The audio system will also need replacement, as the Cube's stock door woofers and A-pillar tweeters are really inadequate. Highs sound tinny, while mids and bass come out muffled. As with the stereo, the Cube needs a good amp and better speakers. A subwoofer would be a nice addition.
If you move up to the SL trim, there is plenty of standard and optional cabin tech; for instance, an iPod port, MP3 CD capability, and automatic headlights all come standard. And in one option package you also get Bluetooth cell phone integration, a smart key, better speakers and a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer, and satellite radio. Considering the car's target demographic, we think some of these options should be offered on the two lower trims.
A number of dealer accessories will also be available for the Cube, with the goofiest being a round patch of shag carpet mounted on the center of the dashboard. Dealers will also offer a Garmin GPS navigation device for the Cube.
Under the hood
We already mentioned the Nissan Cube's surprisingly good low-end push. The thrust comes from an engine tuned for torque more than horsepower. The little, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine cranks out 127 pound-feet of torque and 122 horsepower. It uses variable-valve timing to optimize efficiency. That engine is standard at all trim levels.
EPA mileage numbers have not been published as of this review, but the car is expected to achieve better than 30 mpg on the highway. In our testing, we got it above 29 mpg on the freeway at speeds over 70 mph.
Our S trim Cube had a continuously variable transmission (CVT), eliminating gear change bumps and improving mileage. We've been impressed with Nissan's CVT in other models, and it works well in the Cube, too, although it doesn't have as much power to play with as in those other cars.
A six-speed manual is also available in the S model, and is the only transmission at the base trim. At the SL trim, the CVT is the only transmission available.
Along with traction control and Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control, a stability program, the Nissan Cube S also comes standard with antilock brakes, brake-force distribution, and tire pressure monitoring. The Cube also contains a complete set of airbags, with front and side curtain providing all-around protection.
The 2009 Nissan Cube S trim we tested is priced at $15,690. We would have preferred the SL trim, which actually offers some cabin tech, and is priced at $16,790. We would also add the $1,600 Preferred package, which brings in Bluetooth and a subwoofer, among other options.
Because we rate cars at the trim level of our review unit, we have to give the 2009 Nissan Cube S a low score for cabin tech. But it does much better for performance. We like its around-town drivability. It also does well for design, as its exterior makes for a distinctive look and it offers lots of practical space.