In its second model year in North America, the Nissan cube continues to be an iconic vehicle with its unmistakable styling, and the 2010 model adds a handful of new standard features to make the car even more attractive for new-car buyers. Nissan recently dropped off an almost fully loaded 2010 Nissan cube for me to check out for the week, and in an automotive market full of cars trying to fit in, the cube is refreshingly one-of-a-kind.
Going up against cars such as the Suzuki SX4, Kia Soul and Scion xB, the Nissan cube is available in four trim levels (base, S, SL and KrÅ?m) with prices starting at $13,990. The model I tested was the SL trim which has a starting price of $17,450, and it came with a handful of interior options that resulted in as-tested price of $20,350 including destination. While that price may seem a bit steep for a compact wagonish hatchback, this car was equipped with the same amount of interior options found on the cube KrÅ?m (which starts at $20,440), but does so without the custom, tuner-look of the KrÅ?m's exterior add-ons.
Read more about Nissan cube prices.
2010 Nissan cube Exterior
As popular as boxy-shaped car designs are right now, the Nissan cube definitely stands as one of the most polarizing models of the bunch. With its love-it-or-hate-it design, the cube's design is an interesting mix of flat, boxy surfaces with soft, round edges. One of the most distinguishing features of the cube is its iconic asymmetrical design where there appears to be no D-pillar on the passenger side of the car making the rear window look like it wraps around the side of the car uninhibited. In reality, the passenger side features a blacked out C- and D-pillar giving the appearance of the single wraparound piece of glass, and helping to allow this unique design feature is the side-hinged, refrigerator-like rear door that also helps give the cube more of a wagon look and feel than a hatchback. The only change for the exterior of the cube for the 2010 model is the addition of Nissan's new Sapphire Black paint which was applied to this test vehicle. In most lights, this color looks jet black, but in the sun, the bluish hue begins to shine through.
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2010 Nissan cube Interior
The boxy and tall exterior dimensions equate to an impressively spacious, five-passenger interior. For such a small car, the seating position and visibility from the driver's seat is amazing with a commanding view of the road. The plastic and cloth materials used inside the cube are about what should be expected on a car in this price, but it's the styling that ends up surprising most occupants. The headliner and door speaker grilles mimic the wave-like pattern that is carried over from the instrument panel which forms a crest in the middle of the instrument panel that houses the audio head unit and the circular HVAC control unit.
Although the cube SL comes well-equipped, this test model added three main option packages to have it equipped, and priced, almost identical to the cabin of the top-of-the-line Nissan cube KrÅ?m. The $1,600 SL Preferred Package essentially adds the same equipment as the KrÅ?m such as Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless entry and push-button starter, an upgraded six-speaker Rockford-Fosgate audio system with an integrated iPod connector, RearView Monitor and XM Satellite radio - fog lights, unavailable on the KrÅ?m, are also part of this package. Another main attraction to the KrÅ?m model is the ambient lighting which is available on the cube SL for $490 as a part of the Interior Illumination Package that included the changeable lights in the cupholders and footwells in addition to illuminated, stainless steel door sill accents. The $230 Interior Designer Package adds the shag carpet circle on the dash and soft, carpeted floor mats, while the final option on our test car was a lockable rear cargo organizer for $180.
Seeing as how the cube is focused toward younger, tech-savvy buyers, the biggest fault with the cabin is that does not offer a navigation system - even the competing Suzuki SX4 offers navigation as standard equipment! With the exception of the navigation system, the 2010 Nissan cube offers just about every convenience and tech feature one could expect from a funky little sub-$20,000 car.
2010 Nissan cube Performance & Handling
The Nissan cube is only available with the 1.8-liter DOHC inline-four, but two transmissions are available depending on the model: either a six-speed manual transmission or Nissan's Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission). In SL (as well as KrÅ?m) trim level, the cube comes standard with the latter, which doesn't exactly improve the feeling of the engine that produces just 122 horsepower and 127 lb-ft of torque, but it does help improve the fuel efficiency in spite of its design which maximizes interior space rather than focusing on aerodynamics. As boring as most CVTs are to drive, Nissan does offer one of the best on the market, and it helps give the cube EPA fuel economy estimates of 27 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The gains in fuel economy come at the expense of driving enjoyment in the city as the CVT feels slippery and quirky, but this is a common driving characteristic of this popular fuel-sipping transmission.
On the road, the cube's chassis (shared with the Nissan Versa) provides a smooth and comfortable ride thanks in large part to the four-wheel independent suspension and electric power steering. While CVTs are usually blamed for taking just about all excitement out of the car, Nissan's X-CVT allows the cube's engine to at least provide quick-reacting acceleration meaning that pulling out into traffic is hardly a gamble. The two major downfalls the Nissan cube are directly associated with the car's overall design. Most notable is the amount of wind noise present at highway speeds, but this is a direct result of the car's boxy shape and almost vertical windshield, while the tall roof and narrow track give the cube a rather high center of gravity and make it feel clumsy in anything more than low-speed turns.
Read more Nissan cube specifications.
2010 Nissan cube Safety
Since the last time I spent time with the cube, both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have performed their crash tests and returned some favorable results. The NHTSA gave the 2010 Nissan cube a five-star rating for side-impact protection and four-star ratings for front-impact protection and rollover avoidance. Nissan's cube achieves even better scores from the IIHS with all 'Good'? ratings and being named a 2010 Top Safety Pick. Standard safety features for all 2010 MAZDA3 models include six airbags, active front head restraints, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system (front disc and rear drum), tire pressure monitoring system, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and traction control.
Among the growing number of cube-shaped vehicles, it is hard to overlook the one car named after its shape: the 2010 Nissan cube. Even though the cube's size and styling make it a great city car for navigating dense urban traffic, it is still a practical choice when hopping on the interstate for weekend road trips with a full load of passengers and cargo. For new-car shoppers looking to own a stylish (or at least polarizing) car that blends a small size and fuel-efficient drivetrain with a large, spacious interior and plenty of cabin tech, one would be hard-pressed to find a car more well-balanced the Nissan cube.
- Unique styling
- Cavernous interior
- Plenty of well-priced options available
- Unique styling
- Wind noise at highway speed
- No navigation option
Nissan provided the vehicle this road test review.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross