Saturday, September 26, 2009

Test Driving the Nissan Cube S

2009 Nissan Cube S
[Autorevu Halifax by Stoneman 2009]

On my way to the grocery store I had a sudden urge to test drive a car. My mind first thought about the Nissan GT-R or maybe the Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1. Then sanity came back to me and I realized I deeply and secretly wanted to test drive the 2009 Nissan Cube. If I was gay, you could say it would have been my coming-out-of-the-closet moment. But I'm not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that). I've had gay friends before, I just don't swing that way, if you know what I mean. It's like God spoke to me directly in this authoritative voice and said "Stoneman, you better get your ass to the nearest Nissan dealership and take a Cube for a drive, NOW!".

I guess you could say I was commanded by the almighty. I could hear Angels singing as I approached the Nissan dealership in my Subaru Impreza. None to be quiet, I rolled into the dealership in first gear. My car is fairly loud so immediately I got dirty looks from the salesman and his customers. I made a grand effort to backup and missed my lane. Cooley, I straightened the car and parked it. Right in front of the dealership. I looked around, there was millions of these evil Cubes EVERYWHERE.

I walked in to the dealership and strode towards the secretary. "I'd like to take one of your cars out for a test drive" I announced cheerily. Within minutes I was greeted by a friendly salesman by the name of Todd. He asked me which car I wanted to take out, and I mentioned the Nissan Cube. He was surprised but not shocked. "We've got a ton of them" He announced happily. He then asked me for my drivers license, which he promptly photocopied. No hard selling here - it was all relaxed. I wasn't made like I was wasting the salesman's time, like at the Subaru dealership when I test drove the WRX STi. (But that car was $20K more expensive).

Without a doubt, the Nissan Cube is one of the ugliest cars I had ever test driven. Whoever designed this car must have been deaf, dumb, and blind. I felt hopeful and asked the salesman about the 370Z and the legendary GT-R supercar. "Neither car are here. In fact, maybe Montreal would have them". It was then Todd told me that in order to sell the GT-R, the dealership must invest approximately a quarter of a million dollars in special marketing material and showroom improvements. It's not uncommon for dealerships to spend a million dollars in order to secure a halo car in their showroom. Feeling a little depressed, we headed out to the test drive.

The car has a tiny engine - 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine putting out 122 bhp @ 5200 rpm and 127 foot-pounds of torque @ 4800 rpm. The car gets around 44 mpg which isn't bad considering how large it is. Sitting in the driver's seat, you feel like you're commanding the SS fishbowl. It reminded me of the AMC Pacer. (Remember that one?)

There's a huge amount of glass all around you, apparently Nissan wanted to give you as much visibility as possible. Out on the roads, the car is nimble enough but the annoying CVT transmission emits a whiny buzz and has absolutely no power or acceleration. On the highway I put my foot down and nothing happened. You CAN get a 6-speed manual transmission which is surprising - it would certainly make the car a bit more "fun" to drive, but albeit, not much at all.

Although Nissan fitted the Cube with ABS and EBDF and stability control, the damn car has front disc and rear DRUM brakes. The Cube rides around on P195/60/HR15's which look like 14 inch tires due to the size of the vehicle. Inside there's lots of space and the rear legroom is excellent (I got into the back and stretched). I was surprised to find out the rear bench seat actually MOVES ahead or back - wow. The rear seats are slightly higher than the front seats, but they do collapse forward. The rear door is massive - a big swing-out door that reminded me of an old minivan from the 80's.

Starting at 17 thousand dollars, it's not a cheap car by far. You can get ridiculous add-on things like SHAG CARPET on your dashboard or automatic climate control. Hell, you can even get blue tooth on this car. Sadly, the car won't give you heated seats - not at any cost. The styling of this car is terrible. Case in point: When you look at the left rear of the car, instead of a tiny window, Nissan put in a plastic cover. On the right side, Nissan actually put a tiny window there. (why? are they that cheap?). 

The headliner on this car has ripples. Very strange. There is only one other car I hated driving more than this thing, and that was the Kia Amante. At least the KIA had some get-up-and-go. This car never tried at all.

Nissan tried to market this vehicle to the 20-something group. Instead, retired people and 40-year olds are buying this thing. God knows why. I'm almost 40 myself but I'd NEVER in a million years rent this car, let alone purchase one. It's not a drivers car. It doesn't give you a smile when you go through the corners. Instead, you feel like you're driving a very expensive golf cart. And that secretly, people are laughing at you when you do it.

To put it a better way, this is the car your mother in law would drive if you let her pick your next car.

Pro's: Big space inside, good fuel economy, very roomy.
Con's: Slow, ponderous, buzzy engine, no power, weak acceleration, horrendous styling, expensive (compared to other cars).

If you're in for a car like this you should seriously consider a Honda Fit instead. The Honda has a better engine, better performance, better looks, and you won't look like a douchebag driving it.

My sincere thanks to Nissan in Dartmouth for letting me drive the car. The salesman was very professional and there was NO pressure to for me to buy.

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