Quick Take: 2009 Nissan Cube
Cube takes it underpinnings from Nissan's B platform, which is shared with the Nissan Versa, Micra and Note, along with the Renault Clio and Modus. However, its wheelbase is 2.8 in. shorter-the body is 12.4 in. shorter and 4.6 in. taller-than the Versa hatchback. "Because of the track dimension differences, a lot of the suspension, the links in particular, is all unique to Cube," says Larry Dominique, vice president of product planning for Nissan North America. In order to make the Cube profitable, Nissan plans no differentiation in trim levels whether the Cube is marketed in Europe, the U.S. or Japan: "We have to find ways in our product development group to leverage the platform and the parts bin so that we can develop a vehicle with a unique flavor and do it profitably. We're not going to come to market with a negative profit Cube and just so we can sell a heavily profitable Titan pickup to make up for it on the other end," Dominique says.
It's not often that you hear a designer compare a vehicle's interior with a Jacuzzi, but that was one of the key influencers for the Cube's cabin. "That was our vision...a group of friends having fun," says Campbell. The design team also paid careful attention to the details-the Cube's headliner has a pattern formed into it that mimics ripples in a pond that project out from the dome light; the same pattern is used on the door speaker covers. What's more, Campbell points to the various atypical innovative storage solutions-using bungee cords to hold loose items next to the door panels or the optional "shag dash topper" designed to hold MP3 players, cell phones, PSPs or other mobile devices.
Here's another area where the Cube borrows from Nissan's parts bin: the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine is borrowed from the Versa. Horsepower is rated at 122 @ 5,200 rpm with 127 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,800 rpm. Cube is available with either a 6-speed manual or Nissan's signature Xtronic CVT transmission. "The Cube is not about racing around, it's about a much more different mindset focused on enjoying time with friends-it's more about enjoying the ride," says Bruce Campbell, vice president of design for Nissan Design America.
The design of the Cube is the result of a competition between Nissan's U.S. and Japanese design studios. Since the two previous Cube models were created specifically for the Japanese market, this car's global market mission forced some changes to make it more appealing to a wider customer base. "We started with a clean sheet of paper, but we quickly realized there were elements of the Cube that had to be maintained, like the asymmetrical appearance-we own that. There were a number of iconic points we had to retain, and what we did from the second-generation is refined them, but not in an Infiniti sense, where everything is perfect, but to give it more personality," Campbell says, comparing the Cube's design to that of a "bulldog with sunglasses." There's one key differentiator between the left- and right-hand drive versions: The rear door on the U.S. model is hinged on the left-hand side, while those who drive on the right side of the road get a right-side hinged rear door. "We knew that people wanted to open that door form the curbside, so we made that change," Dominique says.