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#21

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,153 - $10,891
Original MSRP: $13,990 - $19,370
MPG: 24 City / 29 Hwy
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2009 Nissan Cube Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Most are pleased with the Cube's continuously variable transmission (CVT). But others call the Nissan Cube's handling sloppy and unrefined. 

  • "In the cut-and-thrust of city traffic or when merging and passing, the 2009 Nissan Cube is rarely caught flat-footed. Much of the credit goes to its superb CVT that makes the most of the engine's available power, rather than sucking the life out of it like most other CVTs that are paired with four-cylinder engines." -- Edmunds
  • "Refinement is spoiled by the bouncy ride and the huge amount of noise coming from both the raucously unrefined engine as it annoyingly buzzes at constant, CVT-dictated revs, and also the wind noise created by the body and windshield's 90-degree opposition to the air." -- Jalopnik
  • "The model I drove, an SL with the continuously variable transmission (automatic), was competently quick and effortless to drive, with solid brakes, comfortable ride and very tight turning radius, making it super easy to park." -- Los Angeles Times
  • "The anti-car message can't disguise the fact that Cube's a decent driver, with you-betcha brakes (even though the rears are drums), smooth steering, six-speed manual, passable handling, terrific low-speed maneuverability." -- USA Today

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers report that the Nissan Cube receives competent power from its four-cylinder engine, but with 122 horsepower, it's not exceptional. However, writers credit the Cube's polished CVT transmission for the car's peppy acceleration. 

  • "On the road, the Cube feels reasonably peppy, its 1.8-liter inline-4 smoothly delivering 122 bhp at 5200 rpm and 127 lb.-ft of torque at 4800 rpm. Freeway speeds of 65 mph or more are a cinch, and the view forward is excellent with the upright A-pillars." -- Road and Track
  • "Engine power is adequate, though not sporty. The 1.8-liter, double overhead cam four-cylinder is from Nissan's other small car, the Versa, and produces 127 foot-pounds of torque at 4,800 in the Cube. The Cube steadily gets up to speed, albeit with some four-cylinder engine noise." -- The Associated Press
  • "Thanks to the new Xtronic CVT and a tweaked ECU, the new Cube is quicker off the mark and more responsive to smaller throttle inputs, due mainly to the CVT's adaptive shift control that keeps the engine in its sweet spot between 2,000 and 4,500 rpm." -- Edmunds
  • "Acceleration is adequately peppy for day-to-day driving, but it's not so overwhelming that it threatens unplanned meetings with law enforcement." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The four-cylinder engine was more refined than that of the Soul. ... But the Cube was underpowered compared with Soul. While fine for traffic and flat highways, it gasped and protested like a doughnut addict when pushed." -- USA Today

Handling and Braking

Opinions vary so much on the 2009 Cube's handling dynamics that it's hard to believe reviewers drove the same car. While some find the driving experience pleasant, others say the ride is unexciting. According to an L.A. Times writer, the Cube isn't aerodynamically sound. 

  • "The short wheelbase and tight turning radius makes it easy to turn around midstreet (not typically legal) to snag an open parking spot." -- CNET
  • "Turning radius is a gymnastic 33.4 feet. ... Despite drums at the rear, the brakes are strong, and pedal feel is excellent." -- Car and Driver
  • "Thankfully, the front-wheel-drive Cube doesn't ride like a bus. The car's short wheelbase of less than 100 inches can create an up-and-down rhythm while it travels over expansion cracks on bridges. But the rest of the ride is comfortable and better than expected in a car at this price." -- Associated Press
  • "Though the Cube is pleasant enough around town and on the highway save for some wind ruffle at higher speeds), a few rapid turns reveal its chief downfall -- mediocre handling." -- Edmunds
  • "The Cube generally commands a solid grip of the road, though rain grooves in asphalt can sometimes derail its directional stability. Bumps are absorbed surprisingly well, and though its road manners exhibit a few rough edges, they aren't obtrusive enough to detract from the Cube's endearing personality." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "The Cube's suspension absorbs bumps well. Plentiful body roll, squat under acceleration and dive when braking discourage sporty driving and quick maneuvers, however." -- Detroit Free Press
  • "The Cube is to aerodynamics what a collapsing bridge is to Olympic diving, what slipping on an icy sidewalk is to 'Swan Lake,' what poached dirt on toast is to a gourmet breakfast. It's a travesty, a mockery, a baleful parody of auto aerodynamics." -- Los Angeles Times

Next Steps: 2009 Nissan Cube

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