Nissan just unveiled the Cube, which is as direct a competitor as the Scion xB will probably ever see. Our first impressions are good. Like the xB, the Cube comes through with the requisite benefits of its box-on-wheels design: tons of headroom and legroom in both rows, a large cargo area and excellent visibility — albeit not through the wraparound rear window, which still carries a hidden D-pillar on the inside. There go our hopes of a hatchback without any sort of blind spot.
Cabin materials in the show car were a step above the xB’s, with attractive plastics and a clever two-tone color scheme. The backlit blue-and-white gauges sit in front of the steering wheel — more conventional than Scion’s red center-mounted ones — while various features, from keyless access and push-button start to automatic climate control, feel more upscale.
I’m torn on Nissan’s suede-like seats, which are just one of several optional upholsteries in the Cube. They’re cushier than the xD’s — perhaps a boon for longer drives — but they seem like surefire static-cling traps. The rear seats move forward and backward and recline, but they leave a ledge that’s a foot or so wide when they fold down. The xD’s cargo area has a flat floor. City dwellers should also note that the Cube’s tailgate opens annoyingly to one side, requiring four or five feet of clearance to open completely. That’s a problem if you’re parallel-parking.
Nissan hasn’t announced pricing yet, but product manager Laura Johnson said it will be priced “very competitively” with cars like the xB. With the number of available features on higher-end models, we’d expect that to be somewhere in the $16,000-$20,000 range.