For over 10 years now, the Nissan Cube has thrived as one of Japan’s favorite little city cruisers, and while small, boxy Asian imports like the Scion xB, the Honda Element, and most recently, the Kia Soul, have scored well with US buyers, the Cube has stubbornly stayed away, content with the Japanese market. But that’s about to change!

The battle of the boxes is being joined by the third generation 2009 Nissan Cube. So, North American buyers finally get to see what all the hype is about. 

Debuted at last fall’s LA Auto Show, the latest Cube is built on a shortened version of the Nissan Versa’s proven B-platform. Its 99.6-inch wheelbase adds little overhang for a concise 156.7 inches in overall length. That’s shorter than similar boxy rivals.

Style-wise, what you have here is “hip meets geeky” in a sort of whimsical and cartoony way. With cues often attributed to its targeted young adult buyer, the Cube’s face seems devoid of any real emotion. Its wide, blank headlamps and sterile grille exude ambiguity.

The Cube’s latest low-hunkered slacker stance is actually an evolution of past models, with more curves, asymmetrical side-to-side glass treatment, and even a tail, taking the edges off the Cube’s ultra-tall cabin.

The Cube finishes off its architecture with a swing-out rear door graced with a long, ovalish window. There’s a lot of geometry happening here!

There are four Cube trim levels: base, S, SL, and Krom.  Krom adds a number of eye-catching body treatments from front to rear.

The Cube’s wheels measure 15 or 16 inches, in steel or aluminum.

Within, the Cube surprised us with a much airier and spacious feel than the exterior would indicate.  The box, after all, is a most space-efficient shape.  Beyond roominess, the Cube’s 5-passenger interior has a nice, soft, yet minimalist feel to it. But, with a roundness that’s different from the harder edged interiors of its rivals.

The upright dash houses gauges and controls that are somewhat simple in operation, but very modern in presentation.  A perfect example being the circular climate control interface. Unfortunately, materials did feel a little on the bargain basement side.

But one of the most artistically design elements is the rippled roof-ceiling, which gives the illusion of a stone having been tossed into a glassy pond.  This design is mimicked in the Cube’s cup holders.

The Cube’s seats are nicely stuffed to offer a cushy feel, and like with other urban-box rivals, they offer excellent positioning and visibility.

The driver takes command of this cubic wonder with a “just-the-right-size” steering wheel offering controls for audio and cruise.

Available user-friendly technologies include such goodies as Bluetooth, a Rockford Fosgate upgraded stereo - whose speakers also mimic the rippled design effect of the roof - and a handy iPod interface.

Occupant safety is delivered by six standard airbags.

The well done 60/40 split-rear bench seat both slides and reclines. So, while fit for three trim travelers, there is also more than enough room for a couple of relative giants.

But, open the tail door, which swings away from the curb for safe loading, you’ll find only a stingy 11.4 cubic feet for cargo with all seats in use.  That’s a good deal less than rivals. But fold the second seat, and the Cube redeems itself with a solid 58.1 cubic feet of space.

For power, the front-drive Cube uses the Versa’s 1.8-liter I-4 with 122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque.  We found it provided plenty of spunk for everyday commuting.

There’s a choice of two transmissions: a 6-speed manual or CVT automatic.

Government Fuel Economy ratings are 24 City/29 Highway with a manual, and 28 City/30 Highway with the CVT automatic. We beat that with 34.1 using regular gas.

Appropriately for any city car, we first drove the Cube in and around the vibrant streets of Miami. Its front strut/rear torsion beam suspension yielded a comfortable ride, and was adequately responsive, but no handling star.

Still the Cube does what it is suppose to do. It shines in tight, slower-moving city traffic due to two things: concise size and its small 33.4 foot turning diameter. With its light touch electrically assisted steering, the Cube is a U-turn champ.

In faster traffic, the boxy shape takes its toll in wind noise and cross wind stability. Driving aids like stability and traction control, as well as ABS with Brake Assist for the disc/drum layout are standard.

To put this Cube on your street will require $14,710 to start, ranging to $20,090 for the top notch Krom trim. Like the Scion xB and Kia Soul, a thick catalogue of dealer installed accessories will be available.

The 2009 Nissan Cube is a cool little people mover that has been buzzing around Japan for over a decade.  Now, the Cube will join the ranks of small boxy imports that are attempting to gain big favor here. To that, we say, it’s squarely about time.


  • Engine: 1.8-Liter I-4
  • Horsepower: 122
  • Torque: 127 Lb Feet
  • EPA (automatic): 28 MPG City/ 30 MPG Highway
  • EPA (manual): 24 MPG City/ 29 MPG Highway
  • Mixed Loop: 34.1 MPG

Long Term Updates

Mileage: 2,500

When driving the compact 2009 Nissan Cube, you can’t escape feeling like you’re in a fish bowl. Everyone turns, stares, and points at you. It’s right up there with the tiny Smart Car at generating gawks and guffaws.

No wonder since the Cube, while a common sight in Japan for over a decade, is brand new to the U.S., following the right-angle wave begun by the Scion xB and Honda Element.

One thing is for sure; our Cube isn’t sitting on its sides. After only a month with us, the odometer already reads 2,500 miles. Our staff has been using it for both the city driving that the Cube was designed for, and quite a bit of freeway hopping as well. The Cube’s flexible 1.8-liter, 122-horsepower engine, and front-drive CVT automatic, easily handles both. Cube’s fuel economy is also treating us very well at 34.1 miles per gallon of regular.

But, the Cube really works best in the city. There, its maneuverability shines. There are no semi’s to blow its boxy shape around like on the highway. There’s plenty of room for 5 friends, and even the bulkiest cargo.

We like the bungee cords for keeping track of small items, but we still haven’t come up with a use for the dash top shag rug. But, we’ll keep working at it and the Nissan Cube.

Mileage: 4,000

Recently we compared three trendy box cars to find out which one was the purest city car. Our pick was the Nissan Cube. But, as new to our long-term fleet, this Cube Krom will have to endure all kinds of driving.

That includes interstate trips, where the Cube shows its limitations. As speeds rise above 65 miles per hour, its tall stature gets shoved around by crosswinds and semis.

But, once speeds drop, you and up to four friends will love exploring in the Cube. Visibility is great. As for practicality, the rear cargo hole is deep – great for grocery bags. The folding rear seats then make way for as much cargo as some small utilities.

The 122-horsepower 1.8-liter and CVT transmission deliver good guts. And, after 2 months and 4,000 miles, our Cube’s 34.1-mile-per-gallon economy is beating both ours and the government’s expectations.

Mileage: 5,700

Recently we picked the Nissan Cube as the best all-around city car. Our long-term 2009 Cube Krom turns a lot of heads, although we’re not sure that a laugh doesn’t follow.

It is weird-looking, but also oh-so useful. It’s easy to get into, easy to carry a full load of people and cargo, and a cinch to maneuver in even the tightest spots.

Even though its 122-horsepower 1.8-liter engine is willing, the Cube is less at home on the highway, where its tall shape meets lots of wind resistance. Still, with 4 months and 5,700 miles under its lid, the CVT automatic is averaging a most respectable 29.9 miles per gallon of regular. So, weird or not, the Nissan Cube delivers first class.

Mileage: 9,000

As you might expect for a city car, most of our cubic miles are for commuting or short hops. For that, the Cube’s tall and flexible interior, and small turning diameter are ideal.

Even six months on, the Cube still invokes a bit of gawking from passersby. But we’re all smiles, knowing its 122-horsepower 1.8-liter engine and CVT transmission are delivering a fine 29.5 miles per regular gallon.

After 9,000 miles, the Cube is also fault-free. One complaint is the too-soft seats. They’re comfy around town, but lack support for longer trips.

But, if your driving needs seldom take you out of town, the Cube is a great solution.

Mileage: 11,000

We are often asked:”Who should buy the Nissan Cube?” The answers are several: if the vast majority of your driving is confined to a cityscape; if you’re looking for a versatile car that takes up the minimum of pavement both to turn and to park; or, if you just want to be checked out at every stop light. All are fine reasons for opting for the Cube.

And, we’ll add one more. It’s pretty economical. Our average fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon of regular. Plus, when you do take it out on the highway, the 122-horsepower 1.8-liter CVT combo performs well. Just don’t try to pass without plenty of time to make it.

After eight months and 11,000 miles, our Cube is fault-free. Our staff loves the great visibility from very upright seating. More bottom support is so far our only want.

But, the cute Cube does its primary city car job precisely.

Mileage: 12,700

As gas prices edge up again, people of all stripes are starting to look at smaller cars more seriously. And the Nissan Cube, despite its almost laughable shape, is a very serious contender, especially if you live or work in a big city.

Indeed, the Cube is amazingly agile in tight spaces. A U-turn in the Cube takes only 33.4 feet, one of the smallest turning diameters among five-door, five-passenger cars.

And those five passengers enjoy impressive room and visibility due solely to the shape this Nissan subcompact is named for.

So far, we’ve driven our Cube KROM over 12,700 miles in eight months. Given that most has been in-city driving, our 29.4 mile per gallon average looks good. The Cube’s 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter CVT powertrain also managed well on the highway. Just don’t try to pass quickly, and beware of crosswinds.

Mileage: 14,000

When we compared three city cars last fall, we picked the Nissan Cube as the best choice for anyone that dwells almost exclusively in a metropolis.

As time has passed, we’ve confirmed that the Cube’s short length, super-tight 33.4 foot turning diameter, and rear cargo door really do fit city life perfectly.

While its quirky top hat styling also lends to quirky highway manners, we continue to be impressed with its open-road fuel economy: 29.8 miles per gallon of regular and rising after 10 months and over 14,000 miles. Cube’s 122-horsepower CVT powertrain also delivers surprisingly good reserve power until wind resistance stops the show at around 75 miles per hour.

The Cube’s interior is expectedly roomy, with the very upright seating providing great outward visibility. We’ve also had no wants or worries with the Cube’s fault-free operation.

The Nissan Cube is what it is – the purest and best five-passenger city car on the market today.

Mileage: 16,000

The Nissan Cube is an urban warrior. It is so well fitted for duty in town, that it won our recent city cars competition.

Its short length, upright seating, and tight turning diameter fit right in with a city lifestyle. There is plenty of stop-and-go power from its 122-horsepower CVT drivetrain. Even on the highway there’s enough to keep up with traffic, if not pass it.

And, fuel economy is great. 29.7 miles per gallon using regular grade.

After almost a year and over 16,000 miles, we’ve grown to like the Cube’s quirky, upright, and very useful interior. Although, we still don’t get the dash top shag rug.

But, having a cargo door that opens away from the curb also makes it perfect for street side loading.

Mileage: 17,700

For the first time in America, cars best suited for urban living are being considered as mainstream options. The Nissan Cube, our Best City Car, is a perfect example.

Clearly the Cube is most at home where streets are narrow, parking is tight, and speeds are low. But, we spent quite a bit of the last 13 months and 17,700 miles in our Cube Krom on four-lane highways. Yes, you do get shoved around by semis, and wind resistance makes speeds over 70 a challenge. But, it’s not unpleasant.

The Cube’s 122-horsepower, CVT drivetrain proved bulletproof. What it lacked in passing power, it made up for in efficiency. Our average of 29.8 miles per gallon of regular speaks for itself.

Besides styling, another Cube quirk we like is the bungee cords for keeping track of small items. But, we never did find a reason for the dash top shag rug.

Having a cargo door that opens away from the curb also makes the Cube perfect for street side loading.

But, it’s now time to return our Cube. We enjoyed our time with it, and found its city dweller attributes also appealing to suburbanites who seek a highly useful and efficient second car.