Nissan’s Cube celebrates the power of peculiarity
summit daily auto writer
If your stated intention in life is to be the most iconoclastic individual on the block and you think that oddball automobiles such as the Kia Soul, the Scion xB and the Mini Cooper are just a bit too ordinary, we’ve found the solution.
Enter the incredibly bizarre Nissan Cube (they opt for a lower-case spelling, but we’ll temporarily ignore that), the most directly and uncompromisingly Japanese-styled automobile to land on US shores in a long, long time.
If you haven’t seen it yet, Cube is that funny little car that looks half like a stackable washing machine, and half like a character from some late-night anime cartoon. Outfitted in the “bitter chocolate” color as my tester was, it looks like and is about the same size as the old Brown Derby Restaurant sign in Idaho Springs. Standing next to it, the Cube’s roof came up to my chin; the entire automobile is only 157 inches.
With oddly, almost porthole-shaped, oversized rounded windows, tiny 15-inch wheels and a glossy, spazzy character, Cube’s affectations do serve to overwhelm the pleasantries it offers.
Under that slightly garish exterior, it’s a comfortable and relatively spacious little four-door with “lounge-styled” reclining front and rear seats, 58 cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats flattened and a comfortably powerful 122-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder, mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Drive it carefully and you’ll get almost 30 miles a gallon.
As I discovered over the course of a weekend’s travels in the oddball Cube, you’ll be doing almost nothing but driving it carefully. I felt a bit like I was commandeering the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile or maybe the protagonists’ van from “Dumb and Dumber” each time I rolled out in the weird little Cube. Onlookers regard you with confusion; pranksters conjure images of flipping your car on its side when you’re not looking.
Though its basic shape (think toaster oven) is like the xB, Cube’s proportions are much more strange, including an odd little skirt-shaped bit behind the rear wheels that turns into a tiny bumper with low-rise, knee level brake lamps. The whole back hatch pops open to the side, like a step-activated trash can.
The most peculiar part, that seemingly wraparound window on the rear right corner, is actually an illusion; on the inside, there’s frame and a smaller porthole window under the dark external cover.
Cube is sprightly enough, courtesy of that buzzy little engine, but its top-heavy shape makes me think you’re not going to want to be in one in a raging blizzard on Highway 9. Steering also felt a little jerky, even if it is speed-sensitive electric power assisted. And those 15-inch wheels don’t add a whole lot to the comfort of the ride.
Step inside (and this is easy, as the vehicle rides very low to the ground and features large doors) and you’ll find things aren’t quite as peculiar. Rather, it’s a very comfortable experience for both front and rear riders, with wide, soft seating and interior details that aren’t oppressively strange. There are a few giggly bits, including red bungee cords on the doors for securing your anarchist pamphlets, as well as a crop circle-styled series of undulations on the ceiling, but the rest is pretty straight forward and nicely designed.
The downside to possibly the largest windows I’ve ever encountered is occasional sun-blindness (super-gigantic sun shades can only do so much) and some odd visibility issues. The left-hand side mirror had a convex curve to it and I found it hard to navigate the little machine, especially while parking.
Oddly enough, Nissan is apparently moving a few of the Cubes, though I’d certainly peg it more as an urban runabout for the style conscious than a long-distance hauler.
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