By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 11/4/2011
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
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.What's New for 2012
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 It 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).Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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)
Pricing for the 2012 Nissan Cube 5-door wagon starts at just under $16,000 for the base trim level, while the well-equipped SL trim starts under $20,000. A fully loaded Cube SL tops out just shy of the $25,000 mark. The Cube's base price is $1,000 higher than the Kia Soul's but nearly $1,500 cheaper than the Scion xB's. To compare the actual transaction prices that consumers are paying for the Nissan Cube, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com. In terms of resale, the Nissan Cube is expected to hold its value well over time, with residuals slightly better than the Scion xB, and much better than the Kia Soul and Chevrolet HHR.