- We like...Oddball, but practical
- We don't...No diesel until mid-2010
Looks bonkers - but is utterly practical. Will the new Cube mini-MPV find its way to your heart? Find out hereYou’ve gotta admire Nissan. Here they are, best known here for making safe, sensible, no-nonsense motors – plus, here and there, a mental sports coupe. And then they go and offer UK drivers the Cube.
Look at it. While it’s never pretty, it will get you noticed. Nissan’s designers reckon that the front is inspired by ‘a bulldog wearing sunglasses’. While that sounds like babble, we can confirm that, after a morning driving around London, plenty of the capital’s normally thrill-proof residents did stop to gawp.
As the name hints, it is a compact box with a wheel at each corner. But the nuttiness of the design adds in, too, a rear window that ‘bends’ around its kerbside rear corner, a dash that ‘waves’ in and out, and a ‘scalloped’ roof headlining.
That aside, it is also darned practical. The seats are big and squashy – like a sofa or those in a 1950s Brit saloon – and they’ll take five comfortably, offering good head and legroom. The rear bench slides – as it ds also in the Micra and Note - to juggle space between the boot and the rear cabin. The luggage cover extends with the seats to keep your belongings out of view. Shove the seat way forward, stop the luggage cover, drop the rear seat backs, and you’ve a small van.
Each of the doors is big and wide-opening and the seats are set high, giving you a good view out, helped by the Cube’s big windows and relatively low waist. The rear door is a side-hinger, opening (correctly) from the kerbside out and ‘stepped’ for easy use.
Inside, the car’s intriguing. All Cubes have a glass roof over the front seats that packs a pair of blinds. So you can let the sun in, shut it out or filter it via a cover featuring a wavy design, echoing that of the roof lining.
The dash curves around the front passenger, while the heater controls are grouped around a circular console. Storage spaces count as ‘OK’ rather than super-generous or inventive but you can get an optional pack of elastic bungees that enable you to peg your possessions around the cabin.
To start with, there’s just one engine, a 1.6, 110bhp petrol and two trim levels. Standard Cube has alloy wheels, air conditioning, remote locking and keyless entry, darkened rear glass, sunroof and cruise control, while the Kaizen (it’s Japanese for ‘continuous improvement’, apparently) adds auto headlamps and wipers, climate control and a rear parking camera. From launch, there’ll also be a limited edition, called LDN, which has some rather lovely chocolate-coloured velour seats and paint to match.
The Cube’ll pitch against rivals including Citrn’s C3 Picasso and the Kia Soul.
To drive? Controls are easy and light, making it feel just like a big Micra to pilot. It’s never going to be a car you’ll want to chuck into corners but, driven briskly and sensibly, it’s easy and pleasant. Quiet, too, at town speeds, though on the motorway there’s a fair bit of wind rustle around its tall ‘screen. It rides well and soothes away the bumps.You pick between a five speed manual gearbox and a CVT auto. The auto makes the car near-effortless to punt through city traffic, but otherwise the manual 'box is the one we'd favour.
Should you buy one? Why not? It’s different but utterly sensible and, since it’s a Nissan, it promises to be faithful and easy to own. If you’re smitten, you might just want to wait until mid-year, when a 1.5-litre diesel engine’ll be available, too. For us, that’ll be the one to have.
Note that the insurance group quoted below uses the new ratings system, which runs from gps 1-50
- Engines1.6 petrol
- 0-60 mph11.3secs
- Insurance groups15E
Motors.co.uk value verdict: