Despite its rather dull exterior color, the Nissan Cube attracts a lot of attention. A gaggle of teenage girls in a Ford Focus kept staring at the Cube after they passed me. An older man driving a full-size pickup gave the Cube a confused look at a red light. Perhaps it was the strange mix of hipster looks and loud Metallica coming from the CD player. I certainly had to do something to balance out the quirky lines of the Cube. There's no way I'm hip enough to own one of these.
I love the simple interior. You know all the materials are cheap, but they are supposed to be. This is a cheap car. The front bucket seats are about as close as you'll get to a bench seat on a modern car, but I still wish we could get an actual bench seat like the Japanese-market Cube. Be sure to look at the headliner and examine the funky water droplet pattern around the dome light.
I'd like to see a more interesting radio display - perhaps something with an equalizer always displayed because I get the feeling this car needs to be playing cool music all the time. It's also a pity this particular stereo isn't very good. It needs more power and some better-sounding speakers. Old Metallica sounds fine on substandard speakers, but music that's not supposed to be distorted didn't sound so hot when the volume was cranked. Our S test model has the base, four-speaker stereo; move up to the $16,790 SL, and you get six speakers and two tweeters.
The Cube is certainly not supposed to be an enthusiast's dream in the handling department, but it responded well when pushed. Don't expect any feedback from the steering, but the body control is quite good, perhaps even class-leading. I was pleased with the performance of the 1.8-liter four-cylinder, but it really needs to be revved to extract any significant acceleration. If you're just cruising around urban areas, it should be more than adequate.
I really, really hope a cultlike following for the Cube sprouts up in the U.S. I'd love to see owners import some of the wilder JDM Cube goodies and bolt them onto customized cars. The Cube is probably the coolest car I've ever driven that features hubcaps.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor