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AUTO REVIEW: Nissan's quirky little Cube elicits passions in both directions

You either love the Nissan Cube or hate it. As for me -- well, I can see both sides of the argument. But I think it comes down to a question of age, or should I say maturity. So, I now relinquish this review to my two selves, Old Larry and Young ...

You either love the Nissan Cube or hate it. As for me -- well, I can see both sides of the argument. But I think it comes down to a question of age, or should I say maturity. So, I now relinquish this review to my two selves, Old Larry and Young Larry.

Old Larry: Maturity has nothing to do with it. I think it's more a matter of taste. This thing looks like a burp from Toon Town.

Young Larry: You're so pathetic. Your generation is still stuck on the old General Motors maxim of longer, lower, and wider. These proportions are modern, hip and functional. As your revered bard Robert Zimmerman -- oh, excuse me, Bob Dylan -- would say, "Your old road is rapidly aging."

Old Larry: Aging nothing. I know the proportions are functional; they're straight off an old Divco milk truck. I know, you're too young to remember such things. But you do know what a top hat is, right? Well, there's enough headroom for one of those. Too bad there isn't much cargo space. There's barely enough room for a couple of small suitcases.

Young Larry: Suitcases? Pal, when I go away, I don't need to tote a six-pack of Depends. The Cube's lack of length makes it ideal for city driving, parallel parking and tight u-turns. Besides, this is all about looking good. The interior boasts all kinds of fun stuff. Did you check out the wavy instrument panel?

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Old Larry: Yeah, it reminded me of my stomach after eating bad oysters.

Young Larry: Hey, it's not worse than any kitschy '50s dreamboat. Besides, it's functional. It bulges out in the center, placing all of that electronic gear within easy reach. It makes it easy to plug in my iPod, change the station on the satellite radio or play a CD -- if I'm feeling old school. There's keyless entry, six cupholders, five bottle holders ...

Old Larry: If I had to drive this vehicle, I'd drink, too.

Young Larry: You are such an old fogey. How could you not like the bungee cords on the door handles that hold small notes? Or the optional shag carpet dash topper? Or the SL Preferred Package with a keyless ignition, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, fog lights, Bluetooth, rear sonar parking system and upgraded audio system? The Ginormous Package is even better.

Old Larry: They have an option package called Ginormous? That's perfect for those whose thoughts aren't longer than 140 characters.

Young Larry: Who cares what it's called? It adds unique exterior trim and a lighting feature that casts 20 different colors in the footwells depending on your mood.

Old Larry: I was wondering why my feet looked green.

Young Larry: Those weren't your feet; that was your breath, old man.

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Old Larry: Well, if this is a car, why haven't you talked about the driving experience? It must be pretty humdrum.

Young Larry: The Cube drives like any good economy car. The Nissan Sentra and Versa donated the Cube's drivetrain: a 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter double-overhead-cam four-cylinder. There's enough power for pokey parkways while returning about 28 mpg. I admit, that isn't as good as I was expecting.

Old Larry: Hmmm. It seems someone spent too much time texting in science class. Because it's shaped like a box, I'd guess there's a lot of wind resistance. On a windy day, it probably gets pushed around more than a politician at a town hall meeting.

Young Larry: Well, it did have a wind leak at highway speed. That bugged me.

Old Larry: Just turn up the stereo.

Young Larry: Because the Cube starts at a mere $13,990 for the base model, and the SL I drove starts at $16,770, it's still a reasonable buy.

Old Larry: OK, I admit, that's a lot of functionality and style for an affordable price. Still, I can't imagine driving something that looks like that. It would be like walking around town with your pants around your ankles. First everyone points at you and then they laugh.

Young Larry: Who's to say they're not doing that anyway? Ahem, mind if I step in?

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I'm not sure I have come to any conclusion save this one: The 2009 Nissan Cube is every bit the economy car. Its goodness comes from its sensible size, meager fuel appetite and youthful design. It's perfect for drivers with that mindset, no matter what age the calendar says.

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WHAT WE SAY: You'll never lose it in a parking lot.

Pro: Perfect for city driving

Con: Disappointing fuel economy

Stats:

Vehicle type: Small station wagon

Engine: 1.8-liter DOHC four-cylinder

Wheelbase: 99.6 inches

Length: 156.7 inches

Weight: 2,884 pounds

Cargo space: 11.4-58.1 cubic feet

EPA rating (city/highway): 28/30 mpg

Fuel economy: 27.7 mpg

Fuel type: Regular unleaded

Base price: $16,790

As tested: $21,990

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