Despite its mix of flat and curvaceous lines, the 2012 Nissan Cube has more space inside for people and their gear than you might think from looking at it. The seats up front are supportive and soft, much better than those in Nissan's other small-car offerings, the Versa and Sentra. The rear seats offer plenty of room for two tall adults, and folding up the pull-down center armrest will allow a third person in the rear--though likely not for long journeys. Unusually for this size of car, the Cube's rear seat slides back and forth and also reclines--though not all the way.
People get priority over cargo space, though. There's not that much space in the short load bay when the rear seat is up, and flipping down the rear seat-back doesn't help much, because the cargo floor inexcusably is neither flat nor continuous. Nissan gets high marks for providing many places throughout the cabin for smaller items: cubbies in the dashboard on either side of the steering wheel, door pockets, and cupholders both down low on the console and up high. One novel touch: bungee hooks on the side doors.
You'll be surprised how refined the Cube is to travel in, far above the norm for this price-sensitive class of car. It's quiet and feels sophisticated, with well-muted road noise. We sensed none of the boomy resonance that these small-box kinds of cars sometimes exhibit at speed. At idle, the engine is so smooth you likely won't sense it's switched on, and under acceleration, there's no vibration or roughness transmitted through the pedals, steering column, or floor. The ride is smooth and well-damped, soft but without the pitching that over-damped cars sometimes exhibit.
The remarkably low base price of the Cube has gone up for 2012--including destination, it's now $15,760 for the base 1.8 model--and examining the car shows how Nissan did it. Up close, some of the plastic trim panels and other materials just aren't that pleasant. The design flourishes go some way toward camouflaging it, but buyers will want to consider whether they can live with low-grade materials that betray the Cube's economy-car roots. It also exhibits noticeable wind noise at highway speeds, perhaps less surprising considering its bluff shape.