Full 2011 Nissan Cube Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, an integrated navigation system with real-time traffic and a USB audio interface is added to the options list for the SL and S Krom Edition trim levels.
You'd be shocked how few people ask us, "Hey, I'm looking for a car with a shag-carpet toupee fastened to its dashboard. Got any suggestions?" And even fewer people write, "I wish I could find a car that looks like a vintage kitchen appliance and has 20 mood lighting colors!"
Actually, nobody has ever actually asked us those things. But if there were such people, we'd direct them to the 2011 Nissan Cube.
At its core, the Cube is a compact hatchback with a low price, a generous amount of passenger space and a fuel-efficient engine. To fully appreciate these talents, though, you first have to appreciate the Cube's unusual character. Such boxy and quirky cars are all the rage in Japan. However, the Cube is so boxy and so quirky that it almost seems like a Japanese caricature -- the car equivalent of a ninja dressed in Hello Kitty pajamas riding on the back of a robot Godzilla.
Yet there are obviously folks who find the 2011 Nissan Cube's unique style and array of features appealing. For them (and perhaps you), it's important to note that beneath the boxy exterior is the same platform that underpins the Nissan Versa, a comfortable but somewhat dull subcompact. Along with the Cube's water-like rippling texture in the headliner and dashboard that looks like the cabin of a Chevy cargo van viewed through a funhouse mirror, the Cube provides plenty of passenger space and amenities for the price. Of particular note is the backseat that both reclines and slides, which is a unique feature for this class.
Put all this together and you have a car that's a practical little runabout for those who appreciate its unique personality. Of course there are other vehicles at this price range that offer less style but with more practicality. The 2011 Honda Fit is a champ in terms of cargo space, interior versatility and handling. The 2011 Ford Fiesta feels like a more grown-up car to drive. The 2011 Kia Soul is even cheaper and offers its own brand of funky style, while the 2011 Scion xB is the original Japanese box on wheels.
You certainly have choices when it comes to low-priced compact hatchbacks with generous passenger space and a fuel-efficient engine. But if you want something extremely out of the ordinary, there's really only one choice: Nissan's Cube.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Nissan Cube is a five-passenger compact hatchback available in base, S, SL and Krom Edition trim levels. The base Cube comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, rear privacy glass, keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel and a two-speaker sound system with a CD player. The Cube S adds cruise control, upgraded cloth upholstery, a driver armrest, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, map lights, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with steering wheel controls and an iPod audio interface.
The Cube SL gains 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights and automatic climate control. The SL Preferred package adds keyless ignition/entry, a rearview camera, a touchscreen navigation system, real-time traffic, satellite radio, a USB port and Rockford Fosgate upgraded speakers. The S Krom Edition comes with the Preferred package as standard and also gains unique 16-inch wheels, unique exterior body styling items, special interior trim and 20-color interior accent lighting (available separately).
The long list of accessories includes different alloy wheel designs, body kit items, interior trim pieces (available in five different colors), bungee cord map holders, multicolor interior hooks and a piece of shag carpeting that attaches to the top of the dashboard with Velcro.
Powertrains and Performance
Every 2011 Nissan Cube is front-wheel drive and features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base and the S, while a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional on the S and standard on the SL and Krom. In performance testing, a Cube with the CVT went from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds -- average performance for a subcompact car. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 27 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined with the CVT; the manual returns 25/30/27.
Every 2011 Nissan 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.
The Cube has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011 tests) were four stars for frontal-impact 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-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
To complement its head-turning exterior, the 2011 Cube's basic cabin design has soft curves, notably a headliner with the effect of a dropped pebble in a pond, not to mention optional mood lighting with no fewer than 20 different colors. Add the shag carpet dash topper and you'll think you've time-warped back to a 1970s boogie van.
At the same time, simplicity is the theme of the cabin layout. The standard climate control is the old-school 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, although not for much longer.
In back, the tall roof and adjustable backseat (it not only reclines but also slides fore and aft) provides head- and legroom for 6-footers. This hatchback's split rear seat doesn't fold entirely flat for cargo, but it does deliver more than 50 cubic feet of space.
In the cut and thrust of city traffic, the 2011 Nissan Cube is rarely caught flat-footed. Much of the credit goes to its superb CVT, which makes the most of the engine's available power. Another positive is the plush ride quality. On the highway, though, the Cube's shape doesn't exactly slip through the air, so noticeable wind noise at higher speeds is the result. This is also not a platform for enthusiastic driving, as the Cube's slow, light-effort steering and soft suspension make it an uninspiring companion.