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First Impressions - 2011 Nissan Cube

My Ford Fiesta was recently totaled in an unfortunate freeway accident. I'm fine but the poor car is beyond repair. Thanks to insurance I was able to quickly recover and pick up a new car. I bought a 2011 Nissan Cube.

 

The American market is new to the Cube but it actually has a pretty long history in Japan. My personal favorite is the second generation. Its cube shape is so true to its concept and is truly iconic. The 3rd generation is simply too rounded and begins to lose some of the signature boxiness that makes the car special.

 

 

I'm a fan of kei cars. The maximization of space with constrained dimensions is something that's very appealing to me as a product designer. At its core, a car is a tool. And arguably, a tool should be made as purposeful as possible. The Cube is a bit big to be considered a kei car but still follows some of the key ideas behind them. The car is shorter than a Golf yet provides a significantly higher volume in the cabin. In a city like Tokyo, every inch is valuable, and that's why the Cube exists. The square design isn't a stylistic decision, it's a cultural one. And that's why I like the Cube.

 

 

There are many that call the Cube "ugly". I think it's cute. Nissan likes to call it a bulldog with sunglasses.

 

I purchased my car today at a dealer called Dirito Brothers in Concord, CA. Got a decent deal and they are the most respectful dealer I've ever been to. 

 

Here it is. The color is called white pearl. If you haven't noticed, I like white cars.

 

The Cube is equipped with a 1.8L 4 cylinder producing 122hp and 127 lb-ft of torque. It's plenty. I have it paired with a Xtronic CVT. Quite a change from the 6 speed dual clutch I had on the Ford Fiesta. It's silky smooth and although it doesn't feel excited to move, it's extremely relaxed to drive. The suspension is tuned to be slightly on the cushy side. It's still firm and confident but will absorb potholes well. The Cube is all about comfort. 

 

The best metaphor of the Cube is that it's a living room on wheels. That might sound very unappealing to auto enthusiasts but I find it to be a fascinating proposition. Driving is a fun activity. Driving in the city is not. The Cube is a comforting car for city driving. Makes  sense to me.

 

These space age windows are quite charming. 

 

My Cube is the S model and comes with a few packages. One of them is the exterior accent kit. It includes some chrome highlights including these on the mirror. Not sure how I feel about them yet.

 

Everything is soft and unaggressive. This gentle appearance is an aesthetic decision, and though not honest, it's impossible to find a car with honesty in the market. Automotive design is not product design, and is a business of style and dishonesty. Some challenge the decisions made by Nissan to make such a stylistic car but I think it's a breath of fresh air in the world of aggressive cars that look like killing machines. 

 

The rear is probably the most iconic angle of the Cube.

 

The asymmetrical window treatment is my favorite detail. 

 

A peaceful city car. There's something really special about that idea.

 

The really brilliant thing about the Cube is the amount of room it has. The Cube is 4" shorter than the Ford Fiesta yet it provides an exponential amount of cargo space. The door-like trunk is also quite unique. 

 

The interior. It's huge. The car has more headroom than a Chevrolet Tahoe. I'm serious. I got the light interior. The Cube also comes with a black interior but it's pretty drab and nasty looking. It's a cheery car, go for the happy colors.

 

The gage cluster. Nothing fancy but the graphics great for legibility.

 

I love this steering wheel. It has a nice substantial feel to it. It's covered in leather too so bonus points there.

 

To the left of the driver are two cupholders. They're positioned next to the steering-wheel so it's super convenient

 

The turn signal and wiper controls are nice and big too. Big enough for a child.

 

The interior is really the most important aspect to a car since it's where you spend all your time. I love the Cube interior. It's roomy and has a comforting aesthetic to it. The material quality isn't anything premium though, just hard plastic everywhere. However, everything is really well put together and tolerances seem tighter than my Ford.

 

To maximize interior volume, Nissan has carved away huge chunks of the interior. I like how all the surfaces transition in a fluid manner. 

 

There are some interesting touches in the interior too. This bungee cord on the doors lets you hold a parking ticket or other small objects.

 

Also comes with additional colors. 

 

The audio system is quite nice too. The unit feels a bit out of place on the dash but is quite capable. It has bluetooth with speech recognition and iPod connectivity. The whole system is connected to four 6.5" speakers and two 1.5" tweeters. It sounds pretty good from my short time listening to it. I love the oversized hazard button by the way.

 

The iPod is connected with a proprietary cable. Thankfully the dealer gave one to me.

 

The AC is manual and is located at a nice height. It also has a nice clicky feel which was one of my gripes with the Ford Fiesta.

 

And ofcourse, the dash has carpet on it. Why? Who knows.

 

Even the headliner is unique. This might be going a bit too far though.

 

The sun visors are huge. I'm sure they're normally used in Nissan's full sized trucks.

 

The most comfortable car seats I've ever sat in. They're extremely plush and are closer to a sofa than a car seat.  

 

The rear seats slide and also fold. They don't fold flat with the floor though. 

 

The seats are super soft to the touch.  

 

And to make up for the hard plastics, Nissan has strategically positioned the cloth insets on the doors so you never need to rest your arms on plastic.

 

The floor mats are really really plush. Nissan knows how to do fabric. Seriously.

 

Well, that's it for now. I've only had it for a day so we'll see how it holds up over the next few months. I'll do a long term review in the future. First impressions are very positive though. I love the car.