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2009 Nissan Cube Krom Review & Test Drive

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The all-new 2009 Nissan Cube is not really all-new, but is the third-generation.  Nissan introduced the original Cube, an aptly named box-on-wheels, to minor consumer interest.

Maybe the Cube was ahead of its time, even for the hip, young Japanese.

2009nissancubebadge01smallTime is change and Nissan didn’t give up and they spent time and money getting the all-new 2nd generation ready for its 2002 debut to the Japanese market.  More spacious inside, more glass outside, more power under the hood, and a few more angles and curved surface details added to its compact, slab-sided exterior.  Japanese styling personified, the new Cube took Tokyo by storm.  The Cube was a hit as a pocket-sized fun and function machine.

Like the Nissan GT-R before it, the Nissan Cube soon found an audience outside of Japan-not in person but through its exposure in fashion, videos, the web, and automotive magazines.

Flash forward to today, more than 10-years since its original introduction, and the Nissan Cube is ready to meet the rest of the world in person, in an all-new dramatically rethought 3rd generation design that is clever, quirky, witty, fun and uniquely functional, and it is still totally square.  The Cube is on sale today at Nissan dealers.

More than just unique geometry, however, the new 2009 Cube is also conceived as a totally different take on the automobile-a car that doesn’t want to be defined as a car.

2009nissanheadonactionhouse01small“With its unique blend of fashion and function, Cube imagines a life less ordinary,” said Al Castignetti, VP, Sales, Nissan Division, North America.  “Cube is as much as a Mobile Device as it is an automobile, something that enhances life like people’s digital devices do.  Cube is a vehicle that people of all ages can fall in love with, even whey they don’t love cars.”

Along with its projected fuel economy of more than 30mpg/highway and 28mpg/city with the CVT transmission, Cube offers an alphabet of standard safety features including ABS, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system, six airbags including front/side and curtain airbags, and front seat active head restraints.  That’s giving more safety than any other entry-level, $16,000.00 vehicle that I know of.

The new Nissan Cube is not a ‘youth car’ by any means.  Like the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR vehicles before, the Cube will be purchased by all classes of consumers looking for the right car for their needs.

2009nissancubepanleft01smallThe all-new 2009 Nissan Cube builds on the previous generation Cube’s non-traditional design with an improved stance and an added sense of dynamic movement.  With Cube’s long wheelbase relative to its overall length (a 99.6in. wheelbase against a 156.7in. overall length) and wide track, the wheels, in effect, are pushed out to each corner-providing exceptional space utilization and a confident-looking stance that has been compared to a ‘bulldog in sunglasses’.  Dynamically, the wide stance adds to the Cube’s surprising handling prowess.

Along with its stance, the “incognito canine” look is aided by the wide headlights and grille treatment, the small but substantial body proportions and the short “tail section”.

2009nissancuberearaction01smallIn the rear, the bar-type taillights reinforce the wide, anchored feel.  The Cube’s creators also sought to maintain a sense of “pure design” reducing the number of character lines to give simplicity and freshness to the styling.  I tested the ‘Krom’ package with exclusive chrome bars integrated into the front bumper fascia, front bumper grille, radiator grille, bodyside lower sills, rear bumper fascia, roof spoiler, 16X6in. chrome-clad wheels and body-color power outside mirrors.  The short front and rear overhangs also add to the Cube’s unique box shape.

Another unique aspect of the Cube’s exterior is the greenhouse.  The A-pillars are positioned for outward and relatively upright, giving a wider range of forward visibility.  The front door windows utilize a ‘photo frame’ design patterned after a personal photo frame, while the dark-tinted asymmetrical wraparound side/rear window creates enhanced rear diagonal visibility for easier lane changes and reverse parking.

2009nissancubebeautyleft01smallThe “geometric circle shape in the square rear window is Cube’s signature,” says Castignetti.  “Though there are D-pillars on both sides of the Cube, the visual effect of the narrower passenger-side pillar is quite remarkable in the overall appearance, a look aided by the asymmetrical back door.”  Unlike typical top-hinged or clamshell-style utility rear doors, Cube features an easy-access refrigerator-style, swing-out opening which makes it possible to open or close it even when parked tight against another vehicle in certain situations.  The back door opens fully when space allows for loading groceries, luggage, or large-sized objects-or to a limited-access position, about eight inches, when space is restricted for retrieving or loading a backpack or other small objects.  The one-hand door handle operation is designed for easy use, even while carrying things in your other hand or arm.  The Cube keeps getting more and friendlier with your everyday needs.

The centerpiece of the new Cube’s universal appeal is its ‘social space’-the surprisingly roomy interior that offers room for five in lounge-like comfort.  It creates a third space, in addition to home, school, or work for interacting with friends.  Its space is highly changeable and adaptable to each owner’s evolving lives, with plenty of room, comfort and personalization abilities.

2009nissancubedashboard01smallCube’s clever, inspired and surprisingly open occupant space was conceived with a ‘spa tub-like curve’ layout and ‘floating meter pod’ driver’s area.  It combines ‘casual lounge’-style passenger seating with a relaxed driving experience and the Cube isn’t a fast, high-performance vehicle.

The interactive interior is anchored by its curve-themed architecture, such as the subtle wavy shaping of the instrument panel, door panels, seat shapes armrests and ionic circular-oval shapes of elements ranging from A/C vents door pulls and climate controls.

2009nissancuberearalldoorsopen01smallThe ‘over-sized’ comfortable Cube seating includes 6-way manual driver’s seat and 4-way manual front passenger’s seat, along with a ‘lounge sofa’ style sliding, 60/40 split rear bench seat.  The reclining rear seat can be adjusted to three positions-full rearward that provides ample legroom, mid-position, (3.9in. forward), or front position, (6in. forward).  To make entry and exit easier, all four doors have grab handles above, and the seat back even has a pull-down armrest with dual cup-holders.

Cube’s stress-free driving experience is the result of the extremely tight 32.8ft. curb-to-curb turning radius, a tall seating position made possible by the tall body height, an extremely short hood, and the good rear visibility for parking and backing up, one of the most stressful aspects for young or inexperienced drivers.

2009nissanicubenstrumentcluster01smallOther interior features include the ‘floating pod’ instrument panel with asymmetrical light blue and white gauges, which are designed to make it easier to distinguish between the speedometer and tachometer.  The gauge needles ‘sweep’ when the engine is started to add a sense of flair, while the gradation effect gives a natural ambience similar to the glow of the while moon and blue earth.  LED sub-gauges are concentrated for enhanced visibility.  The tilting, sporty, three-spoke steering wheel is available with leather wrapping and steering-wheel audio and cruise-control buttons.

2009nissancubefrontseats01smallConvenient storage spaces and cup/bottle holders are abundant throughout the Cube’s interior-including six cup-holders, including one to the left of the instrument cluster for easy use, and five bottle holders.  There are also detachable multi-hooks for holding bags or hats, which can be moved from place to place-including the instrument panel and rear passenger doors.

The ‘shelf expression’ concept features two shelves located on top center and passenger side of the instrument panel.  Not designed for holding objects when the Cube is in motion, they provide convenient spaces for placing keys, cell phones, or digital music players when the vehicle is parked.  The shelves can be personalized with accessory wood-like trim or shag carpeting.  Cube’s ‘Magic Rubber Bands’ another clever Cube accessory item, are colorful rubber bands (red, yellow, orange or silver) that slip into cutouts on the door armrest to secure items such as maps, photos, towels, etc.

2009nissancubebackseats01small_edited-1The interior is really about the Cube conforming to each owner’s needs, rather than the other way around.  You can put your favorite or important items anywhere you want, not where the vehicle tells you to.

The Cube’s interior design also incorporates a series of subtle ‘water drop’ concentric circles, inspired by nature and the calming way that ripples move outward from a drop of water.  The circles can be seen in the roof headliner to the cup-holders to the climate control design.

The Cube’s electronically controlled heating and cooling system provides quiet, efficient operation with easy to recognize and use knobs and switches.  My Krom package test vehicle came with these other standard equipment inside not mentioned above: power 2009nissancubedoortrim01smallwindows with driver’s-side one-touch auto down feature (optional express up/down), remote keyless entry, power door locks with auto-locking features, variable intermittent windshield wipers and intermittent rear window wiper, rear window defroster with timer, cargo area courtesy light and hoods, 12-volt power outlet, aluminum-trimmed foot pedals, 20-color interior accent lighting, Krom black/gray premium seat fabric, titanium-tone A/C bezel, shifter bezel and hear lever treatments, leather wrapped steering wheel, AM-FM-CD audio system with 6-upgraded speakers and a Rockfor/Fosgate subwoofer, MP3 CD-ROM playback capability, radio data system, speed-sensitive volume control, interface system for iPod, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, multi-function trip computer, with outside temperature display, fine vision 2009nissancubebeauty-01smallelectroluminescent gauges, under front seat vent duct, chrome plated inside door handles, dual overhead map lamps, cargo area light with on/off switch, visor vanity mirrors, cargo cover, two multi-purpose removable ripple hooks, and adjustable front seat belt upper anchors.

Available Cube technology features include Nissan’s intelligent key with push button start/stop, Bluetooth, Rockford/Fosgate subwoofer with six speakers, XM satellite radio, interface system for your iPod, and a rear sonar sensing system for added safety.

The Cube interior is offered in two color environments, Wall Gray and Graphite.

Wall Gray, available in a quilted suede-like fabric with special ‘natural wave ‘stitching only, is designed to create a relaxing contrast between the warm, light gray upholstery and warm off-black interior accents.  The warm off-black Graphite interior in two cloth grades, provides a combination of relaxation and a more traditional ‘driving enjoyment’ attitude.

“The cube’s interior is an excellent example of how an inexpensive, high-value vehicle can be done well-quality design, quality materials and the features and equipment that the owner needs with room for personalization, rather than forced customization,” said Castignetti.

Just as the Cube has its own unique take on styling and interior design, the engineering team took a fresh approach to performance-creating a vehicle that is easy and fun to drive in traffic or on the open road.

2009nissancubeengine01smallThe emphasis for Cube’s performance credentials is squarely on fun-to-drive, rather than exhilaration.  Cube combines an advanced 122hp 1.8.iter DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine with a new-generation Nissan Xtronic CVT (R) continuously variable transmission for good acceleration response, smooth operation in all driving situations and optimum fuel economy.

The Xtronic CVT, unlike conventional stepped gear automatics, operates as essentially ‘one gear’ through use of a belt and two pulleys.  By infinitely varying the working diameters of the two pulleys, the transmission eliminates the ‘steps’ between gears, resulting in a smoother, more efficient operation by keeping the engine in its optimum power range under a variety of driving and load conditions.  Of all the CVT systems that I have tested in the past several years, I am always impressed with Nissan’s smooth and quiet operation.  Cube’s new generation DVT adopts a new CVT oil warmer for enhanced warm-up performance in cold conditions.  It also includes an advanced Adaptive Shift Control (ASC), which detects the driving situation and style (economy, normal, sports) and communicates with the engine control module, helping optimize both driving fun and fuel economy.

The Cube is also offered with a 6-speed manual transmission with a new shift control system, triple cone synchronizers (1st and 2nd gear) and reverse synchronizer system.

As a result of its 2,800 pound weight, the Cube has a strong power-to-weight ratio, which combined with the advanced CVT, gives it a surprisingly spirited driving feel.  The engine and transmission are very responsive with excellent off-the-line thrills.

Cube’s suspension combines an independent MacPherson strut front set with stabilizer bar and a torsion beam rear with integrated stabilizer bar.  It comfortable, flat ride is a result, in part, of the ‘Ripple Control’ shocks and the high body stiffness.

The vehicle-speed-sensitive electric power-assisted steering works well and is nicely weighted with quick reaction to your inputs.

Quickly slowing the Cube down from speed are large, powerful power-assisted brakes with the latest in brake technology mentioned above.  Up front are 11.2in. vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers while 11.7in. drums work the rear wheels.

The Cube rides on standard 15X6in. wheels wrapped with 195/60R15in. all-season tires with larger, 16X6in. aluminum alloy wheels, chromed with the Krom package, are wrapped with 195/55R16in. all-season radials for a smooth ride with plenty of front-wheel grip from its wide stance.

Standard safety features not mentioned above include front/rear crumple zones, side impact beams in each door, 3-point safety belts for all seats, head restraints for all seats,

Nissan vehicle immobilizer, child safety rear door locks, LATCH anchors for child seats, and a vehicle security alarm system.

While not for everyone, the Cube has a lot of good things going for it-cool looks, better than average fuel mileage ratings, a reconfigurable interior to suit the needs of each owner, a long list of standard and safety features.  You get a lot of car for the money because the all-new 2009 Nissan Cube has a base price of $16,000.000, the up-level Krom package comes in at $19,370.00 and my loaded Krom was $20,420.00 including destination charges.

COPYRIGHT:2009:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: MSRP $19,370 as-tested $20,420
Type: Compact Wagon
Where Built: Japan
EPA Class: Compact Cars

Dimensions

Exterior
Length: 157.5 in.
Width: 66.7 in.
Height: 65 in.
Wheel Base: 99.6 in.
Curb Weight: 2864 lbs.
Gross Weight: 3858 lbs.
Interior
Front Head Room: 42.6 in.
Front Hip Room: 48.8 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 52.2 in.
Rear Head Room: 40.2 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 52.4 in.
Rear Hip Room: 47.6 in.
Front Leg Room: 42.4 in.
Rear Leg Room: 35.5 in.
Luggage Capacity: 11.4 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 58 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5

Performance Data

Base Number of Cylinders: 4
Base Engine Size: 1.8 liters
Base Engine Type: Inline 4
Horsepower: 122 hp
Max Horsepower: 5200 rpm
Torque: 127 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 4800 rpm
Drive Type: FWD
Turning Circle: 33.4 ft.
0-60mph: 9.5 seconds

Fuel Data

Fuel Tank Capacity: 13.2 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 28 mpg / 30 mpg / 29 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 369.6 mi. / 396 mi. / 382.8 mi.

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