By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.3
One of the Big Three CEOs once said that his company didn't build small cars because it was impossible to design a good-looking small car. Well, that theory has certainly been put to the test, and cars like the 2012 Nissan Cube prove not only can a small car be frugal and inexpensive, it can be funky and unique and cool, too. The 2012 Nissan Cube cleverly disguises a roomy and versatile people-hauler as a 20-something chic urban commuter. Best of all, you can slide into a Cube for just a shade over $15,000. Cough up a few more bucks and you can have yourself a really well-equipped model complete with options you won't find on any other car (like the circular shag carpet dash pad). And, lest you think the Cube is too small to safeguard you against a world filled with SUVs and pickup trucks, the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has handed the Nissan Cube its Top Safety Pick award. The Cube may not be alone in the boxy-compact-wagon-thingy category, not with the boxier Scion xB still in the running (the Honda Element is no more), but its rounded edges and asymmetrical rear pillars make it far more interesting to look at, and it certainly is a conversation starter.
If you're looking for something small, fun and inexpensive that expresses your desire to not blend in with the crowd, the 2012 Nissan Cube 5-door wagon is a great start. The great gas mileage, roomy and versatile cargo area, and fun option choices simply sweeten the deal.
The Cube is a great urban commuter, but if you plan on doing some light off-road trips or weekend ski trips, you'd be much better off in something like the 2012 Suzuki SX4. Those seeking more power and bit more polish might want to look at the more expensive Mini Cooper Clubman or Countryman, or even the Nissan Juke.
Changes to the 2012 Nissan Cube wagon are limited to some option shuffling. There is a new package for the 1.8 CVT that adds unique seat color fabric, navigation, a rearview monitor, and the Rockford Fosgate audio system. Nissan's Intelligent Key is made standard on the SL trim, while both the S and SL gain a passenger-seat armrest.
Driving Impressions Although it's doubtful many driving enthusiasts will be falling over themselves to drive a 2012 Nissan Cube, most everyone else will probably find something to like. Acceleration is passable given...the 1.8-liter engine's mere 122 horsepower. We highly recommend going with the manual transmission if you can. It helps squeeze the most out of the Cube's engine and makes the drive a bit more entertaining. Exhibiting noticeable decibels of wind and road noise at highway speed, the Cube is not the quietest vehicle on the road, but, it's no worse than other small cars such as the Kia Soul or Scion xB. Like most Nissan compacts, the 2012 Cube is blessed with a firm suspension that delivers a smooth ride even when encountering uneven or choppy pavement. Thanks to its small turning radius, the 2012 Nissan Cube is a breeze to move around in tight confines, while its available rear parking sensor ensures you'll never damage its pretty rear end (or anyone else's for that matter).
Part of the Preferred Package, Nissan's small and inexpensive navigation radio is as good, or better, than units costing four times as much. The Cube's navigation unit is one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use systems we've encountered, and that includes aftermarket units. With maps and data stored on an SD card, updating the map data is as easy as accessing your home computer.
With only a cursory glance, one might overlook the unique form of the Cube's headliner. Even though a flat headliner would have been perfectly acceptable, Nissan's designers decided to simulate the ripples created by dropping a pebble in water. The result is an interesting conversation piece and an indicator of Nissan's commendable attention to detail.
An expressive exterior deserves an equally expressive interior and the 2012 Nissan Cube wagon doesn't fail to deliver. Round shapes populate the dash and door panels, while unusual textures are sprinkled throughout the Cube's spacious cabin. Look up, and you'll see a large dome light attached to a foam headliner with a rippling pattern emanating from the center out. The design mimics the ripples made on a lake after a stone is tossed in. The same effect is repeated on the Cube's door-mounted speaker grilles. The 2012 Nissan Cube's boxy wagon shape makes for a roomy interior that can easily carry five adults. A sliding rear seat allows for a choice between maximum legroom for passengers or cargo space for their luggage. Headroom is beyond reasonable, and the Cube's long list of cool options includes a user-friendly navigation radio, ear-drum-busting Rockford Fosgate stereo and Interior Illumination Kit.Exterior
Looking more like a die (the singular of dice) than a cube, the 2012 Nissan Cube nevertheless fits the 4-corner definition of a box on wheels. Its soft, rounded edges give it a friendlier feel than the Scion xB, and its rounded headlights, taillights and side glass juxtapose nicely with the Cube's squared-off silhouette. The wheels appear a bit small, as do the wheel-well openings, imparting the look of a rolling top hat. Without question the most intriguing element of the Cube's design is the asymmetrical rear section that features wraparound glass on one side and a body-color pillar on the other. Adding to the Cube's distinctiveness is a wide variety of exterior accessories that allow you to create one super-stylish mode of transport. We do worry a bit about the taillights being so low and close to the rear bumper, a position that might expose them to damage even in a low-speed bumper kiss.
Standard features found on the base 2012 Nissan Cube include a 2-speaker audio system with auxiliary input, air conditioning, power locks with remote entry, a 6-speed manual transmission and 15-inch steel wheels. The S trim adds a 6-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, an iPod interface, steering-wheel audio controls, body-color mirrors and cruise control. SL models get automatic climate control, Intelligent Key entry and start, automatic headlights and 16-inch alloy wheels. Standard safety features include stability and traction controls, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and six airbags.
There are a few stand-alone options offered for the 2012 Nissan Cube, such as the 20-color interior accent lighting and the Interior Designer Package. Most other options require buyers to move up to the next-higher trim level to add equipment. The 1.8S Preferred Package adds unique seat color, Nissan Navigation System, RearView Monitor, Rockford Fosgate audio, Nissan Intelligent Key, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Small businesses might appreciate the special-order Cargo option, offered for the base Cube, which deletes the rear seats, armrests, cup holders and seatbelts, transforming the Cube into an efficient delivery vehicle.
There is one engine offered for the 2012 Nissan Cube, a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder unit rated at 122 horsepower. Power is acceptable for a small, inexpensive and fuel-efficient car, but those who value rapid acceleration may be disappointed by the Cube's performance. On base and S trims, a 6-speed manual transmission is standard, while a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is optional on the S Trim and standard on SL. The CVT does a good job in maximizing the engine's output and actually offers better fuel economy than the manual transmission, but some buyers may be put off by the way the engine seems to race under hard acceleration.
1.8-liter in-line 4
122 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm
127 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/31 (CVT), 25/30 (manual)
By Dan on Thursday, October 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Perfect reliabilty, suggest upgrading suspension"
Cons: "Careful in wind. a Little light. Get snow tires."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought my 2009 Nissan cube for a all season and then now, a summer only ride. i never thought I'd own one seeing that they were only in Japan for decades. Once I found out they were coming here for a bit, I rushed out to get one. It comes with power everything. Mine is a 6 speed. wonderful transmission. Clutch is long, but you only need like 2 " of it. Tons of room for what seems to be a tiny machine. Great in the rain because water doesnt get in the car due to the flat side. People in the back seat will love the STADIUM SEATING!!! Love the waving from other cube owners. It is definitely the "I want a unique car person" car. Its a little tricky in the wind just like any mini van, truck or other tall vehicle. This is why I had it lowered to reduce the wheel gap and hieght. Handles AWESOME now. I push 30 MPG out of it with the nicely synchromesh 6 speed. I don't need the clucth after 1st gear just like the old Datsun 280ZX. The only changes to the car are: -Side window visors (for rainy hot days-keep the AC off) -Rear roof spoiler -Front air dam -Sub woofer -cold air intake -Upgraded springs Its a blast to drive. Not powerful, but responsive. I would never recommend the CVT for anyone that loves a manual shift car. No issues at all. Still has the original brakes at 54,000 miles. Perfect car so far. Next we'll add a Nissan Juke! :-)"
3 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Lisa on Tuesday, September 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "roomy interior, good gas mileage, easy handling"
Cons: "could have a little more get up and go power"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Cube! I think I will get a newer one too when I am ready to get a new car. It handles great, gas is great, interior is bigger than it looks on the outside...really I have no complaints at all. I get looks everywhere I go cus it is so funky. Love it!"
13 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By kj002 on Tuesday, June 03, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, cute inside, cup holders, comfy seat"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I actually really love this vehicle. I purchased it after I totaled by Kia Soul 2011. My favorite feature of the entire car is the extra cup holder that is on the left side of the steering wheel. I know that sounds ridiculous, to have that feature be my favorite, but really it is great! Its such a nice option as well as many of the cup holders in the car. I love the futuristic look inside the car. I have an automatic and its not exactly a powerful car but I get actually great milage. I live in Seattle, so it is perfect for hills and stop and go traffic. The seats are great and feel like sofa cushion. I also love that the back seat can tilt back if you need! I have fit so much in my Cube! If you think this car looks small from the outside just wait and see how big it is inside. I've stuffed my car full of fencing materials from Home Depot, large boxes, a mattress, dog crates, everything-you name it! Personally, I think this car is almost as ugly as a PT Crusier, but its so ugly its cute! I get stopped by people all the time, wanting to know what it looks like inside and etc. A lot of the things I like about it are the asthetics, but I think that is because the car fits my mileage and driving needs! I would def tell people to take a second look at the car!"
29 people out of 39 found this review helpful
By B on Friday, March 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 43,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "I do miss the sunglass holder.."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I love my cube. I am not in the 'profile' that this car was aimed at. I would actually have preferred a small wagon- a Sentra sized wagon would have been perfect for me. The size will fool you- you cant believe what fits in it. I have 3 big dogs who fit w/ crates. I travel 4 times a year, 2 hours away, to purchase the dogs raw food. It all fits with room to spare in the cube, at 30+ mpg..I used to take a pickup because I couldn't fit it all in my Sentra, and used twice the gas"
14 people out of 20 found this review helpful
By livingbrown on Monday, December 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 44,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun car, Head turner, reliable, great sound system"
Cons: "strange air pressure when rear windows are down"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought my Cube brand new and paid way less then I would have for another vehicle with the same options. The car has headroom to spare! Lots of get up and go for such a fuel efficient engine. Seats are large in the front captains chairs and I easily fit 3 across the back seat! Love the back up camera and bluetooth hands-free phone feature, as well as the great Rockford Fosgate sound system that came installed when I bought it. Lets me plug in my iphone or ipad straight into the dash and pulls my playlist into the stereo so I can use controls on my steering wheel to change songs, as well as having a aux jack for any other device! Have had the vehicle over 2 1/2 years and have never had to do anything except the standard maintenance. Great in snow, never gotten stuck! Huge wrap around windows make for next to no blind spots and just look cool! Love the accents on the interior roof and in all the cup holders as well as the speaker covers! Only beef is that when the rear windows are open at speeds above 30mph, the car makes a noise, which I think is caused by the ripple effect on the ceiling, that hurts the drivers ears...but no other passengers are effected by it...weird. Otherwise great car for a great price!!"
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Nick on Monday, October 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This thing is awesome! It's the roomiest compact out there. Among it's closest related cars, the Kia and the Scion, it is the slowest and most fuel efficient. I was concerned whether it could travel at high speeds but I've had it over 90 without a problem. I get about 30mpg all the time whether I'm on the highway or in the city (it's not exactly aero-dynamic). It's loaded with options and very easy to drive. My kids can stand up in the back seat while they get in but if I want more trunk space I can slide the rear seat forward an entire foot leaving them legroom like any compact but a huge cargo area. It did very well on ice when I traveled. The seat jacks way up giving very good visibility. I drove it 25 miles on a pretty rough dirt road through the mountains and it performed well. I can fit a bicycle inside it with the seats laid down."
19 people out of 20 found this review helpful