Archive for the ‘nissan cube’ Category

Inside The New Cube

Found this one on

We have seen the future and it is…a Cube? It is for Nissan, anyway, beginning in the spring of 2009. Sold in the Japanese market since 2002, the Cube is aptly named because, well, it’s a cube.

Technically it’s a parallelepiped, defined as “a solid with six faces, each a parallelogram and each being parallel to the opposite face,” or more colloquially, a rectangular solid. Or more simply, a box. Who says you don’t learn anything here?
Even more precisely, however, the Nissan Cube is two parallelepipeds stuck together, one box for the engine and another for the people. And of course, with wheels, which at least with today’s technology, makes it easier to move about.

The Cube—Nissan calls it the “CUBE” but we have no intention of wearing out our shift key—fills the same space, so to speak, that the Scion xB does for Toyota. They’re both rectangular to the max, though in its second generation the Scion has had its edges significantly beveled.

The Scion is also significantly larger. The current JDM (Japanese domestic market) version of the Nissan Cube has a wheelbase of only 92.9 inches, almost ten inches shorter than the xB. The Cube is a mere 146.9 inches long; the Scion stretches out more than twenty inches longer—nearly two feet! The xB is also a half-foot wider.

The Cube is fairly conventional with its transverse front-mounted front-drive four-cylinder engine, even if rather small by American standards at 1.3 liters. Optional, however, is an electric motor powering the rear axle for a sort of four-wheel drive. Not only does it aid in slippery conditions but it also gives a needed boost during low-speed acceleration, making it a hybrid of sorts, sacrificing a little trunk room in the process by raising the floor by a couple of inches.

The cabin is quite roomy for its exterior size. At 64 inches tall, the Nissan is almost exactly as tall as the xB, allowing tall seats and therefore generous legroom. The interior of the Japanese market car is very spare, almost industrial though certainly inexpensive to make. Five doors, with a side-hinged door for access to the cargo area, allow easy access.

American journalists have been clamoring for an American edition of the Nissan Cube almost since its Japanese debut and, with exquisite timing—assuming prices don’t plummet between now and then—the second generation of the Cube arrives Stateside in the spring of 2009. It’s likely to have a larger engine, perhaps a whopping 1.4 liters. However, with an overall vehicle weight we estimate will be less than 2,500 pounds, its 90 to 95 horsepower engine, particularly with the bump from the rear-mounted electric motor, should be adequate for urban and suburban driving, based on a brief drive in on rural roads.

Although the split front bench is comfy enough, there’s a lot of road noise that comes up through the floor even at moderate speed on less that perfect speed. That wouldn’t be a problem on city and suburb streets but on long highway hauls it would be tiresome. One hopes this will be ameliorated by the time the North American-spec Nissan Cube crosses the Pacific.

The Americanized Cube—we expect it will be designated a 2010 model—should also be able to hold its own on the freeway and highway, though its tall, blunt contours will be harder for a 1.4-liter to push through the air. No doubt crosswinds and the wakes of semis will also play with those slab sides.

We expect Japan market version of the Nissan Cube’s rather Spartan accoutrements to make it across the Pacific. Buyers of the ultra-utilitarian Cube will probably prefer it that way, something of a hair shirt to prove their commitment to the environment, as well as a concession to price. One should expect price to range between $12,000 and $15,000, depending on the level of equipment.

The ultimate upside, however, is the high-volume utility—yes, the rear seats will fold or remove or whatever it takes to maximize the interior, well, cubic cargo capacity—combined with fuel economy in the 33 to 40 miles per gallon range, and that without complicated full-hybrid technology.

We forecast a major hit. We’ve seen the future, and it’s a parallelepiped. Or a Nissan Cube.

Additional thoughts: Timing is everything, and while Nissan clearly had to commit some time ago—considering design changes, certification, production engineering, &c., &c.—to bring the Nissan Cube to the United States, as fuel punched through the $4.00/gallon barrier, the Cube is certainly seemed to be arriving when the time is right. Of course, that assumes that a year from when this is written, prices will not have fallen. Any retreat will be slow, however, much like earlier spikes and retreats, but while consumers may not have elephantine memories, having been burned once they’ll be twice wary. And that’s all the Cube will need to be a hit.

Nissan should, in our opinion, avoid the temptation to dress up the Cube or overly civilize it. Not that Nissan should upholster the seats with barbed wire, but we think Cube customers will want some austerity as proof of their ecological piety, just as sports car drivers want a modicum of discomfort to justify their purchases.

Not immediately visible on the Nissan Cube is asymmetry of design: For example, the C-pillar (rearmost) on the right side is exposed and larger than that on the left, which is concealed behind wrap-around glass. It’s ostensibly form over function, an “industrial” touch, though with most cars in the world symmetrical, there’s little reason that the Nissan Cube must be different one side to the other. But there you go.