KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
It is a good time to be an entry-level car buyer. At one time saving money on your new-car purchase meant settling for subpar comfort, safety and style. If you need proof that those days are over, just look at the 2009 Nissan Cube. Despite a starting price under $15,000, the Cube offers a host of advanced safety features, a roomy five-passenger interior, an impressive standard equipment list and a bevy of high-end options and accessories. Maybe the most striking aspect of the Nissan Cube is its design. Blocky car design is nothing new, but risky features like an asymmetrical rear end, modern iPod-like lines and an intense attention to details help the Cube stand apart from the other slickly-styled economy wagons out there.
You'll Like This Car If...
You'll like the Nissan Cube if you need modestly priced transportation but also have a keen eye for design. At this price it's hard to find a more stylish, if somewhat polarizing, design than the Nissan Cube. Fashion-conscious buyers will also like the wide variety of accessories available for the Cube.
You May Not Like This Car If...
You may not like the Nissan Cube if maximum fuel economy is your top concern. Other entry-level cars - or example, the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa - deliver better economy at a similar price. Also, the Cube's blocky asymmetrical shape may not suit everyone's taste.
What's Significant About This Car?
The 2009 Nissan Cube may seem like a late comer to the square-car game, but it has actually been on sale in Japan since 1998, preceding the boxy Scion xB and Honda Element. The version America gets is the third-generation Cube, which is bigger and more refined for international consumption.
The 2009 Nissan Cube's road manners could best be described as inoffensive. There is acceptable power when accelerating, the steering is reasonably light and responsive and the suspension delivers a supple ride even over broken stretches of pavement. Driving enthusiasts won't find much to get excited about, but as daily transportation the Cube works great. At freeway speeds, wind noise is noticeable, but no worse than one would expect of a car in the Cube's price range. Minor quibbles aside, the Nissan Cube excels at providing a pleasant ride, especially within the narrow confines of an urban environment where its tight turning radius, compact dimensions and optional rear parking sensors make the Cube maneuverable and easy to park.
Making a strong impression with your looks is good, but doing so without spending a fortune is great. Love it or hate it, the Nissan Cube provides an undoubtedly eye-catching design at a price almost any car buyer can afford.
With only a cursory glance one might overlook the unique form of the Cube's headliner. Even though a flat headliner would have been perfectly acceptable, Nissan's designers decided to simulate the ripples created by dropping a pebble in water. The result is an interesting conversation piece and an indicator of Nissan's commendable attention to detail.
Inside, the Cube's designers clearly put efforts into creating a unique and stylish space. Rounded shapes, interesting textures and a headliner and speaker covers that recall the ripples caused by dropping a pebble in a lake create a cabin that exudes high fashion. Aesthetics aside, the five-passenger Cube makes the most of its compact exterior dimension with an impressively roomy interior. Head and shoulder room is ample in all seating positions. Leg room is good too, especially in the rear seats, which recline and slide several inches fore and aft, helping balance the space requirements of passengers and cargo.
In terms of exterior design, the 2009 Nissan Cube both embodies and defies the implications of its name. Its shape is generally cube-like, most notably when viewed in profile. Yet, the angles of its body are softened with curved corners, round fenders and head and tail lights that look like elongated ovals. The most interesting feature is an asymmetrical rear section that features wrap-around glass on one side and a body-color pillar on the other. Buyers looking to enhance the Cube's visual impact can choose from a host of exterior accessories or opt for the super-stylish factory-modified Krom edition.
Notable Standard Equipment
Standard features found on the base 2009 Nissan Cube include a two-speaker audio system with auxiliary input, air conditioning, power locks with remote entry and 15-inch steel wheels. The S trim adds a four-speaker audio system, body color mirrors and cruise control. SL models get automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system with iPod interface, automatic headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels. The Krom trim offers a Rockford Fosgate audio system with subwoofer, 20-color interior lighting package, steering wheel audio controls and a body kit with rear spoiler. Standard safety features include stability and traction controls, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and six airbags.
Notable Optional Equipment
There are few options offered for the Nissan Cube, requiring buyers to move up to the next-higher trim level to add equipment. The exception is the Preferred Package, offered for the SL trim, that adds a six-speaker Rockford Fosgate audio system, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, rear parking sensors, XM Satellite radio, keyless entry and engine start and fog lights. Fog lights are also offered for the base and S trims. Small businesses might appreciate the special-order Cargo option, offered for the base Cube, which deletes the rear seats, armrests, cupholders and seatbelts, transforming the Cube into an efficient delivery vehicle.
Under the Hood
There is one engine offered for the 2009 Nissan Cube, a 1.8-liter four cylinder rated at 122 horsepower. Power is acceptable for a small, inexpensive and fuel-efficient car, but those who value rapid acceleration may be disappointed by the Cube's performance. On base and S trims, a six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is optional on the S Trim and standard on SL and Krom trims. The CVT does a good job in maximizing the engine's output and actually offers better fuel economy than the manual transmission, but some buyers may be put off by the way the engine seems to race under hard acceleration.
1.8-liter in-line 4
122 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
127 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/30 (CVT), 24/29 (manual)
Pricing for the 2009 Nissan Cube starts at just over $14,500 for the base trim level, while the well-equipped SL trim starts at about $17,500 and the top-of-the-line Krom checks in at around $20,000. The Cube's base price is slightly higher than the Kia Soul's but nearly $1,700 cheaper than the Scion xB's. To compare the actual transaction prices that consumers are paying for the Nissan Cube, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price. In terms of resale, the Nissan Cube is expected to hold its value well over time. However, while its residuals will not be as strong as those of the Scion xB, the Nissan Cube is likely to hold its value better than the Soul, due to Kia's traditionally lower residual numbers.