Tony O'Kane | Nov 20, 2008

Looking much less toaster-like than the outgoing model, the 2009 Nissan Cube has been officially unveiled at the LA Auto Show alongside its far more streamlined 370Z brother.

Up until now the Cube has remained unique to the Japanese market. However from early next year, the quirky Cube will cease to be just another oddball compact car from 'Over There', and will be produced in left-hand-drive and exported to the United States in high volume.

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Toyota achieved reasonable success with its youth-oriented Scion xB, which was essentially a rebranded and LHD version of the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Toyota bB. Nissan appears to be aiming to replicate the same formula with the Cube, and the car has been posited as a fun, 'cutesy' and fashionable small car aimed squarely at the hipster demographic. Hell, even Nissan's press release for the Cube drips cuteness, with the automaker describing the slab-sided hatchback as possessing both "the charm of Godzilla and the wit of Mothra".

Whatever.

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But despite all the bizarre hyperbole and somewhat questionable pop-culture references, the Cube isn't just about making a strong visual impression - it's also eminently practical too. Its squared-off and very upright shape frees up the maximum allowable interior space within the car's footprint, while that peculiar asymmetrical glasshouse is there to accommodate the hinge for the Cube's enormous full-width rear door, as well as improve rearward visibility. Form and function? The Cube's got both in spades.

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The wheel-at-each-corner stance maximizes interior space, while the Cube's side profile reveals a car whose length is split roughly 75/25 between the cabin and the engine bay. Nissan describes the Cube's interior as being more a "casual lounge" than a cabin, and while you won't find any coffee tables, newspaper racks or free-standing floor lamps there are a few design features that should make the Cube's interior a more "sociable" space than others.

The dashboard, for example, was allegedly modelled after the curving tub of a Jacuzzi, while the reclinable 'lounge sofa' style rear bench seat is positioned higher than the front pews in order to provide back seat passengers with a better view. But is it sociable? Well, I dunno about you, but nothing beats a reclinable back seat for maximum 'sociability', if you know what I mean (haw haw haw).

Niss_Cube_2009_13 Sexual innuendo aside, there are other aspects of the interior that should prove useful to future Cube owners. A floating instrument pod features improved markings designed to make it easier to distinguish between tacho and speedo, while storage bins, cupholders, bottle holders, shelves and bag hooks can be found in abundance throughout the Cube's interior. The dashboard shelves can also be customised with faux-wood trim or shagpile carpeting (tres pimptastique) while multi-purpose "Magic Rubber Bands" (we call 'em 'straps') can be used to secure whatever you desire to the door armrests.

Niss_Cube_2009_01 Oh, if you were wondering about that weird headliner the answer is no, there's nothing wrong with it. Nissan has adopted a waterdrop motif as the Cube's signature theme and the ripple texture features not only on the headliner, but also on the cupholders and the climate control buttons.

More traditional mod cons include power windows and remote keyless entry, while a push-button starter, Bluetooth connectivity, iPod connectivity, rear parking sensors and a six-speaker Rockford Fosgate stereo system are optional extras.

Hiding beneath that ultra-short bonnet is an MR18DE 1.8-litre inline four, which produces a modest 91kW and 172Nm of torque. Mated to the Cube's four-banger is either a CVT automatic or a six-speed manual transmission, with the CVT delivering 7.84L/100km during highway cruising. Front suspension is taken care of by a MacPherson strut setup while the rear axle is suspended by a torsion beam.

Niss_Cube_2009_03 The Cube comes with a comprehensive list of safety kit, with ABS, EBD, BA, traction control and vehicle dynamic control all working together to keep the blocky hatchback off the dirt and on the tarmac. Should things get messy, a full complement of front, side and curtain airbags should help keep injury to a minimum.

The Cube will be sold in the USA in three trim levels, Cube 1.8, Cube 1.8 S and Cube 1.8 SL, while a full range of Nissan-approved aftermarket kit will allow owners to put their own personal stamp on the slabby small car. Pricing has yet to be announced and it's still uncertain whether Nissan Australia will ever see fit to take the Cube Downunder. Do we want the Cube? Have your say in the comments box below.

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