Nissan Cube

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So square and yet so cool: Nissan Cube
Nissan Cube
from $13,990
Entertainment features:
Bluetooth, iPod/MP3 compatible and Sirius XM radio
Comfort features:
Keyless entry, climate control and power windows
Safety features:
Anti-lock brakes, anti-theft

Nissan’s rolling-box offering is the most recent addition to our triad. Following the Soul into showrooms by about a month, the Cube is Nissan’s interpretation of the coolness of square. It’s Nissan’s second run at the Cube, having launched the original in 1998 to an unimpressed public. The pug snout and wide stance make the 2009 version’s comparison to a “bulldog in sunglasses” not too far off the mark. Arguably, the most distinctive of our troika in terms of exterior styling, the rounded window openings and uber-unconventional, asymmetrical rear-end styling stops curbside gapers in their tracks. If you were ever going to hug a car, Cube would probably be the one.

A car, however huggable, must deliver in other areas as well. These small cars are intended as urban warriors, and Cube has it covered. Its stunted length (13 feet), narrow turning radius (33 feet) and wrap-around rear glass conspire to make it the easiest of our group to parallel park. Cube borrows its 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and the bulk of its underpinnings from the Versa. Its ride is smooth and pliant.

At $14,685, the base trim level is equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, as is the “S” version. A $1,000 option on the S and standard on the “SL” and “Krom” versions is a new continuously variable transmission, or CVT, that delivers engine output to the front wheels. The CVT replaces the four or five gears of conventional automatic transmissions with an infinite number of gearings, maximizing performance and fuel efficiency.

Nissan refers to Cube’s interior as a “casual lounge.” Its blueprint was the inclusive, curved seating area of a spa tub. It is a social space that feels open yet intimate. The rear seat has six inches of fore-aft travel, which means the seat can move forward and backward six inches, and the seatback reclines. Both front bucket seats are multi-adjustable. A tidier arrangement than xB’s instrument panel, the Cube’s dash is more traditional in spirit. However, its “floating meter pod” in front of the driver uses white illumination for the tachometer and blue for the speedometer, enabling the driver to distinguish between the two at a glance. Six cup holders and five bottle holders are scattered around the cabin. Detachable hooks for bags can be moved around the interior.

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So square and yet so cool:

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