If you believe that imitation is the highest form of flattery, then you won’t think less of a car that shares significant styling cues with another. Hyundai’s new Genesis looking alot like a Mercedes comes to mind. But before you condemn the Nissan Cube for stealing the DNA of a Scion xB or Honda Element, understand that function is far more important than form. And if that is unconvincing, it should be noted that the Cube actually preceeded both other cars by several years in Japan.
Beyond the Tetris-like similiarity in shape, which is 20 inches shorter than the Scion, the Cube shares little else in common with either the Scion or Element. The price of the Cube is equally different from even the affordable xB, costing the equivilant of $11,000 if it were sold right now in the U.S. The “savings” of the Nissan are at the expense of several areas. One of the most notable cost saving measures is in the choice of engine, which is a 1.4 liter 4-cylinder that produces 95 horsepower. Thats about 65 less horses than the xB. An odd and more than slightly amusing feature of the Cube is an electric motor that furnishes auxiliary power to the rear wheels if you should get stuck in the mud. No doubt to compensate for its wimpy powerplant. Because of its measly power the Cube takes almost 14 seconds to reach 60 mph. Clearly, this is an urban car meant for creeping between stoplights and not the highway.
Inside, the Nissan sports two bench seats and a column-mounted shift lever for the standard four-speed automatic transmission. The Cube does not completely jettison all creature comforts or fun however. A sunroof, automatic climate control and keyless ignition are available. A stereo isn’t, oddly enough. Also absent are side airbags and stability control. Antilock brakes are at least included, but since there’s no room for a spare tire, Nissan includes an air pump and a can of Fix-a-Flat.
There is an expectation that the Cube will eventually make it’s way to the U.S. perhaps even as soon as next year. The Scion sells only a modest 60,000 xB’s a year, but perhaps an even more inexpensive competitor might do better. However, Nissan and everyone else expects many changes to the U.S. version it is to be sold here. Foremost on that list will be some guts.