Nissan Cube is First Produced

The Nissan Cube is a mini MPV produced by Nissan and currently sold only in Japan, North America and Europe.

The first generation of the Cube (designated Z10) was introduced in 1998. It shared the same platform as the Nissan Micra (known as the March in Japan and Southeast Asia), as well as the same 1.3 L engine. A CVT and four-wheel drive were optional. The Cube covered the gap in the Nissan lineup between the March and the Sunny. The first generation was only sold in Japan.

Cubism traditionally refers to an early 20th-century style of art, popularized by Picasso, in which traditional perspectives were abandoned in favor of the interplay among geometric shapes, interlocking planes and collage motifs. But now there's a new cube in town -- the Nissan Cube -- and it's one of the latest additions to a growing segment of compact block-shaped hatchback wagons. These vehicles tend to provide maximal space-efficiency and funky style in economical packages, and that's an appealing collection of virtues for many car shoppers. The question is whether Nissan's Cube is at the vanguard of this movement or just riding its coattails.

The Nissan Cube is dressed up with an eclectic blend of curved styling cues, an asymmetrical rear window and ovoid front-side windows. Offered in several different trim levels with a manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the four-door Cube offers a smooth four-cylinder engine and an airy cabin with ample headroom and legroom. Disappointingly, though, the Cube's real-world cargo-carrying ability is less impressive than the diminutive Honda Fit's. This foible plus the Cube's overly soft handling relegate it to also-ran status among compact wagons.

Current Nissan Cube

The Nissan Cube is a compact four-door hatchback wagon offered in several trim levels. The two available transmissions are a six-speed manual and a CVT. Base Cubes come standard with head curtain airbags, air-conditioning, power accessories, a 60/40-split sliding rear seat and a CD player. Higher trims offer frills like cruise control, upgraded audio, alloys, automatic climate control and iPod/MP3 capability. Customizing Cubers can head straight for the Krom model with its unique body pieces, polished wheels, two-tone interior and premium Rockford Fosgate audio. If that's a bit much pricewise, the Ginormous Package for the more affordable SL model features styling mods inside and out, and all Cubes can be outfitted with a mind-numbing multitude of dealer-installed Nissan accessories.

Along with its attention-grabbing exterior design and park-anywhere footprint, the Nissan Cube boasts a tall, spacious cabin. Headroom and legroom are plentiful for all occupants, and the rear seat slides fore and aft. If you need to carry people and cargo, though, note that the Cube won't hold as much out back as some rivals, particularly with the rear seat in its rearmost position, which is required for adult-grade rear legroom. Subpar dashboard plastics also cheapen the experience.

In reviews, our editors have commented favorably on the sprightly 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and the smooth and responsive CVT. Those are pretty much the only driving highlights, though, as the Cube's high center of gravity and soggy suspension can't keep up with an eager right foot, and its steering is numb and slow-witted. If you tend toward the slow and steady, you may not find much to complain about, but other competitors inspire far more confidence when changing directions. Overall, even for fans of these compact bricks-on-wheels, the basic Nissan Cube is an unremarkable effort.

Forget the Scion xB and Kia Soul, in comparison the Nissan Cube makes those cars look about as cutting edge as a Corolla. Sure on a computer screen they all look like funky economy cars, but in real life the Cube is drastically different.

FAST FACTS
1. Pricing for the 2010 Nissan Cube ranges from $13,990 to $16,790 ($16,998 to $20,698 CDN).

2. Under all the funky bodywork the Cube is essentially a Nissan Versa and shares that vehicle’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 122hp and 127 ft-lbs of torque.

3. Standard safety features include six airbags as well as traction and stability control.

4. Cargo room is 11.4 cubic feet of space or 58.1 cu.-ft. with the second row folded flat.

5. An SL Preferred Package adds Nissan’s Intelligent Key with push button ignition, steering wheel mounted audio controls, a leather wrapped wheel, a backup sonar system and an upgraded audio system with a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.

Part of what makes the Cube so unique is that it is a box, but at the same time incredibly round. But what really separates the Cube from the pack is its asymmetrical design. Nissan representatives won’t say for sure, but they believe the Cube is the only car in the world where the left and right sides aren’t identical.
The difference isn’t at first obvious, but it’s actually a major part of the car. Look back towards the rear and you’ll see the driver’s side rear pillar is a typical painted piece of bodywork, while on the passenger side the pillar is actually “invisible.” It’s covered by glass, giving a unique wrap-around look to the windows.

The rear of the car actually swings open to the side like a fridge, rather than opening upwards. That might not be ideal for some as the big door can be a little cumbersome. It does open in two stages though, with an initial 20-inch opening as well as the full range. Besides, the swinging door is really the only option as the car is actually too short (at just 65-inches) to clear most heads.

With practicality in mind, Nissan designed the Cube so that the door swings away from the curb. Right hand-drive models sold in Japan and the U.K. actually open the opposite way and feature a reverse design