What is it?
Meet the new Nissan Cube, just launched and already turning heads in Japan.
The Nissan Cube is one of those idiosyncratic cars that cheerfully runs outside the mainstream. Compact, tall, impressively roomy and boxy, the Cube has been a Japan-only affair to date. Now, after two generations, the Cube is going global and is heading for the UK.
The outgoing Nissan Cube, born in 2002, quickly became an icon, selling in huge numbers in Japan, with quite a few finding their way to the UK via grey import.
What’s it like?
The Nissan Cube has been conceived as a mobile living room, a home away from home. Speed and handling never really came into the picture, and Nissan is pitching the Cube as an ‘active lifestyle’ car for couples in their early thirties or active twenty-somethings.
However, anyone comparing old Cube with new will immediately recognise the vastly improved steering, the sharper brakes, keener cornering and improved stability. The Cube needs all of this if it is going to cut it in Europe, even if it isn’t aimed at performance enthusiasts.
Nissan will do a 1.6-litre petrol and 1.5-litre diesel engine range specifically for Europe, with the choice of manual or CVT transmissions.
The Cube you see here is the range-topping Japanese-market 1.5X petrol. It has a CVT gearbox with a fiddly column shift (Euro-spec cars will get a centrally mounted shifter), yet still provides an insight into how Nissan has rethought its cult box wonder.
First, the design is now softer and more aerodynamic, while keeping the Cube's asymmetric rear end and its side-hinged tailgate.
The Cube’s interior is still something else, though. It’s big and wide, with a high ceiling and fantastic view through the front and side windows. The cabin also brings soft, sofa-like seats that don't offer much in the way of support, but are still super-comfortable.
Some aspects of the cabin, such as the ‘water-ripple’ roof lining and ‘wavy-love’ back seat also make the Cube a bit...special.
The Nissan Cube's back seat slides and split-folds, but doesn't fold flat, compromising how much you can cram in. The quality feels spot on, however, and oddment space and cup holders abound.
This Japanese-spec Cube's 1.5-litre engine produces an unchanged 108bhp and 109lb ft. It feels quick and lively off the line, much quicker than the old Cube, despite using the same engine.
With a stiffer body, more rigid suspension and wider tracks, the new Cube is also unusually taut and responsive for a Japanese car in this class.
The steering, previously light and over-assisted, is now far more communicative, although it’s still not overburdened with feel at low speeds. In short, the Cube's much closer now to what Europe expects in terms of dynamics.
Should I buy one?
It won’t appeal to everyone - the Nissan Cube will be a niche product in Europe, an interesting alternative to the likes of the Skoda Roomster and Citroen Berlingo. It is also a car, you can be sure, that will turn heads.
If you want something different from the small MPV or supermini norm, you could do far worse than the Nissan Cube.