Nissan Cube Review

If you like your cars quirky / looking like white goods on wheels, the Cube is most definitely for you.  The fact it looks like something Postman Pat drives (for Christ sake make sure whatever you do, you don’t order it in red!), should be the first clue that it’s a unique vehicle, but hey unique isn’t always bad…is it? I mean look at Wagner, he was ‘unique’, or Heinz’s ‘Green Tomato Ketchup’ that was certainly unique, oh wait a minute, there both TERRIBLE examples of uniqueness…. But then for that matter, so is the Cube.

The child-like ‘box-on-wheels’ design of this most unusual of Nissan models makes it an alternative attention grabbing choice for light local or urban use. It is however, terrible at motorway speeds, handles like your driving a brick attached to a roller-skate, is excessively noisy in the cabin, has excessive wind noise at anything above 60mph and incorporates the most uncomfortable / pointless interior since the Model T Ford.

There has to be an upside or two, right? Its square shape means equal and massive headroom front and rear, so that’s one upside.  With all that glass, you get a real sense of space and lightness throughout the whole of the cabin. Unfortunately the unique wrap-round rear window may not show the rear passenger-side pillar on the outside of the Cube, but the massive rear pillar is still very much there on the inside, so the Cube doesn’t provide the driver with any more rear visibility than a normal van MPV.   Which is a real shame as no pillar on the rear passenger side would have been fairly funky and unique.  But one assumes that probably would have caused some issues with safety (especially in the event of roll-over).

There’s also plenty of room for four adults – and their legs – as the rear seat slides right back, so another tick in the ‘upsides’ column…. Which unfortunately gives us yet another tick in the ‘downsides’ column, as you’ll all need to leave any luggage behind, as sliding the seat backwards for more leg room for the rear passengers, eats into the very small 255-litre boot space.  The boot does also have a high lip which could make stowing heavy or awkward items a challenge for some.

Space aside, the cabin could be tagged as somewhat funky and is very functional, although decked with a scratchy hard plastic, which is a shame.  The strange addition of 70’s velour seats – or should I say sofas, are as much of an acquired taste as its exterior design, and although comfortable on short journeys, if totally unsupportive, seem more suited to Austin Power’s boudoir than a Japanese city car. Being boringly practical, I wouldn’t like to anticipate how easy that velour is to keep clean either.  On long journeys, the total lack of support in the seats become very noticeable and (I know this as I drove a 400 mile round trip in it) you’ll end up with an aching back

Equipment wise, the Cube has a decent level as standard. The basic model features 16-inch alloys, air con, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, cruise control and radio/CD player with Aux input, and more expensive Kaizen model, rear parking sensors, satellite navigation and climate control.

In terms of safety, stability control is standard on both spec levels, as is driver / front passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags that run the whole length of the cabin. It doesn’t boast the usual top 5 star EuroNCAP rating, that Nissan have become known for on its other cars, though.

To drive, if you can bear, or rather relish the puzzled stares you are certain to get, its immediately evident this is a car for sub 50mph city or village pootling, rather than ‘B’ road bashing.  The steering’s light, plus those high sides contribute to a fair amount of lean should you dare to throw it into a corner with any sort of gusto. The other downside of it being as aerodynamic as a breeze block on marbles, is that in high side winds the Cube gets slammed sideways heavily, on my 400 mile round trip I was actually forced to change lanes several times, as the Cube was blown out of the lane I was in, by the wind!

My test car also pulled very heavily to the left constantly, an issue that I raised with the Nissan press team, who said they would look into it, but never actually called me back to confirm if this was an issue with my test cars wheel alignment / balancing, or confirm that the Cube really just likes pulling to the left.  The suspension, soft for city use, does little to make you feel tight to the tarmac too.  But then, for what the Cube’s been designed for, it’s fair to say it drives well enough at lower speeds and round town ring roads and side streets.

Engine wise, there’s now a choice of two – the 1.6L 109bhp petrol, and more recent 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel.  They’re not bad to drive as a whole, but have a final significant flaw - their emissions and resulting high tax costs compared to rival cars.  The petrol’s high 151g/km of CO2 puts it in the £155 bracket and the 42.8mpg (pretty poor economy for a small city car) diesel £110 for its 135g/km.

This coupled with the Cube’s £14,000 - £16,375 asking price, more than that of some worthy, larger and more versatile models, means it just cant in all honesty be said to be a sensible buy, but more an attention-grabbing accessory for the super hip city-ite.

Now you may think I’ve been harsh with this review, however there is a reason… My 66yr old father (who isn’t even slightly senile) had some sort of lapse of sense / judgment 6 months ago, took himself off and went and blew sixteen grand cash on a brand new Cube (despite my advice not to).  He is bitterly disappointed with it, to the point of actually asking the Nissan dealer to take it back (it’s got less than 3,000 miles on it, because he HATES driving it), the dealer doesn’t want it back, but offered £12,000 trade-in against a brand new QashQai.  For a brand new vehicle at this price level to lose £4,000 in 6 months, especially considering its low mileage; is terrible value for money.  Also keep in mind that it’s a Nissan dealer devaluing a car they’ve sold 6 months ago, whilst trying to up-sell a brilliant (but more expensive) totally different style, type and class of vehicle to an unhappy customer with a genuine complaint.

Nissan you’ve really taken your eye off the ball with the Cube…. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of a trend from the super trendy car manufacturer, who you can always rely on to produce brilliant, capable, value for money, entertaining and cool vehicles that normally leave you with a big fat smile and change in your wallet.

There’s also plenty of room for four adults – and their legs – as the rear seat slides right back, so another tick in the ‘upsides’ column…. Which unfortunately gives us yet another tick in the ‘downsides’ column, as you’ll all need to leave any luggage behind, as sliding the seat backwards for more leg room for the rear passengers, eats into the very small 255-litre boot space.  The boot does also have a high lip which could make stowing heavy or awkward items a challenge for some.

Space aside, the cabin could be tagged as somewhat funky and is very functional, although decked with a scratchy hard plastic, which is a shame.  The strange addition of 70’s velour seats – or should I say sofas, are as much of an acquired taste as its exterior design, and although comfortable on short journeys, if totally unsupportive, seem more suited to Austin Power’s boudoir than a Japanese city car. Being boringly practical, I wouldn’t like to anticipate how easy that velour is to keep clean either.  On long journeys, the total lack of support in the seats become very noticeable and (I know this as I drove a 400 mile round trip in it) you’ll end up with an aching back

Equipment wise, the Cube has a decent level as standard. The basic model features 16-inch alloys, air con, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, cruise control and radio/CD player with Aux input, and more expensive Kaizen model, rear parking sensors, satellite navigation and climate control.

In terms of safety, stability control is standard on both spec levels, as is driver / front passenger airbags, side airbags and curtain airbags that run the whole length of the cabin. It doesn’t boast the usual top 5 star EuroNCAP rating, that Nissan have become known for on its other cars, though.

To drive, if you can bear, or rather relish the puzzled stares you are certain to get, its immediately evident this is a car for sub 50mph city or village pootling, rather than ‘B’ road bashing.  The steering’s light, plus those high sides contribute to a fair amount of lean should you dare to throw it into a corner with any sort of gusto. The other downside of it being as aerodynamic as a breeze block on marbles, is that in high side winds the Cube gets slammed sideways heavily, on my 400 mile round trip I was actually forced to change lanes several times, as the Cube was blown out of the lane I was in, by the wind!

My test car also pulled very heavily to the left constantly, an issue that I raised with the Nissan press team, who said they would look into it, but never actually called me back to confirm if this was an issue with my test cars wheel alignment / balancing, or confirm that the Cube really just likes pulling to the left.  The suspension, soft for city use, does little to make you feel tight to the tarmac too.  But then, for what the Cube’s been designed for, it’s fair to say it drives well enough at lower speeds and round town ring roads and side streets.

Engine wise, there’s now a choice of two – the 1.6L 109bhp petrol, and more recent 109bhp 1.5-litre diesel.  They’re not bad to drive as a whole, but have a final significant flaw - their emissions and resulting high tax costs compared to rival cars.  The petrol’s high 151g/km of CO2 puts it in the £155 bracket and the 42.8mpg (pretty poor economy for a small city car) diesel £110 for its 135g/km.

This coupled with the Cube’s £14,000 - £16,375 asking price, more than that of some worthy, larger and more versatile models, means it just cant in all honesty be said to be a sensible buy, but more an attention-grabbing accessory for the super hip city-ite.

Now you may think I’ve been harsh with this review, however there is a reason… My 66yr old father (who isn’t even slightly senile) had some sort of lapse of sense / judgment 6 months ago, took himself off and went and blew sixteen grand cash on a brand new Cube (despite my advice not to).  He is bitterly disappointed with it, to the point of actually asking the Nissan dealer to take it back (it’s got less than 3,000 miles on it, because he HATES driving it), the dealer doesn’t want it back, but offered £12,000 trade-in against a brand new QashQai.  For a brand new vehicle at this price level to lose £4,000 in 6 months, especially considering its low mileage; is terrible value for money.  Also keep in mind that it’s a Nissan dealer devaluing a car they’ve sold 6 months ago, whilst trying to up-sell a brilliant (but more expensive) totally different style, type and class of vehicle to an unhappy customer with a genuine complaint.

Nissan you’ve really taken your eye off the ball with the Cube…. Let’s hope this isn’t the start of a trend from the super trendy car manufacturer, who you can always rely on to produce brilliant, capable, value for money, entertaining and cool vehicles that normally leave you with a big fat smile and change in your wallet.