to a ‘soul patch’ in the middle.
The front-wheel drive cube comes with disc brakes in front and drums in the back. It’s a cost-saving measure that engineers feel comfortable with, since most of the braking on transaxle cars takes place up front. I don’t like drum brakes because they retain water and they’re hard to service. This is another reason to opt for the manual transmission: engine braking reduces wear on brake pads and shoes.
Roomy passenger cabin
Inside, the Nissan cube is better suited to moving people than it is hauling gear. The second-row seating area is remarkably spacious, considering the cube’s small footprint. Three adults can sit in back comfortably, thanks to the car’s high roof and lack of a floor tunnel. By moving the wheels to the corners of the car, engineers made access and egress to the back seats better than average.
Standard cloth upholstery is attractive and practical. I found all of the seats comfortable. The driver’s and front passenger seats have enough lower lumbar support for trips several hours long. Although the cube lacks a center console bin, it has an oversized glovebox with an interior shelf. There are plenty of open bins for stashing cell phones, PDAs and iPods.
Both rows of passengers have access to plenty of cup and bottle holders. A 12-volt outlet up front recharges portable electronic devices.
Second-row seats fold flat by pulling on a loop at the back of the seat bottoms. With the seats folded flat, the cube meets our bicycle friendly standards. However, the fact that the folded seatbacks are slightly higher than the cargo floor makes it harder to load in gear.
On the plus side, the back door is hinged at the side, and the cube has a low lift-over height, making it easier for small drivers to access the cargo area. A standard cargo area lamp illuminates the back of the car at night.
An option package on the test car adds 20-color interior accent lighting and illuminated kick plates ($490). A rear cargo organizer ($180) makes the most of the storage area behind the rear seats.
A good choice for value-conscious urbanites
The fuel-efficient Nissan cube is a good option for city dwellers that need a fuel-efficient car for commuting. The pint-sized cube fits easily into the average parallel parking space, but has enough room inside to hold an average family or group of friends.
Its small cargo area makes the Nissan cube less functional for endurance athletes who need to haul large gear around on a regular basis. The car’s small wheels and lack of ground clearance also limit its performance on unimproved or snow-covered roads. Sixteen-inch wheels are an option: an upgrade worth considering for buyers living in four-season climates.
I would recommend that first-time car buyers, especially young drivers, put the Nissan cube on their consideration lists. Compared to other cars in its price range, the Nissan cube has a high level of standard safety features: electronic stability control and side curtain airbags among them.
Standard convenience features including keyless entry, cruise control, air conditioning, power windows and door locks add to the cube’s overall value. Buyers can add satellite radio, iPod and Bluetooth interface to the standard AM/FM/CD audio system.
The 2009 cube is on display at Nissan dealerships nationwide.
Likes: An affordable, fuel efficient crossover vehicle with room for five adults, and a configurable interior. Standard safety features include vehicle stability and traction control, side curtain airbags and antilock brakes.
Dislikes: Small cargo area with the second-row seats in place. The second-row seatbacks, when folded flat, do not line up with the cargo floor. Small wheels limit performance in deep snow and on unimproved roads.
Model: cube 1.8S
Base price: $14,490
As tested: $16,310
Horsepower: 122 Hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 127 lbs.-ft. @ 4800 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 24/29 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $720 delivery charge.
2 responses to “2009 Nissan cube 1.8S”
Could the developer of this blog contact me a.s.a.p – I may be able to help you out.
Bobby July 8th, 2011 at 20:33
I’m looking to purchase a CUBE this fall. I live in a 4-climate season, so I may check out the 16-inch tire option. I like the option of the inside lighting. Also, the way the window wraps around in the right-rear side of the vehicle is what first drew my attention to the CUBE.
Leave a reply