They’re quirky, small, and shaped like a cube. You learn to love or hate them, but either way they’re sticking around. Here’s the best cube cars.
The infamous cube cars. You’ve seen them on the streets, in the parking lots, camping in the forests, sitting in front of your neighbor’s house, and if I’m being honest, there’s one sitting next to me right now. It’s a modern-day car trend that’s flooding the streets. This quirky Americanized Kei car with its cubelike design is either loved or hated by the automotive world. They aren’t bad cars by any means though. Most get great fuel economy, have great cargo capacity, and don’t break the bank at the dealerships. It’s just that cube-like design that leads people to jump on the bandwagon of hate like we did for Nickelback. Love it or hate it, these are the best cube cars on the market today.
When we talk about cube cars, we have to start with the one that had “cube” in its name. The Nissan Cube has been around since 1998, but the American audience only got to experience this model from 2009-2014. The Nissan Cube showed up in the USA with just a 1.8L I4 engine available and a design that was akin to abstract art. Its windows were almost oval and the rear window wrapped around and connected with the passenger window on one side. Needless to say, you either thought it was an eyesore or you owned one. The final Nissan Cube in 2014 reached a fuel economy of 27/31 mpg (city/hwy) and had a CVT transmission that helped make 0-60 mph in a not so impressive 9.7 seconds. You can still find a decent used Nissan Cube for under $10,000.
One of the reasons we saw the Nissan Cube come to America was the marginal success Toyota had seen with its hip off-shoot brand and its cube car. The Scion xB made its USA debut in 2003 for the 2004 model year. Its “cool” design pandered to younger audiences and was pretty well received by young adults of the time. The xB had low tuner inspired bumpers and side skirts that were reminiscent of the cars from Fast and Furious, which was rising in popularity at the time. The Scion xB was sadly discontinued in 2015. The last model of the xB came with a 2.4L I4 engine paired with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. This lone engine offering got a fuel economy of 22/27 mpg. You can find the Scion xB used for under $16,000 in great condition.
The epitome of the cube car has to be the Kia Soul. Since debuting back in 2009, the Kia soul has gone through three generations, multiple different available engines, sold as an EV option, and brought us all those great hamster commercials. Its first design was known for being a bit too plasticky and too many came in that ugly pea green color. Kia listened to its customers and updated to the second gen in 2014 featuring a more refined version, that looks similar to the xB, and dampened the ugly green. Now we have the new Kia Souls with their modernized design featuring day running lights, tons of technology, and a bit less of that plasticky feel. So, you’ve got options for this cube car, but my words of advice if you’re interested in a Soul is this: don’t buy a first gen and get ready to be on the butt end of some hamster car jokes. There’s a lot of nice used Souls to choose from under $10,000 and the new Souls start at a MSRP of just $17,490.
The Honda Element has a nice little following as a cube car, even though it was discontinued in 2011. It comes in a little larger than the previous models on our list and it’s even more outdoorsy with its available 4WD. One of the Element’s more unique features is its bi-parting side doors, which are like those doors you’d find on an extended cab pickup, but they’re on this cube car. The only available engine in the Honda Element was a 2.4L I4 that got 20/25 mpg with the FWD drivetrain and 19/24 mpg with the 4WD drivetrain. You can still find some nice used Honda Elements for under $10,000. In fact, we compared the Element and the Soul as they both fit right in that $10,000 used price point. Be sure to check out our pick between the Honda Element and Kia Soul!
The Jeep Renegade is an odd cube car that is an amalgamation of the Wrangler, Compass, and cuteness all in one. It’s not quite your typical rugged Jeep with a proven history, but it finds that niche of teenage girls that have always wanted a cute car and have ogled over the Wrangler. Sorry to any Renegade owners who don’t fit in that criteria, but hopefully that means you at least have AWD with the Trailhawk trim. The Renegade has two 4-cylinder engines to choose from and either FWD or AWD drivetrains, but why buy a Jeep without AWD. You can find used Jeep Renegades for as low as $10,000 and some used Trailhawk trims for around $12,000. New Renegades have a MSRP starting at $22,850, but at that price you’re better off looking at the upped used options.
We have the Ford Flex on the cube car list, but this thing is more of a rectangle. The Flex first came on the scene for the 2009 model year as a nice alternative to the family minivan. It has plenty of seating, plenty of cargo space, and the exterior design screams “suburbs”. The Ford Flex came off so much as an ideal family vehicle, that the Daddy’s Home movies even make comedic references to it being that safe, boring, family car. Available engines for the Ford Flex were the Duratec V6 in FWD models and the turbocharged Ecoboost V6 available in AWD models. Gas mileage for the FWD models is 16/23 mpg with AWD versions downgrading only in highway mileage at 22 mpg. The Flex sadly ended in 2019, but the used market is looking ripe for the picking. Prices range from over $30,000 for low mileage 2019s to as low as $12,000 for older models still under that 100,000-mile mark.
Ford just brought back the Bronco to everyone’s delight, but I’m here to tell you that those boxy proportions make it fit right in here. The biggest example bringing the Bronco into this cube car class is that dinky Base model. It’s lower to the ground, has smaller wheels, and that scrunched up 2-door version is freakin’ adorable. The 2021 Base Ford Bronco starts at $28,500 for the 2-door and $33,200 for the 4-door. If you want, you can still option in the Sasquatch Package for another $4,995 on the Base model and erase any of that cube car quirkiness that brought it onto this list.
The Land Rover Defender has a history of being a rugged and gritty adventure vehicle. Nowadays it seems that the Defender’s biggest challenge is looking nice at the golf club. The Defender underwent a visual overhaul in 2020 that rounded out its once harsh edges and made it the cube car we see today. New Land Rover Defenders come with a 3.0L I6 engine and standard AWD. Gas mileage is 17/20 mpg, but spending money at the pump probably isn’t an issue if you’re comfortable paying upwards of $46,000 for this cube car.
The Mercedes-Benz G-Class has sharper corners than others on the list, but that square design is very prominent. The G-Wagon has been around since 1979 and is still standing tall as the industry’s most luxurious box on wheels. This more refined cube car is available on the used market, yet even ones from the 1990s with over 100,000 miles go for well over $20,000. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for some expired luxury, but that number pales in comparison to the starting MSRP price of $130,900 for a new Mercedes-Benz G-Class.
Toyota’s first “cube car” came in the shape of the Land Cruiser FJ40. Originally derived from a military contract to produce the Willys Jeep, this 4×4 off-roader features a similar design to the Jeep CJ and was one of Toyota’s best sellers back in the ’60s. The FJ40 was made up of a steel body work and featured a 3.9L Type F inline-six engine that made 125 horsepower. Toyota only sold this model in America from 1965 to 1983, making them highly desirable among off-road enthusiasts.
FJ fans love their classic off-roading Toyotas, but the more recent FJ Cruiser wasn’t well received by that same crowd. The FJ Cruiser was brought to the market for the 2007 model year as a celebration of Toyota’s off-roading heritage. It was a comfortable and technologically packed ride for the time, but the only similarity this cube car carried over from its predecessor was its name. The Toyota FJ Cruiser came with a 4.0L V6 and was available as a RWD, 4×2, and 4×4. The model was discontinued for 2014, so there’s plenty on the used market and, being a Toyota, these things just keep going for hundreds of thousands of miles. Just be ready to pay upwards of $15,000 for a decent one under 100,000 miles though.
We don’t typically see Suzuki automobiles driving around too much anymore, but the Vitara models were pretty common for the 90s. This vintage cube car came about in 1989 and was sold originally as the Suzuki Sidekick here in the USA. You may also recognize its rebadged cousins, the Geo Tracker, GMC Tracker, and Pontiac Sunrunner. In 1999, Suzuki made some updates in size and design to create the Suzuki Grand Vitara and its Americanized cousin the Chevrolet Tracker. Eventually, the Vitara models slowly lost their cube like proportions and Suzuki cut ties with GM. Thankfully, the old cube car versions are still kicking on dealership lots and you can get them for a steal since they’re showing their years of strenuous use.
Another cube-like Suzuki of note is the Jimny, or as we knew it back in the ‘80s, the Suzuki Samurai. This tiny Japanese 4×4 first showed up on American shores back in 1985. The Samurai featured a carbureted 1.3L inline-four engine that made just 63 horsepower and 74 lb-ft of torque, although it was later given fuel injection and bumped up three more horses. That may not seem like much, but this Suzuki cube car gave the Jeep Wrangler a run for its money since it was a capable off-roader for a fraction of the price. The Suzuki Samurai was unfortunately discontinued after reports of it being easy to roll over came about hurting its sales along with more stringent government safety regulations that couldn’t easily be met without costly revisions to the vehicle. It’s still a fun little off-roader out there on the used market though.
It’s been mentioned a couple times throughout this list, so it’s deserving of the recognition as possibly the best cube car on the list. The Jeep Wrangler carries military roots from its creation as the Willys Jeep back in World War II. Once this model was brought to market for the general public as the Jeep CJ under AMC, it quickly amassed one of the largest cult followings in all of automotive history. The Jeep Wrangler of today still carries the same cube shaped exterior and seven slot grille from its early days, but now it’s much more advance while still being the industry’s leading production off-road vehicle.