For a while now we’ve been meaning to sort a buyers guide for the cube as folks often pop up on the forum or Facebook group and say they are going to look at a cube but what key items are specific to look for when viewing a cube to buy! Well off the back of the spot the differences article here we go with what to keep an eye out for when buying a gen 2.
The first thing to say is that the gen 2 cube can rather crudely be described as a K12 Micra (the bug eyed one) with a big box for a body. It’s a little more complex than that but the engine and suspension components are all the same so don’t be scared that if anything goes wrong there it can’t be fixed. Even to the point that it is often cheaper to pick up a new used engine from a micra (or the note which can provide newer engines) rather than repair something like a head gasket. Consumable parts for brakes are source-able easily but be aware there are 2 different rear sizes for the cube and cubic. Even the exhaust when time comes to replace is a straight swap with the micra K12 although the cubic will need a small spacer piece making due to the extra length.
The cube is just a car at the end of the day so when looking all the normal stuff applies that would with any other automatic car. Does it drive straight, shift gear smoothly, brake effectively and not pull to either side under braking, have some sort of record of servicing all the usual you’d look for.
First thing to do with a gen 2 cube though is get down on the floor and have a look underneath. In japan they don’t salt their roads in the winters and as such the car manufacturers don’t use corrosion protection like we do here. I had a 94 Eunos at one time that after import had been garaged and was completely rust free underneath but you could see all the bare metal rather than thick lumpy protection coats. Cars that have been in the UK and not had a coating applied here can suffer as a result. It can also be worth factoring in the cost of a Waxoil or dinitrol application if your buying a fresh import or importing yourself. Remember if you put it off now and think you’ll do it later once the car is on the drive and your using it you’ll both forget and struggle to find time to be without the car.
If it’s looking good from below unlock and then relock the car with the fob, now try all the doors. Fingers crossed they are all locked! Now unlock the car with the fob and try opening all the doors, again all should open happily. If one or more don’t do what they should it’s the solenoids in the doors which will need replacing. These can be had from Nissan but are pretty expensive so again breaker or order one from the clubs man in Japan at Online Garage Tokyo as even with import it works out both quicker and cheaper than through Nissan UK. There is a guide to replacing the solenoids with an aftermarket unit on the forum as well which is a very low cost option but takes a bit of fiddling and work.
Give the exterior a good once over then a second look round. The body is one of the things that will be harder to get parts for although breakers are a source for the regular panels. Be aware though if your looking at one of the special editions or aftermarket variants (impul, rider, trabis, neo-classic etc.) then the parts for those are fairly rare here and the likely hood of you being able to get that one neo classic arch cover to make good that minor scratch will be near impossible. I say near as it can be done just don’t expect it to be like walking into the local dealer and buying a £20 piece of plastic to stick on. Be aware though that all the bumpers, lights and grilles on the gen 2 from all ages are basically interchangable as long as you have all the matching parts as some of the grille and light combinations are specific to each other. Same can be said for the rear light pods of which there are loads of variations and some quite cool aftermarket LED versions around as well.
Once inside give the interior a look around. Shabby seats aren’t a huge issue as Clazzio covers can be had at a cost effective price and open up a world of pleather colours and stitching colours and pattern options. The bits you don’t want broken are any of the plastics and check the central cup holders come out and fold out correctly and fold back when pushed in. the rear view mirror fixing clip is another thing that can break however this isn’t a huge deal as they can be picked up relatively easily or posted in a small envelope from japan! #A comment on the facebook group reminded me of something else to check today, make sure the heater blows both hot and cold. There is a flap in the heater matrix that is changed by an actuator but the connection point for this can break. If yours does you can manually swap the heat by hand on a little lever behind the glove box but the only way to fix it is a full dash out swap and that is a lot of work for someone!
At the back of the cube open the boot an lift the carpet, you should see the spare wheel (unless your buying the E-4×4 version!) and the tyre well should be free of water. if there is any it’s a sign of issues with the rear door rubbers letting the water in but also the fact the drain in there being blocked. Not hard to clear but should have been done before you got there to view the car.
So for the test drive you want to keep an eye on the temperature guage and the gear box mainly. All gen 2’s are Auto’s but they are split between the regular auto and the CVT gear box that came along in later years. Gearboxes is where any major gremlins you want to avoid live especially with the CVT versions as replacements are rare. In driving the car should drive and shift cleanly and kickdown as you’d expect. Be aware the O\D function seems to do little to the cars performance but the up and down shifters on the CVT gearboxes should work (turns out these are only on the pre 2005 1.4 cvt and don’t appear on the 1.5 facelifts). Shifting should be clean and correct and you want to avoid any weird noises. If you get a CVT cube from anywhere that isn’t one of the club recommendations be wary of them saying they’ve changed the fluid. The fluid itself isn’t cheap and to do a proper job you need 7.5 litres or 2 cans and as such it can run to £100 on fluid alone. Again don’t panic as it only needs doing at very long intervals but a lot of cubes have never had it done so it’s worth factoring in as one of the first jobs but a look at the fluid will give an idea of what state it is in.
Some people do say to avoid the CVT cars but that will rule you out of all the update 1.5’s and that leaves you only looking at older cars. The gearboxes shouldn’t be a problem if you avoid ones that suggest issues, change the fluid when you get it and take care of it as the service requiremets. The CVT fluid itself should be a nice clear green colour and can be checked from the filler down in the engine bay. Having said that the earlier 1.4’s can be more likely to have issues as being older and that fluid needing changing at 60k mile intervals it hasn’t always been done and as such will have been running longer on bad fluids.
And there you have it, we can’t guarantee that by following this you’ll have a trouble free life with your cube but hopefully you’ll avoid some of the pitfalls that can catch people out and not get home to find a rear door that doesn’t lock or unlock!
There are a couple of dealers that have served the club well over the years and if your buying from these they can supply or even source specific cubes to your requirements! These aren’t sponsored endorsements and the club receive no benefits from you using these garages.
First Choice Car Imports – www.firstchoicecarimports.com
First Choice have been importing all sorts of japanese cars for a while now and have a history with the cube as well as all sorts of high power play things to tempt you away from the relative sanity of cube ownership. Dan has teamed up with Peter (or as I like to call him – my man in Japan!) so the cars are viewed and checked at auction prior to being bid on and shipped so you don’t get a nasty surprise at the docks! due to the odd way the UK won’t let anything come across from japan in the container that isn’t fixed to the car if you have mods you know you want doing it can be worth having these done in japan by Peter before the car comes across just to save on the shipping costs as well.
They also run a cube parts website which is a good place to look or contact if you need a bit for your car once you have it as they almost always have cubes being broken for parts – Nissancube.co.uk
County Cars – Countycarsstrood.co.uk
County cars also have a guy on the ground in Japan to avoid nasty surprises and import more than just cubes having a great range of the boxy side of japanese life making them a great stop if you aren’t sure if a cube fits your family size (they’re bigger than they seem trust us!) and fancy a look at the big brother Elgrands or similar offerings from Honda or Toyota (Ok I’ll go and wash my mouth out now!).
They can also sort you out for the full range of clazzio seat covers, spare keys, spare parts and those quirky non-Nissan add ons that the cube community love so keep an eye out for posts on the club Facebook page when Leeanne has found something shiny or quirky to offer up to members!