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Nissan Cube odd-looking, but fun to drive

By G. Chambers Williams III
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

As funny as it looks — some of my co-workers call it a “clown car” — the Nissan Cube just might be the perfect car for today’s motorist.

The asymmetrical design at the rear, with the back glass wrapping around only on the passenger side, isn’t for everyone. (My OCD son says that drives him nuts.) But I like it enough that I have to admit that I bought a Cube for myself.

To me, it looks great, it’s fun to drive, and it’s quite comfortable, even for bigger people — even though on the outside, it’s a compact car with a subcompact length.

Originally introduced for 2009, the Cube returns for 2014 with a beginning price of $16,760 for the base S model with a six-speed manual transmission, and $17,760 for the S with a continuously variable automatic. The third model offered is the SL, at $18,860, and an SL Preferred Package dresses that one up for an additional $1,890.

My SL tester was quite well-equipped, too — with even a backup camera that displayed the view to the rear on the color monitor in the dash, part of the Preferred Package. The package also added navigation, audio upgrades and front fog lights.

Other extras included a chrome trim package, previously standard on the now-discontinued Cube Krom model. We also had the 16-inch silver-alloy wheels, and the splash guards for the rear wheels. Total sticker price was $22,040, excluding destination charge.

But you don’t have to spend that much to have a nice Cube. I would have been happy with the S model with the CVT, with no extras, for under $19,000.

I’m partial to roomy SUV-type vehicles, particularly ones that let you sit up above most of the cars on the road, as the Cube does. It’s funny that this vehicle is actually a compact, but it’s so tall that I was seated at the same altitude as most of the minivans and larger SUVs.

The driver’s seat is much more comfortable than that of other, much more expensive cars I’ve driven lately. There is room for up to five people, and 11.4 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat. But that opens up to more than 58 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.

Some of the extras do add some pizzazz to the car — especially the wheels, as well as the Aerodynamic Kit (another Krom carryover), which adds body side sills, a front chin spoiler, rear underbody protector and rear roof spoiler.

Nissan describes the Cube, which is aimed at young men (18-25), as yet another “mobile device” to help them connect with their friends, billing it as a “social space” that is in actuality a “lounge on wheels.”

The Cube is similar in design and concept to Toyota’s Scion xB and the Kia Soul. Its charm is the asymmetrical, boxy exterior, which gives it the clownish look that makes it hard to go unnoticed among the bland and boring cars that dominate the auto landscape.

Even the entry-level model is decently equipped. Standard features include air conditioning, power windows with driver’s side one-touch down, keyless entry, locks with auto-locking feature, variable intermittent wipers (including a rear wiper and defroster), cargo-area courtesy light and tie-down hooks, and adjustable front shoulder belt anchors.

Nissan’s intelligent-key system is included on the SL, and allows for keyless entry and pushbutton start. Features include 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, auto headlights, and climate control.

Other items in the SL Preferred Package include USB connection port for iPod and other devices, upgraded speakers, Rockford Fosgate eight-inch subwoofer and amplifier, and satellite radio.

Under the hood of all models is a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter, double-overhead-cam, inline four-cylinder engine, the same one used in the Nissan Versa subcompact. EPA ratings are 25 mpg city/30 highway with the manual, and 27/31 with the CVT.



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