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The 2013 Nissan Cube is an outlier in the U.S. market—in many ways, really—and it's hard to categorize, even in a market that's become increasingly segmented. It's not quite a van, but almost; not quite a crossover wagon, but almost. One thing is for sure: It's a quirky vehicle through and through, and it's unrivaled in style and packaging—within its quirky limitations, of course.
It's the details that make the design, and while the rounded corners on an upright box can make the Cube look a little appliance-like, just take a closer look at the asymmetry of the windows, the beveled window frames, and flared sheetmetal, and it's anything but simple. Combine all that with lower aero work that seems to pull the Cube downward, visually, and it has a gravitas that the Scion xB never had (at least not in its current version). Inside, the Cube can feel a little too overdesigned, with a "Casual Lounge" theme that rounds the curves, leaving you feeling like you're in a Jacuzzi tub (water ripples and all). But it's fresh, and it's functional.
The Cube's least charming trait may very well be how it drives. Considering its car-based underpinnings and relatively low center of mass (compared to crossovers), it's surprising it doesn't feel a little sportier—or have much of a driving personality. A 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 122 horsepower and drives the front wheels. With either the six-speed manual gearbox or the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the Cube can move along rapidly enough, but it's not at all a sports car, or the type of vehicle you'd fling into corners.
The 2013 Nissan Cube has more space for people than you might guess from the outside, but if you need versatility, and to maximize space sometimes for larger items, you can do a lot better. Seating is one of the Cube's strengths; and in layout, inside, it's quite van-like. The seats up front are much better than what you get in the Versa or Sentra--and of course a little higher--provided you aren't cornering that hard, as there's no significant side bolstering. The rear seat has enough space for two adults (possibly three, squeezed in), and it slides back and forth and also reclines--though not all the way. Where you get into trouble is with larger cargo, as the seatback doesn't simply flip forward or flat.
Ride comfort, on the other hand, is surprisingly good in the Cube next to other small cars or the smallest compact crossovers. What there is—and this probably comes as no surprise—is quite a bit of wind noise at highway speeds. Otherwise interior materials betray the Cube's sub-$20,000 price tag, although all the styling touches will probably distract you from that for a while.
And the Cube is a good value for the money—especially considering the value of having something that's genuinely different and quirky, yet also well-equipped. Prices are a bit higher for 2013, however; with the discontinuation of the base model, there are now just S and SL trims of the Cube--and if you want a manual transmission you're stuck with the S, as the top SL is only offered with a CVT. The S includes a lot of popular features, but step up to the SL and you get automatic climate control, alloy wheels, an Intelligent Key system, Bluetooth connectivity, and an upgraded sound system that includes iPod connectivity.
Beyond that, a Preferred Package that adds an SD-based navigation system with XM NavTraffic capability, plus Rockford Fosgate audio with a subwoofer, XM satellite radio, and front fog lamps. And if you want appearance extras, though, you're in luck. There are more than 40 different accessories available at the dealership, and they range from practical items like cargo organizers to custom wheels, decals, and other appearance options.
- A (stylish) box on wheels
- Quiet, smooth ride
- Strong value for the money
- Four adults fit
- Perky feel (manual transmission)
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- Back seat doesn't fold flat
- Overly light steering feel
- Susceptible to crosswinds
- Poor highway gas mileage
- Fashion trendsetter, or fashion victim?