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2012 Nissan Cube Road Test Review

2012 Nissan Cube Road Test Review

by Martha Hindes

2012 CUV Buyer's Guide - Top 10 Picks


Kia Soul

Cadillac SRX

Mazda CX-9

Honda Crosstour

Hyundai Tucson

Every so often an auto company decides it's time to offer something quirky that is guaranteed to catch people's attention. Scion, the offbeat youth division of Toyota, did it with the xB box on wheels. Honda did it with the Element, a kind of portable sun porch if all the doors are opened. The idea is to capitalize on inventive ideas and out-of-the-box designs in an effort to catch the jewel of automotive customers: The youth market. For 2012, the Nissan Cube® continues in that role as well.

This probably is best classified as a crossover, but it’s another of those vehicles that's like cramming a square peg into a round hole. Every time it seems it will fit, there's a corner sticking out somewhere that just won't go away. Some things simply defy being categorized. And isn't that half the charm? Nissan itself has given the cube a self-deprecating descriptive, saying its softly bulbous nose has a "bulldog in sunglasses" look. Here's a vehicle that looks rather like a third world delivery van that someone customized by cutting out odd window shapes, scooping out sections of the body in the rear (or so it seems) and turned out something so b--- ugly (you add the U T T) that it actually seems quite adorable.

One might not expect lots of annual changes for the cube, since it has such a presence without them. But what self-respecting auto maker would leave it to languish? For 2012 the cube gets a new package that includes navigation system, rearview monitor, premium Rockford Fosgate audio, and Nissan Intelligent Key. Of the 1.8, 1.8 S and l.8 SL models, the latter two get a new armrest and the SL gets Intelligent Key as standard equipment.

With its offbeat look and purpose, the Cube is a niche vehicle at its best. After three years in the U.S., we see them from time to time on American streets, but haven't in the greater numbers one might find in Japan, its home base, where it's been around for three previous generations.

As a confirmation it's a perfect vehicle to customize, there are 40 individual accessories available, a testament to its individuality. Rather than a hatch, the rear opens with a "refrigerator-style door." Nissan's description. And the cube has a huge volume of space inside that just begs for a crash party or junkyard dog kind of toting. One presumably could lounge there for hours, seats tipped back for extra stretch room as a perfect place to "hang." The "water drop" interior accents and "floating meter pod" instrument panel elements presumably add to its casual atmosphere.

The nitty gritty about the Cube is where it's measurable. A front-drive utility vehicle, it's built on Nissan’s smaller "B" platform. It's powered by a 122 horsepower, 1.8-liter four cylinder engine with six speed manual (about 25/30 MPG) or continuously variable automatic transmission (27/31 MPG). Base pricing starts in the $14K range.

For someone who's bored with predictable, who wants some real-time lounge room and wants to keep it affordable, we think the cube is so square that it's cool.

Visit the Nissan website, click here.