2009 Nissan Cube Review: Autobots, the Allspark has been located!

Expert Reviews Nissan

2009 Nissan Cube
>> Review by Danny Chang | >> Photographs by Derek Mau


  • Love-it-or-hate-it looks
  • Massive headroom
  • Uncontrollable urge to pretend you’re 18


  • Love-it-or-hate-it looks
  • Failure to impress young ladies
  • Uncontrollable urge to pretend you’re 18

Calling all Autobots! Nissan has located the Cube, aka the Allspark, the source of energy and life for the Autobots, and it’s right here on Earth. And it definitely looks alien even here in the Bay Area. It has asymmetric styling! The left side looks different than the right! Although this is the first time Nissan is selling the Cube here in the States, it is actually the third generation Cube. The previous two generations were sold in Japan only. This one is slightly larger than both previous generations and believe it or not has more curves on the exterior design. The tester I drove was a 1.8SL, which has a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine mated to a Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). This Caribbean Blue Cube’s SL package comes with everything you’d see on a luxury car-a keyless Intelligent Key with push start ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, fog lights, Bluetooth hands free phone system, back-up sonar system, XM satellite radio, and 6 upgraded speakers with a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer. It also featured the Interior Design Package and the Interior Illumination Package but I’ll get into that later.

2009 Nissan Cube

Driving Impressions
The 1.8 liter and the CVT did not inspire a lot of enthusiasm for this section. To make matters worse, the Cube is actually a lot taller than a normal subcompact or a compact car. And it’s obvious the engineers did not bother test the design in a wind tunnel. I was expecting the usual from a compact car: yawn-inducing acceleration, a bumpy and harsh ride, and barely in-time braking.

Shockingly, the Cube blew apart that stereotype as soon as I stepped on the accelerator. The Cube sprints ahead with a good jilt, and the CVT is well tuned to provide decent low-end torque. Off-the-line start is actually quite decent. Don’t get me wrong, the Cube is no Challenger at the stop light, but it does hold its own and I managed to surprise quite a few cyclists when the light turned green.

The ride quality was good for a sub-$20k car. The steering was very light and there’s not much road feel. It handled quite well on corners and I think the perceived body roll was largely due to the humongous greenhouse and the virtually 90 degrees A, B and C pillars. Brakes were good enough and provided more than enough stopping power to slow this monster down. Wind noise on the freeway is more noticeable than every other car I’ve ever driven safe for a convertible, but if you cranked up the 6 upgraded speakers and the subwoofer enough you won’t care.

Nissan Cube

I give the Nissan Cube’s build quality about a A-. The quality of the interior materials is quite impressive, and the texture of the plastics feels rich for a small car. The exterior panels fit together really well with little gaps in between and the small details are well designed. For example, the rear door is hinged on the left side and opens sideways, but the hinges are not exposed as one would expect on a compact car. You see a small bump on the panel that adds to the quirkiness of this car. The only complaint I had about the build is when you close the doors. The doors are pretty solid, but it just feels like you didn’t shut them all the way. But you did. So you start doubting yourself after a while and it kind of drove me a little nuts that weekend.


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  • Derek says:

    When is a square not a square? A look at the Nissan cube will tell you. Silly thing won’t fit a bike inside, though.

  • Dawn says:

    Thanks for the article, and yes the Nissan Cube exceeds expectations. I had the choice at the rental car dealer of the Nissan Cube or a subcompact; I chose the Cube. If nothing else, I thought, I would live wild for a week. Well, let me say, this car can grow on you by exceeding your expectations. It handles well, is spacious, gets great fuel mileage, is comfortable, cleans up easy after the kids spill their snack and smear the seat with sunscreen, and the visibility…wonderful for a petite woman. I have found that the verticle design of the A, B, and C pillars increases visibility for me. I once drove my sister’s Ford Taurus back when it looked like a flattened oval; there were blind spots everywhere and petite me couldn’t tell where the hood or trunk ended keeping me in fear of running into something the entire time I drove th car. The Cube lets you see everything. My 6+ ft husband fits comfortably and was even impressed with the handling after years of driving sports cars that hug the road. When I need to buy another car, I’ll look hard and long at the Cube before I make my final decision. If they would only make it with a solid diesel engine like the 1.8 L Isuzu that was in my ’85 Chevette I’d be signing the purchase agreement.

  • Margaret says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  • Justin says:

    I bet it won’t be too long before the guy that designed this contraption will be in the unemployment line with the guy who designed the Pontiac Aztek.

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