2009 Nissan Cube

The Nissan Cube, the original little mass-market boxy car, has been running around Japan for 10 years. While it has stubbornly stayed put on its home soil, competitors with a similar “hip to be square” design philosophy—like the Scion xB, Honda Element, and Kia Soul—have carved out a sizeable US market. The Cube, now in its third generation, has finally reached American shores.

Compare the Cube!

If you’re thinking about buying a Nissan Cube, you might also consider a Scion xB or Kia Soul. Compare these vehicles.

The front-drive Cube is powered by a 122-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine tied to either a six-speed manual or an Xtronic CVT automatic. Built on a subcompact platform, it comes in four trim levels: standard, S, SL, and Krom, each model piling on more options. We had a chance to drive the uplevel Krom with CVT.

The Drive

Nissan Cube Grill

The Cube has EPA ratings of 28 in the city and 30 on the highway with the CVT, and 24 city/ 29 highway with the manual gearbox. We did our usual 112-mile mixed driving loop two times in order to see a range in fuel economy. The first drive was slow, conservative, and light-footed, while the second trip was much more ambitious, with harder acceleration and frequent passing. Our first drive yielded a thrifty 32.4 miles per gallon, and the second gave us just 22.9 miles per gallon. In normal, everyday driving, we would expect combined fuel economy of 28 to 29 miles per gallon.

The Cube is not particularly powerful or sporty. It struggles to get up to higher speeds, but once there, it cruises steadily. Left-lane passing and interstate merges are not this car’s forte. But if you put the accelerator to the floor and keep it there, you’ll find some power in the higher end of the rev band—but not without a level of engine buzz beyond our liking.

The ride was comfortable and smooth. Passengers enjoy a nice buffer from the road. The Cube does well over potholes and broken pavement, commonplace in most urban landscapes. But the plush ride takes a toll on handling. The Cube is neither agile, nor precise. Rather, the car feels disconnected from the roadway. And there’s quite a bit of body roll when cornering, somewhat expected considering the car’s tall profile.

In tight, slow-moving situations, like parking lots and narrow streets, the Cube maneuvers very well. A small footprint, light steering, and a short turning radius make it ideal for many urban situations.


The Cube’s styling is an entirely different matter. It is defined by squared off angles, wide body panels, a tall silhouette, and an expressionless front-end. You’ll either love it or hate it.

Nissan Cube Badge

The biggest criticism of the Cube’s styling is its purposeful asymmetry. The car’s right and left profiles distinctively differ from one another. To some, this imbalance is bothersome to the eye; to others, it’s art on wheels. In an era in which controversial car designs—the Toyota Prius and Scion xB for example have found a devoted following—the Cube should have no trouble building its own fan base.

At 156.7 inches long, it is the smallest of the boxy wagons. It is almost a foot shorter than the Scion xB, but don’t let that fool you. The inside is incredibly roomy. The efficiency of the cube shape provides an abundance of headroom due to the car’s high roofline. For this reason, it can comfortably accommodate occupants well over six feet tall—a claim most compacts and subcompacts cannot make.

Beyond passenger room, visibility in all directions is excellent. This is the result of well-positioned seats and expansive windows. And the seats themselves are supportive and firm—good for daily commuting and longer travel.

The Nissan Cube Side View
The Nissan Cube Interior

Interior styling reflects the quirky outer shell. It is not over-the-top, but it has its own flare. The sculpted, upright dash, and long, oval air vents give the Cube a unique character. Our Krom tester brought features such as Bluetooth, a leather steering wheel with audio controls, and a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer.

Nissan Cube Console

Cargo room is another major highlight. With rear seats down, the Cube can hold almost as much luggage or gear as some small to midsize crossover vehicles. Again, the height and shape of the car really come into play.

Whimsical, quirky, fun, citified, hip, roomy, tall, efficient, practical, affordable, youthful, odd. These are all words to describe the new 2009 Nissan Cube. And with a base price of $14,000, it’s a welcome addition to the small economy class.


  • Unique and playful design
  • Mileage in the 30s
  • More cargo space than competitors
  • Not powerful or sporty
  • The ride feels disconnected from the road
  • Some don't like asymmetrical design

Price quote for Nissan Cube

2009 Nissan Cube
Base MSRP: $14,000
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  • Tom

    What’s is good for? Other than the low price. If it can’t stay in the left lane and pass others it will become road kill!

  • Guy

    If i want a cube likes Honda Element style, care with the Toyota Prius 3rd gen. hybrid drivetrain and (previous) Saturn polymer (light and scratch free) body panels, where should I go to shop? … nowhere until now. This one looks like a home made prototype of Scion xB. I’ll pass.

  • Max Reid

    This small car may have more cargo space than many big sedans.
    Scion-xb, Kia-Soul, Nissan-Cube, we need more of these Cubes.

  • thevgtech

    Dissapointing mileage, even driven lightly. Also, as with any tall hatch or wagon, the spec on cargo space is misleading because you have to pile up your cargo to take advantage. Some cargo can’t be piled and it blocks the rear window. I prefer a more traditional small wagon whre ou can lay out the cargo and still see out. Also, look at the short rear overhang. If you get rear ended, your rear passengers (think baby seat) don’t have much protection. I’ll pass and keep my ’97 Escort wagon awhile longer and hope that the boneheads at Ford bring back the Focus wagon, still available in Europe. By the way, said Escort matches the author’s first test result in my daily driving. When are we going to start seeing improvement in non-hybrid vehicles?

  • Peter

    Should this car even be reported on here? I thought this was Hybridcars.com?

    Just more of the same ICE crap from the automakers and the usual hoopla from the media.

    Shame on Hybridcars for promoting this repackaged garbage.

  • 9691

    Peter is right. It doesn’t belong on this site at all. BTW I drove behind one a few days ago. Man it’s ugly.

  • Samie

    Sorry but the interior looks awful & the seats remind me of sitting on ply-board. One wonders why some car companies can’t fully make the leap into full hybrids or say fast EV’s for the luxury crowds, it seems that full hybrids or EV’s have greater growth potential than say a million car companies competing for a “Urban” market segment.

  • witchking407

    This does not belong here this car isn’t a hybrid!

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Although I will concede to all the above contributors that it is not a hybrid, this site is about saving gas, saving environment, and saving money (with many other related side issues). Most people still think 20/25 mpg is really “great” gas mileage since that is still what most people buy vehicle wise. With an expected 28/29 mpg, this is a step in the right direction whether it is a hybrid or not. Personally, it is not enough gas mileage increase for me, but it is a 30 to 50 percent increase in gas mileage for many other people. And call me prejudice, but I want a car that at least looks aerodynamic. And these “cubes” just do not cut it.

  • jeff jerkins

    I bought one about four weeks ago. I like it a lot. I got 32 mpg on my first two tanks of gas, and never even got on the highway.
    It is quiet, smooth, comfortable, and everyone who doesn’t like it changes their mind after riding in it. I find myself comfortable in crowded parking lots due to lots of window area all around, and anticipating U-turns due to it’s tight turning radius. I’m 6 ft. 1 and I don’t let my seat back all the way as I do with most cars, but even if I did, there would still be plenty of room for a 6 foot person in the seat behind me. I bought the car because I wanted space, gas mileage, style, and an affordable price to fit my budget.
    I’ve had my share of fast cars, and this is definantly not one of them, but I have no problem staying out of peoples way, or even getting around slow pokes. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

  • jeff jerkins

    Oh, and by the way, I forgot to mention Don’t worry about the baby either. Looking at the car from the outside can be misleading on how much space you have behind the back seat [which slides forward and backward six inches]. I use the car to get the household groceries, and there is plenty of room in the back for me to put our groceries. The car has a very high safety rating, even though you would not think so by looking at it. And no, I don’t work for nissan. Most people either love this car or hate it.
    There are not many in the middle. That’s okay.

  • jeff jerkins

    I’ve had the cube over four months now, and I still really like this little car. I have yet to get less than 30 mpg on a tank of gas. Although 32.5 is the best I’ve had on a tank. It seems to get about the same on the highway as it does in the suburbs. I guess it just hasn’t got much wind resistance due to it’s shape. It does have plenty of power in it’s higher rpm’s, but it gets a bit noisy if you need to go there. No problems yet.

  • Anonymous

    I have been gawking over the car for sometime in both for or against directions. Although I have never been in a “Cube” I know Nissan (Infinity) drive awesome and am considering buying a Cube…. Jeff J. thanks for your percise description about the room in the back for kids.

  • Anonomous

    I love the cube it is sooooo adorable and gets fairly good gas mileage the first time i drove it i got 30 miles to the gallon

  • Jimsim

    I have had my Cube for about a year. It’s an SL model in pearl white. I have 2, 2002 Grand Cherokee’s which my wife and I like alot for thier all purpose do anything, go anywhere ability. Mileage however 12-14 in my high output version and 15-16 in the standard v8 version. this is mostly city driving. They both can get 20-22 on the highway which is respectable I guess. Anyway, I thought about what I really need a car for and first determined that 4×4 was not really necessary in N.VA. I dont have a boat anymore so towing is not necessary and kid is off to college with own car (Dodge Caliber) which he loves . I was with Father in law car shopping on Sunday and stopped by the Nissan dealer in Fairfax. That was first time I saw a Cube. Wow… There was like 15 of them all lined up. One of them was unlocked so I got in. Dare I say I was sold upon entry. Yes, at 6’3″ 280 you normally have to contort yourself to even get into a SUV. The movement from standing to being seated was effortless due to wide and tall opening. Everything was where you would think it should be with no excesses or piling on of accessories and buttons. The car has a oneness about it like it was grown from a seed and not assembled from hundreds of different parts. If you wish to migrate from a gas thirsty SUV to something in this size range you will need to modify your thinking in terms ridding yourself of any unnecessary items that you tend to stow away in your big SUV. Then you can be perfectly at home.
    As for the negative Cube reviewers, haters or folks that are on the fence. You guys got it all wrong. The Cube is not a sports car and it’s not a Prius. However, it handles tons better than my Grand Cherokee and gets better than twice the mileage. Interior actually feels more spacious to boot and riding position feels familiar like the SUV. It’s quiet, comfortable and relatively cheap. I have hauled 10 3c/ft bags of mulch in it with seats down and all the groceries we normally use with seats up. The best thing is when you look in your rear view mirror and frequently see the perplexed look on peoples face gestering to each other with their hands trying to describe the shape. Priceless.
    This car just works. It’s part truck, part car and part living room. Stop all the whining about the shape because it defies what you have become accustomed to and what the auto elites have brainwashed you into thinking what shape is proper. There is a reason this car is so popular in Japan. Unlock your behavior and allow it accept change. 🙂