All Eyes On The CubeEnlarge Photo
Total price as tested, with the $720 destination fee: $21,070. That's a lot of car for relatively little money, but how does it perform on the road?
The 1.8-liter provides a far amount of acceleration spunk, but there's a difference between "fast" and "peppy." The Cube falls into the latter category. It moves smartly in traffic, and it merges well enough on the highway, but don't expect it to win any stoplight shootouts.
The continuously-variable automatic transmission is a bit of letdown--it isn't nearly as smooth as it is in other Nissan products. It's loud, and it holds on to revolutions for a long time before "upshifting"--unless the driver backs off the gas to bring it into a higher "gear" or band.
Noise in general is a problem with the Cube. Plenty of wind/road/tire noise comes in, and music lovers will often find themselves cranking up the radio to hear their tunes, or raising their voices to chat with passengers.
The ride is predictably stiff--it has a short wheelbase, after all--although it never punishes. The steering feel is surprisingly sporty, and the Cube jumps into corners with a fair amount of aplomb, although the high center of gravity leads to a bit of body roll. That tall roof also makes the Cube highly susceptible to crosswinds.
Of course, tall roofs offer one major benefit: lots of headroom. Even with the tall, upright seating position, this 6-foot-1 test driver had plenty of clearance. Not to mention plenty of all-around visibility, thanks to the large windows.
The interior is a study in quirkiness. Some of the materials feel a bit down-market, but there are also some upscale bits as well. The switchgear is simple to use, and the seats are generally comfortable, even on longer hauls.
Rear-seat space is somewhat tight, and so is cargo space with the rear seatbacks upright. There's still enough room for some luggage, as this author found out while visiting family for Thanksgiving.
Fuel economy checked in at 28.9 mpg over 261 miles in one trip, and 38.0 mpg over a second trip of 62.2 miles. That averages out to 30.3 mpg over the two trips. Impressive.
The Cube doesn't feel as solidly put together or as upscale as the Soul, but it's more fun to drive than the utilitarian xB. As much as the Soul presents itself as the "new way to roll," the Cube is even quirkier. And it offers some fun handling characteristics, while also earning high mpg marks.
Nissan's Cube isn't for everyone, but it will appeal to a certain segment of the market--particularly those who find the xB too pedestrian and the Soul not quite weird enough.