The Cube’s style and virtues don’t exactly intersect with my personal tastes, but I admire Nissan for taking such a different tact with this car. Unlike a Scion xB or Kia Soul, which drive like very conventional compacts, the Cube reflects its quirky, asymmetrical styling in an offbeat driving experience. The strained buzz of the 1.8-liter saddled to the continuously variable transmission is reason enough to avoid exceeding 3500 rpm, but doing so also makes you feel like you’re driving the Cube “correctly.” This is a surprisingly spacious, comfortable, and relaxed car that entices you to drive at a slower pace, leave the windows down on the highway, and wave to the jerk that just cut you off. The front seats are seriously wide and flat but also well cushioned, and the rear bench is more usable than in most mid-size cars. There’s also an unusually soft ride for such a small car. The Cube leans through corners more than most cars, but again, if you’re squealing the tires and causing your passengers to reach for something to keep themselves in their seats, you’re doing it wrong.
The Indigo Limited Edition, which is new for 2012, is a $1900 package that covers the seats in deep blue fabric and adds keyless ignition, navigation, a rearview camera, a USB audio input, satellite radio, an upgraded stereo, and 15-inch aluminum wheels. More than the special seats, though, I was charmed by our Cube’s Bali blue paint and the twenty-color ambient lighting and illuminated sill plates for $490. The price for our tester totaled $20,975, which makes it a great value by my accounting. Scoring a navigation system in many other small cars requires shelling out $22,000 or $23,000 and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have passive entry or a backup camera at that price.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
It amazes me how, nearly four years after its American debut at the Los Angeles auto show, the Cube still attracts so much attention. As usual, the split seems to be fifty/fifty between those who offer unsolicited adoration for its asymmetrical window, boxy cuteness and those who feel obliged to tell you just how ugly and effeminate those same features are.
I had to do some hurried errand running on Friday afternoon. The Cube was not happy with this task. Its 1.8-liter four-cylinder moaned plaintively as I attempted to outrun Ann Arbor traffic, and its relatively slow steering and floppy body control frustrated my efforts to knife through back streets and parking lots. It doesn’t even ride well when you drive quickly, as the little wheels tend to catch every pothole and toss you around.
Only when I gave up on accomplishing everything I wanted to that afternoon and resigned myself to enjoying the warm summer breeze did the Cube come into its own. The ride smoothed out to a cozy equilibrium, and I was able to make leisurely steering inputs with my right hand as I held an iced latte in the other (there’s a well-placed cupholder to the left of the wheel). Yep, this is a car for loafing around.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Like David, I used the Cube to run some errands and although I agree that some of the Cube’s manners aren’t ideal for tight maneuvers around town, if you are aggressive with the throttle, the 1.8-liter four’s provides the off-the-line acceleration necessary to make quick sprints from lights or to fend off parking space thieves in store lots. And, because the CVT is shiftless, when you floor the throttle, there’s no delay while you wait for the transmission to downshift to get into its power band, so forward motion is fairly instantaneous. It can drone a bit as it gets into the upper revs but it’s only really an issue during highway merging or passing.
The new-for-2012 Indigo Limited Edition package on this tester consists of equipment that should satisfy both fashionistas and functionistas and for what you get, it’s an absolute bargain. A rare-in-this-price-range navigation system and rearview camera are the most noteworthy additions. The 5-inch display they both employ may sound too tiny to be useful but its high placement on the dash makes its compact dimensions less of an issue. This bali blue Cube also includes the Interior Designer package that bundles carpeted floor and cargo mats, the shag dash topper, and front-door mounted bungies to hold small items. Functionally, the latter two are fairly useless so I’d skip this package and buy the mats as a stand-alone option. Then I’d put the leftover cash toward the Interior Illumination package. The lighted kick plates alone are well worth its $490 price tag.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The Krom is dead; long live the Indigo. While I loved the Cube’s funky, nouveau-Pike Factory personality, I never much cared for the special edition Krom model. The upgraded interior fabrics were nice, but the giant chrome upper and lower grille inserts felt a bit overwrought – and on a car this cartoonish, that’s saying something.
The Indigo, however, is just about everything I wished the Krom was: a full-tilt Cube with upgraded interior decor and some nicer aluminum wheels, but without the frumpy grille patterns. Even without the optional designer package (which adds the curious dash topper and the surprisingly plush shag carpets), the Indigo’s unique seating – which is trimmed in a plush indigo fabric and highlighted with contrasting white piping – does a commendable job of breaking up the monotony of the black plastic interior. The navigation system (which boasts a USB audio input, something our Four Seasons Cube did without) is also bundled with this package. The accompanying back-up camera is a nice touch, but as visibility is pretty good, I’m not sure it’s that necessary.
What the Indigo package doesn’t do is alter how the Cube behaves. I disagree with Jen’s assessment; though the Cube doesn’t feel that agile or quick, its small footprint and sharp wheelcut are perfect for tight maneuvers in the city. In fact, it let me squeeze through a right-turn after an eight-foot-wide transit bus decided to hog a lane and a half while waiting to turn left at a stop light. And yes, though the CVT may drone while winding the Cube up to highway speed, I’d rather have it than the manual for such a drive. At 70 mph, it keeps the 1.8-liter I-4 geared so that it turns but a couple thousand RPM – something I can’t say of many of its competitors.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
2012 Nissan Cube 1.8 S
MSRP (with destination): $18,200
PRICE AS TESTED: $20,975
1.8-liter DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 122 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 127 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
WHEELS AND TIRES:
15-inch aluminum wheels
195/60HR-15 Toyo A20 tires
FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
Cargo (rear seats up/down): 11.4/58.1 cu ft
Legroom (front/rear): 42.4/35.5 in
Headroom (front/rear): 42.6/42.0 in
15-inch steel wheels w/covers
Stability and traction control
6-way adjustable driver’s seat
Front seats w/attached armrests
60/40-split folding rear seats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Power windows and locks
Variable intermittent windshield wipers
Intermittent rear wiper w/washer
Swing-type rear cargo door
Front ripple hooks and cargo tie down hooks
OPTIONS ON THIS VEHICLE:
Indigo Limited Edition- $1900
Keyless entry and ignition
Navigation system w.5-inch color monitor
SiriusXm traffic w/3-month subscription
Six upgraded speakers w/subwoofer and amplifier
SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription
15-inch aluminum wheels
Exclusive black/indigo cloth seat trim
Interior illumination package- $490
20-color interior accent lighting
Illuminated kick plates
Interior designer package- $230
Carpeted floor mats and cargo mat
Shag dash topper
Front door bungees
Splash guards- $155
KEY OPTIONS NOT ON THIS VEHICLE:
Aero kit- $1350
Rear spoiler- $370
This is the Indigo Limited Edition model, which is new for 2012.