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PERFORMANCE | 6 out of 10
The electric power-assisted steering is delightfully light—your best friend in traffic or while parking—but otherwise feels artificial and reveals little about road textures.
Car and Driver
easy to maneuver and fun to drive
Handling isn't particularly agile and body lean sets in early while cornering
the Cube feels like a dancer who's a beat or two behind the music
smooth steering, six-speed manual, passable handling, terrific low-speed maneuverability
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.
In all 2013 Nissan Cube models, there's a 1.8-liter four-cylinder producing 122 horsepower and driving 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. There's no great way make the most of what the engine has either; the CVT has decent drivability compared to other vehicles with small engines, but there's still a rubber-band delay when dialing up power, as well as some noticeable engine noise under acceleration. The shift quality of the six-speed manual is pleasant, but Nissan's slow electronic throttle mapping takes a lot of the zip out of it.
Overall, the Cube factors in as surprisingly bland. It handles fine in regular daily driving, but while it's maneuverable, it's not all that nimble and the tall body leans and rolls a lot under hard cornering. The electric power steering is devoid of all road feel or feedback, and stays fingertip light not only at parking speeds but on highways too. Because the tall body is also susceptible to crosswinds, the light steering caused us to over-correct when we were pushed out of line. The brakes are pleasantly firm, though one sign of cost-cutting to hit the $15,000 entry price is the presence of old-style drum brakes at the rear.
On the highway, the Cube is not in its element; but its acceleration is adequate, and it has enough power for passing on two-lane roads most of the time. In the city, where the Cube's huge interior volume is practical and the soft suspension soaks up jarring potholes, broken roads, protruding grates, and all the rest of the big-city hazards that trip up small cars.
The 2013 Nissan Cube drives like a frugal small car and isn't at all sporty.