2012 Nissan Cube Wagon - FROM $14,980
The 2012 Nissan Cube is a reasonably versatile and spacious little wagon, but its far-out styling may prevent many from discovering its virtues.
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Nissan Cube returns with only minor changes, including a new front passenger seat armrest on S and SL models and standard keyless ignition/entry on the top-of-the-line SL. A new limited-edition Indigo option package adds a number of high-end features to the midrange S model.
In a world where we're too often forced to choose between items that are stylish or those that actually work, the 2012 Nissan Cube is one of those rare exceptions that manages to do both. That's because once you get past the Cube's adventurously styled exterior, this is one very likable little wagon. In fact, its roomy passenger cabin, smooth ride and affordable sticker price are enough to expand its appeal far beyond the 20-something first-time car buyers its designers at Nissan were hoping to attract.
Among the Cube's notable strengths are the comfortable ride, rear seats that both slide fore and aft and recline for greater comfort, and a long list of desirable features, including options unexpected in a car at this price point, like a navigation system and rearview camera. Weaknesses include anything to do with serious cross-country travel, like uninspiring handling, elevated amounts of wind noise at high speeds and significantly less cargo capacity behind those rear seats than you'll find in some competitors.
Overall, we like the Nissan Cube because of its metro friendliness, but it's certainly an acquired taste. For a more traditional take on a small wagon (or hatchback, if you prefer), you could check out the sportier Chevrolet Sonic, the more versatile Honda Fit or the Nissan Versa. There's also the Scion xB, which offers a much larger cargo hold. We also strongly recommend the Kia Soul, which, like the Cube, offers boxy yet distinctive styling but boasts advantages in cargo space and fuel economy.
Still, the 2012 Nissan Cube deserves credit for delivering a comfortable, practical package that's perfectly suited to a crowded urban environment, in a shape that makes a city car seem kind of cool. Apparently style and practicality aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Nissan Cube is a five-passenger compact wagon that's offered in three trim levels, including base, S and SL.
The base Cube comes equipped with 15-inch steel wheels, deep-tinted rear privacy glass, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, full power accessories and a CD stereo with two speakers. Stepping up to the S trim level gets you upgraded cloth upholstery, driver and front passenger armrests, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a USB/iPod interface. The top-of-the-line SL adds 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry and automatic climate control.
Options include the Preferred package available on the SL that bundles foglights, a touchscreen navigation system, a rearview camera and an upgraded six-speaker Rockford Fosgate sound system with satellite radio. A new Indigo Limited Edition package offered on the S trim level adds 15-inch alloy wheels, distinctive cloth seat trim and all the contents of the Preferred package except the foglights. A variety of personalization accessories, including an aerodynamic body kit and 20-color ambient interior lighting, are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive Nissan Cube is powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that puts out 122 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on base and S models, while a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is available as an option on the S and is standard on the SL.
In performance testing, a Cube with the CVT went from zero to 60 mph in 9.7 seconds -- a fairly quick time for a subcompact car. EPA-estimated fuel economy, however, is pretty mediocre for a subcompact at 27 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined with the CVT automatic and 25/30/27 with the manual.
The 2012 Nissan Cube's list of standard safety features includes antilock brakes (disc front, drum rear), stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Cube earned the top rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the Cube is every bit as unique as the exterior. From the headliner and speaker grilles that mimic the ripple effect of a pebble dropped into a still pool to the 20 different colors of mood lighting, it's a safe bet that you and your passengers will have never seen anything quite like it.
Unlike many cars that try for an edgy-looking interior, all this attention to form doesn't get in the way of function. Gauges and controls are simple and straightforward to use. Front seats offer good comfort in everyday driving, but leave something to be desired on long trips. The rear seats offer abundant head- and legroom, even for taller passengers. With the seatbacks of the 60/40-split rear seats in their upright and locked position, there are just 11.4 cubic feet of cargo room, but dropping them gets you a reasonably flat load floor and a healthy 58 cubic feet of space.
The 2012 Nissan Cube isn't designed to burn up the road, but its 1.8-liter engine and excellent CVT automatic still deliver peppy performance. The relative soft suspension provides an excellent ride but somewhat uninspiring handling, though this balance should suit most buyers just fine. The boxy shape that creates the roomy interior also makes for noticeable amounts of wind noise at higher cruising speeds.