Randomness (r_ness) wrote,

Japanese boxes on wheels.

I find I have a strange weakness for the Japanese "box on wheels" car concept. For example, I actually like the way a Honda Element looks.

One morning back in April, as I was walking from my hotel to the Minowabashi terminus of Tokyo's last streetcar line, the Toden Arakawa Line, I saw one of these stopped at a traffic light:

a Nissan Cube

I stared at the thing for so long that the driver gave me an "and what is your problem?" look back, but I really wanted to know what kind of car it was.

It was a Nissan Cube.

Car and Driver included it in its August 2003 article Ten Japanese Cars You Can't Have. Since the article came out, there's been some talk that the Cube may be available in North America in 2007.

"In Japan, it's a very big deal. Here's why: It's terrific."

"At speed, the Cube is flat, stable, and confident, with steering that is heavy but accurate. The car is rattle-free, as solid as a Maxima. Body motions are nicely checked, and the ride is firm without being harsh. Despite its apparent boxiness—we say "apparent" because the 0.34 Cd isn't bad for a device so angular—the Cube generates far less wind noise than the smaller March Nismo, which rides on the same platform. Under most circumstances, the four-speed automatic shifts to perfection, but it begins to hunt above 65 mph. We'd love to have tried the optional CVT.

"The Cube's twin-cam, 1.4-liter engine is willing, smooth, sporty. At 100 mph on one of Tokyo's ring roads—where the limit is half that, incidentally, mercilessly enforced by speed cameras—it still wasn't screaming. Americans, though, would likely demand 2.0 liters, and it would be a valid request."

"Here's something else that's cool. The Cube is a front-driver, but with the optional e-4WD system, when wheelspin is detected, the rears are temporarily turned by an electric motor that derives its juice from the alternator. The e-4WD is only active below 30 mph—just enough to pull you out of a snow drift. All for not much more than $13,850.

"The foreign journalists selected the Cube as the car they most wanted at home. I'd have voted for it for this reason alone: One official Cube color is called Beans.

"Yankee Desirability Rating: 10.0"

2007 is a longish time to wait, given that my Corolla has 245k on the clock, so I may have to settle for a Scion xB instead.

bloodstones and I saw one near City Hall in Manhattan recently. It's based on the Toyota bB.

a Scion xB, somewhere in San Francisco, I think
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