- A (stylish) box on wheels
- Quiet, smooth ride
- Strong value for the money
- Four adults fit
- Perky feel (manual transmission)
- Back seat doesn't fold flat
- Overly light steering feel
- Susceptible to crosswinds
- Poor highway gas mileage
- Fashion trendsetter, or fashion victim?
The 2013 Nissan Cube is boxy alright, but in a way that prioritizes style and fashion, not outright practicality.
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.
2013 Nissan Cube
Functionally and aesthetically, the 2013 Nissan Cube is a design oddity.
An outlier in the U.S. market, the 2013 Nissan Cube attempts to push our limits of what's fashionable and aesthetically appealing--and whether this is to good end depends on your tastes.
Even compared to the other "small-box" vehicles like the Scion xB and Kia Soul, the Cube will make you turn and take notice. It's definitely the most unusual of the group; but if you need a healthy dose of practicality and the styling hits the right buttons, it does pack in a lot of boldness and usefulness.
With its headlights set wide apart, accentuating a tough stance, combined with a rounded snout and horizontal lines widening the grille opening, the Cube was designed for a so-called "Bulldog in Sunglasses" look--which, we agree, might take some squinting to imagine. But the Cube does remain faithful to its name; with nearly vertical sides and rear styling that's about as upright as it gets, the Cube makes much of a small space.
Just as you start to liken the Cube to a little bread van, you'll probably see where the real weirdness comes in. To start, it's not symmetrical; a side-hinged rear hatch opens to the left side, breaking a rear window line that curves uninterrupted and continuously around the right rear corner of the vehicle, and up along the side to the pillar between the front and rear doors. And the framed windows have a bevel designed into the sheetmetal, with the middle side pillar tapering to accent that effect.
There's more oddness inside the Cube; the "Casual Lounge" theme layers the curves of a Jacuzzi tub (or is it a 1970s conversion van) over a surprisingly practical and functional layout. The instrument panel is rounded and recessed, wrapping through into the door panels, with carve-outs for the front seat occupants and water-ripple lines everywhere. Trim pieces and other accents are oval-shaped, and you can place an optional piece of artificial grass into a depression in the center of the dash. At the least, it's not a feature you'll find in any other new vehicle.
2013 Nissan Cube
The 2013 Nissan Cube drives like a frugal small car and isn't at all sporty.
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.
2013 Nissan Cube
Comfort & Quality
The 2013 Cube's interior looks nicer than the price might suggest, but its reasonably comfortable cabin is let down by some subpar materials up close.
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 seats offer plenty of room for two tall adults, and folding up the pull-down center armrest will just barely allow a third person in the rear. The rear seat slides back and forth and also reclines--though not all the way.
But it's clear that passenger space gets the priority over cargo space. With the rear seat is up there just isn't much space in the short load bay, and flipping down the rear seat-back doesn't help much, because the cargo floor inexcusably is neither flat nor continuous.
For smaller odds and ends, Nissan did much better. There are cubbies in the dashboard on either side of the steering wheel, along with door pockets, and cupholders both down low on the console and up high. Bungee hooks on the side doors add a novel touch--even if most owners wouldn't ever actually use them.
The Cube rides remarkably well, with more refinement than you'd expect in a very affordable vehicle. There's not a lot of road noise, or really any of the boomy resonance that wagons and crossovers tend to get at highway speeds. There aren't any odd vibrations, and the ride is smooth and well-damped, soft but without the pitching that can sometimes make short, over-damped cars less pleasant.
And as isolated as the Cube is from road noise, it's probably no surprise that there's considerable wind noise at highway speeds.
There's one other down side to the Cube: Up close, its plastic trims and materials just aren't that impressive. The design flourishes throughout the cabin go a long way toward disguising it, but they're (very obviously, in places) economy-grade details.
2013 Nissan Cube
Among subcompacts--whether cars or utility vehicles--the Cube is one of the safest picks.
With an extensive list of safety features, as well as excellent crash-test results, the 2013 Nissan Cube provides a lot of security in a maneuverable, easy-parking, and low-priced package.
The Cube includes standard electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, front, side, and side-curtain airbags, and active head restraints. Side mirrors are large and effective, and the wide expanse of wrap-around glass behind the driver's rear shoulder helps with outward visibility.
There still aren't any crash-test results for the Cube from the federal government, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated the Cube and gives it the top "Good" rating in every single category: frontal offset, side impact, rear crash protection, and roof strength. It's also one of the few vehicles its size to earn the Top Safety Pick nod.
2013 Nissan Cube
With a lot of customization options, as well as an impressive list of standard features, the Cube aims at younger shoppers.
The 2013 Nissan Cube offers a lot of standard features, but its options list is quite limited.
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. All models include air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, a passenger-seat armrest, map lights, remote keyless entry, a trip computer, and an audio system with auxiliary input.
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, your options are quite limited, especially if you want additional convenience items or tech extras. Most notably, on the SL you can opt for 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.
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.
For 2013, both the Cargo Version Package and last year's Indigo Limited Edition have been discontinued.
2013 Nissan Cube
The 2013 Nissan Cube's cubism results in some unimpressive highway ratings, but it's fuel-efficient in town.
The 2013 Nissan Cube doesn't get gas mileage that's very impressive. And that's perhaps a matter of the Cube's tall, blocky body.
The Cube earns EPA ratings of 27 mpg city, 31 mpg highway with the CVT, for a combined rating of 28 mpg. That's a much narrower spread between city and highway figures than in most vehicles, and if anything, those ratings may be a tad optimistic. In quite rapid stop-and-go driving over a short test loop, our drivers saw just 24 and 25 mpg in two different Cubes fitted with the CVT.
With a manual transmission, the mileage drops to 25 mpg city, 30 highway—again, good if you plan to keep most of your driving to urban areas.