Last year at the Greater Los Angeles International Auto Show, the Nissan Cube was introduced - announcing the launch of its premiere to the United States. It looked quirky. It showed off its loads of right angles in fearless style - just challenging other vehicles to attempt to imitate its boldness. There's so much room inside that most 1-bedroom apartments in New York could fit in. Instantly, there were comparisons made to the Toyota Scion xB.
The Cube has actually been darting around the streets and highways of Japan for some years now - since 1998. It was first introduced to the Japanese and became an instant hit among car enthusiasts who were searching for a fuel-efficient vehicle that stood between the standards set by ultra-compacts and slightly larger vehicles - ones that still retained their impressive gas savings ability.
The original Cubes by Nissan were certainly not designed for racing on NASCAR tracks. They featured a rather diminutive 1.3L 4-banger that produced only 80 horses. Of course, the intention was not to be a speed demon, but rather an economical and fun machine to cruise for repetitive driving tasks associated with work and errands. This puny engine was accompanied by a CVT transmission that worked hard to maximize the effect of each horse. The original powering system utilized 2 separate electric engines to provide extra rear wheel action during tough driving scenarios. Definitely inventive!
Low pricing helped to make the original Nissan Cubes big hits in their home country. In 2002, a new engine was introduced: a stronger 1.4L with a fresh mill that generated 5 extra ponies and 11 more lb-ft of torque. These 2nd-gen Cubes from Nissan also showed off a new CVT transmission that featured a manual shifting mode for the sports-minded. Well-placed steering wheel shifting buttons allowed drivers to have fun - and save even more money at the pumps. This was the first instance of such a CVT in any of the automotive segments. Notably, this technology was implemented stateside in the Nissan Rogue soon thereafter.
This year, the Nissan Cube history continues to develop as we Americans are treated to our very own Cubes. Versatility, bold styling, fuel efficiency and an excellent array of fun features promise to make the Cube a huge hit here. Welcome to the future!