Have you ever wondered: "Why can't my car's dashboard have a shag-carpet toupee on it?" Or perhaps: "Why can't my car look like a washing machine and have hot pink interior trim?" Well, if you've pondered either of the above possibilities, your boxy chariot has arrived. The 2010 Nissan Cube hatchback is an unusual form of transportation whose styling certainly lives up to its name. Such vehicles are all the rage on the other side of the Pacific, but really, the Cube almost seems like a Japanese caricature, akin to a ninja dressed in Hello Kitty pajamas riding on the back of Godzilla. We're not sure a caricature makes for the best transportation.
Under the Cube's weird exterior is essentially a Nissan Versa, a small and comfortable hatchback that unfortunately has all the personality of plain steamed rice. In that way, the Cube provides ample amounts of flavor for those who seek it, plus more maximum cargo capacity courtesy of its boxy shape. The comfortable ride, relatively strong engine and impressive available continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are shared virtues.
The Cube also provides plenty of passenger space. Of particular note is the backseat that reclines and slides. Nissan has also taken care to fill its Cube with plenty of goodies like available keyless ignition/entry, Bluetooth, a color audio display and a Rockford Fosgate stereo. Then there are the various dealer-installed accessories, including 20-color interior mood lighting, multiple choices of colored trim pieces, exterior body kit items and even that infamous shag dash topper.
Put it all together and you've got plenty of reasons to purchase a 2010 Nissan Cube. Unfortunately, this focus on style comes at the expense of some basic small hatchback attributes. The cargo area isn't a standout in terms of roominess or versatility, for instance, and the Cube's handling abilities are mediocre. In comparison, these are two things that the Honda Fit excels at. Another possibility is the Kia Soul, which also offers plenty of customization options. Still, if quirky is your thing, it's hard to think of a better car than the Cube.
Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The 2010 Nissan Cube is a four-door hatchback available in base, S, SL and Krom Edition trim levels. The base car comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, keyless entry, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a reclining and sliding 60/40-split rear bench and a two-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Cube S adds cruise control, upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth and a six-speaker stereo with an iPod interface and steering wheel controls. Going with the Cube SL gets you 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights and automatic climate control. The SL Preferred package adds a rearview camera, keyless ignition/entry and a Rockford Fosgate six-speaker stereo with subwoofer, a color audio display, satellite radio and a USB audio port.
The Krom edition includes the Preferred package items, plus a variety of exterior styling enhancements (different 16-inch alloy wheels, front and rear bumpers, grille, side sills and rear roof spoiler). The Krom also includes titanium-color interior trim, aluminum-trimmed pedals, 20-color ambient lighting and black/gray cloth upholstery.
The long list of accessories includes different alloy wheel designs, body kit items, interior trim pieces (available in five different colors), 20-color interior ambient lighting, bungee cord map holders, multicolor interior hooks, a portable Garmin navigation system and a piece of shag carpeting that attaches to the top of the dashboard with Velcro.
Powertrains and Performance:
Every Nissan Cube is front-wheel drive and features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. The base Cube and Cube S come standard with a six-speed manual, while a CVT is optional on the S and standard on the SL and Krom.
In performance testing, a Cube S with the CVT accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds. With the manual transmission, the Cube achieves an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. The CVT improves that to 28/30/29.
Every Cube comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes (disc front, drum rear), front side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In government crash tests, the 2010 Nissan Cube received four out of five stars for frontal protection and five stars for side protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Cube its highest rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests. In Edmunds brake testing, the Cube S came to a stop from 60 mph in 124 feet Â? a very good performance for this class of car.
Interior Design and Special Features:
To go along with its head-turning cubist exterior, the Cube's basic cabin design has soft curves and shapes that are a bit different from the typical hard-edged style employed by most rivals. A "dropped pebble in a pond" effect on the headliner and speaker grilles adds some visual interest, as does the optional color illumination package. Add the toupee-like shag carpet dash topper and the ambient interior lighting and you'll think you've time-warped back to 1977.
Simple control layouts mark the Nissan Cube's cabin. The standard climate control is the old-school-but-proven three-knob style (the optional automatic system is more complicated), the no-frills stereo has large preset buttons and the cruise control has easy-to-thumb buttons on the wheel. The overstuffed front seats are comfortable during hour-long commutes, but support fades on longer drives. Unfortunately, the brownish gray plastics used to construct the interior are below average for this class.
In back, there's plenty of room for two adults -- the tall roof and multiadjustable backseat (it slides fore and aft and reclines) allow ample headroom and legroom for 6-footers in back. As with most subcompacts, though, trying to add a fifth person is ill-advised. Unlike Honda's more commodious Fit, the Cube hatchback's split rear seat doesn't fold even with the cargo floor, but lowering it reveals more than 50 cubic feet of space. With the seats up, however, there's less useful floor space than in the Fit or Kia Soul.
In the cut-and-thrust of city traffic or when merging and passing, the 2010 Nissan Cube is rarely caught flat-footed. Much of the credit goes to its superb CVT that makes the most of the engine's available power. Another positive is the plush ride quality, making the Cube a pleasing runabout for urban duty. On the highway, though, the Cube's blocky shape results in noticeable wind noise at higher speeds. Another downside regards its handling -- in tight corners, the Cube's slow and too-light steering and soft suspension tuning make it an uninspiring companion.