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Square the Joys Are

2009 Nissan Cube

When I got the e-mail from Chris Kivi, internet sales manager at Mike Barney Nissan, that one of these rounded-off squares was available, I headed on over quickly, as they’re not staying long on the lot.

Anytime I find myself in the Northtowns, my drives usually take me through the UB North Campus up through the winding roads of northern Erie County and back down the 990, a route which on this day landed me in the midst of this year’s Ride for Roswell. I’ll say this, as I wound my way through a mess of lycra- and spandex-clad fundraisers on two (or sometimes three) wheels, I got my own share of stares in the quirky little Cube. And it had nothing to do with either my wardrobe (dull) or physique (best viewed through the window of a moving vehicle).

The Cube hasn’t been available but for a short while, so it’s probably safe to say most people haven’t yet seen one. Available in Japan for a number of years, Nissan probably decided to bring this new generation Cube to North America based on the success of Scion’s xB and Honda’s Element, two other vehicles which look like the box they came in. Nissan was probably wise to wait, as they had time to see what worked and what didn’t work for the earlier competition. As the owner of a first generation xB, I can tell you a few things which I wish my car had that are on the new Cube. For instance, the rear seat is adjustable fore and aft if you need more cargo room behind it, and it also reclines. The spare tire doesn’t eat up rear cargo space, as it’s located under the car, while the jack is in a compartment under the rear passenger footwell. Okay, the Cube’s spare tire location might be more of a pain on those few and far between occasions you need to use it, but I’ll take the trade-off of having more usable space inside the car. The jack for the mp3 player is right there on the face of the radio, not on the floor between the seats like on my xB.

As as far as looks go, I’d say it’s a toss-up between the Cube and my first-gen xB, but I’ll also say I think the Cube has it all over the newer xB, which in black reminds me of a funeral car. The fifth door is hinged on the left side, as opposed to an overhead hatch, handier I guess in some situations; and the two rear doors are hinged normally (towards the front) unlike the odd center-opening doors on the Element which you can’t open without first opening the front door.

Driving the Cube was a pleasure. Although not a sports car by any means, it handles well on those curvy backroads, and doesn’t seem jumpy on the interstate. There’s certainly enough room for just about anyone to find a comfortable driving position—although I noticed that when I got the seat, mirrors, and tilt-wheel to where I wanted them I couldn’t see the top of the instrument cluster. There needs to be a bit more of adjustment there for us tall guys. But, using my “Could I stand driving this car on a trip to Florida?” criteria, I’d give it high marks. The driver’s seat reclines, adjusts fore and aft, and also has a pump handle for height, so before fatigue sets in on those long drives you can find a new position you’ll still be happy with. The dash is simply designed for ease of use, and the controls are near at hand. HVAC controls are intuitive so your eyes don’t have to leave the road while you’re trying to make adjustments while driving.

I also like the pricing, which starts at just under 14 grand. For more info, visit

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