I really enjoyed the last Cube we had (a high-trim SL), but I feared a lot of the design-centric features I admired would be lost on a lower trim level. To some extent, that's true, but the 1.8 S's $15,410 sticker price is attractive enough to distract you from the missing goodies.
Admittedly, you're not losing a whole lot in stepping down from an SL to an S, unless your life circles around a factory-installed iPod connector, Bluetooth system, and Rockford Fosgate subwoofer. The S still sports the same swanky cloth fabric inside, although I'd be remiss to order it in charcoal - it turns the Cube into a verifiable cave. The SL still provides things like cruise control, A/C, and power windows, so it's not as if you're accepting Paleozoic-era technologies in order to save a few bucks.
Still, I'd be even happier if I could simply spring for those neat aluminum wheels and a better sound system (this four-speaker setup is rather flat and uninspiring) without jumping to a different trim model. Kudos to Nissan for offering some neat accessories, but it needs to take a page out of Scion's book and make more premium content available to all Cube buyers, even as dealer-installed accessories.
I still adore how this box scoots about town. The Cube is much more tolerable in urban drive cycles than the Scion xB - it feels more nimble, more responsive, and the giant windows make spotting oddly placed signs and signals a breeze. The Cube is predictably a bit top heavy, but it stays planted and exhibits little body roll unless you push it to the limit. Oddly, the manual transmission leaves me cold - it's easy enough to row, mind you, but Nissan's CVT is one of the better units I've sampled, and it makes the Cube even easier to slog in rush-hour traffic.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer