Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com
October 4, 2012
“And Now For Something Completely Different.”
Besides being the title for Monty Python’s first film, it was my first thought as a 2012 Nissan cube rolled up into my driveway. Unlike most of the vehicles I had in for testing, the cube was very different. It looked like it had made the leap from an anime cartoon into the real world. As I was signing the form and getting the key to the cube, I wondered if such a clearly Japanese market focused car belongs in North America, the land of V8s and where every other vehicle is an SUV.
The cube’s design pretty much matches the name of the vehicle; it’s a cube. Well, two of them! The first cube is the front end which has a set of narrow headlights sitting between a small, grey grille. Underneath the grille lies an air-intake that looks like a mouth. The second cube is the passenger cell which features recessed door glass and a set of fifteen-inch alloy wheels which come as part of the Indigo Limited Edition package that sit underneath pronounced wheel wells. The back end shows a clever design trick Nissan used on the cube. On the passenger side, Nissan extended the glass from the tailgate around the d-pillar, giving the illusion of full glass. Nissan also mimicked the design of the headlights and grille in the taillights.
Inside, the cube has two major design themes; space and waves. The cube’s shape leads the interior an impressive amount of space. Head and legroom are abundant for both front and back-seat passengers. Seats are comfortable for short trips, while long trips will have you wishing for a bit more support. Cargo space is also in abundance thanks in part to a recessed floor and the back seat able to move back and forth.
Waves are also used throughout in the interior with the headliner, speaker housings, and cup-holders employing a ripple wave effect. The dashboard has a unique wave shape that ‘crests’ where the radio and HVAC controls are. On paper, this sounds ludicrous. But somehow, the waves actually work and give the vehicle a certain pizzazz.
There are two interior features that had me wondering ‘why?!’ The first is a twenty color interior accent lighting system that lights up the foot-wells and cup-holders. You can change the colors via a knob next to the cup holders. I found it really distracting when driving at night and just left it off. The other feature is “Shag Dash Topper” which is pretty much a piece of shag carpeting on your dash and really is there for decoration. Don’t even think of putting anything on that shag since there is a warning stating that items place on it will fly off.
Materials used throughout the cube are mostly hard plastics, which is par for the class. Build quality is very good with no sign of gaps or pieces that are separating. Interior ergonomics are excellent, with all controls being within easy reach and feeling good to the hand.
Now as I mentioned earlier, this particular cube was equipped with the Indigo Limited Edition package. This package adds
- Fifteen-inch alloy wheels
- Unique black/indigo cloth seats
- Keyless entry and start
- Upgraded sound system with a Rockford Fosgate subwoofer
- Five-inch touchscreen with navigation
- XM Satellite Radio
- USB Input
- Rear-view Camera
The package adds about $2,000 to the base price of the cube 1.8S. For what you get with the package, I think it’s very much worth it. The touchscreen that comes part of the package is on the small side, but is bright and very clear. The navigation system is quick to respond and provides excellent map detail. As for the sound system, it does a impressive job of filling the vehicle with sound, albeit it’s heavy on the bass.
Next: Power, Ride, and Verdict
Powering the cube is a 1.8L inline-four producing 122 HP (@ 5,200 RPM) and 127 lb-ft (@ 4,200 RPM). Transmissions include a six-speed manual or our car’s Xtronic CVT. The engine is well-suited to driving in the city as it’s very peppy and can get up to speed very quick. The same cannot be said for the 1.8L when driving out in the country and highway as the engine works hard to get you up to speed. The Nissan CVT is one of best and makes sure that you have the power when needed.
Fuel economy rating for the cube is 27 City/31 Highway/28 combined with the CVT. During our week with the cube, our average was 31.5 MPG on mostly suburban and rural roads.
The cube uses an independent front strut with coils and a torsion-beam rear axle with integrated stabilizer bar. The ride is very much tuned for comfort with the cube doing a good job of minimizing the impacts of bumps and potholes. Steering comes in the form of an electric system. The steering is super-light and heavily assisted, which makes the cube a perfect vehicle to maneuver around the urban environment. Taking the cube outside of an urban area, the ride is still very smooth and I was wishing for a little more weight in the steering.
One place the cube could some work is noise containment. Under 45 MPH, road and wind noise is not really noticeable. However, when you do reach 45 MPH or higher, wind and road noise is very noticeable. Most of the wind noise can be blamed on the shape of the cube. If you’re driving has a lot of freeway or driving above 45 MPH, you might want to consider something else.
Ultimately as my week concluded with the Nissan cube, I realized this car could make it in the real world. The cube is one of those vehicles built with a specific need in mind; in this case it’s built with need of serving someone in an urban environment. Take the cube out of the urban environment and you’ll be facing some huge problems including seats that don’t provide enough comfort for long trips, engine doing its best impression of the little train that could, and an atrocious amount of road and wind noise.
The Nissan cube might be bit cartoonish at first, but it’s very good vehicle in the city environment.
Disclaimer: Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gasoline.
Features from Indigo Special Edition Package
Engine performance in the city
Maneuverability and ride
Road and Wind noise when going above 45 MPH
Seats becoming uncomfortable after a long distance
Limited performance of the engine above 45 MPH
Year - 2012
Make – Nissan
Model – Cube
Trim – 1.8S Indigo Special Edition
Engine – 1.8L Inline-four
Driveline – Front-Wheel Drive, CVT
Horsepower @ RPM – 122 HP (@ 5,200 RPM)
Torque @ RPM – 127 lb-ft (@ 4,200 RPM)
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/31/28
Curb Weight – 2,768 lbs
Location of Manufacture – Oppama, Japan
Base Price - $17,420.00
As Tested Price - $20,975.00 (Includes $780.00 Destination Charge)
William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.