Cubism traditionally refers to an early 20th-century style of art, popularized by Picasso, in which artists abandoned traditional perspectives in favor of the interplay among geometric shapes, interlocking planes and collage motifs. The Nissan Cube, one of the latest additions to the growing segment of compact, blocky hatchback wagons, is dressed up with an eclectic blend of curved styling cues, an asymmetrical rear window and ovoid front-side windows. Picasso would’ve dug it.
Whether the 2012 Cube is at the vanguard of this automotive cubist movement, or is just riding its coattails remains to be seen. Offered in four trim levels with a manual transmission or a continuously variable transmission (CVT), the four-door Nissan Cube offers a smooth four-cylinder engine and an airy cabin with ample headroom and legroom. Its real-world cargo-carrying ability is disappointing, though, much less impressive than the diminutive Honda Fit’s. This deficiency plus the 2012 Cube’s overly soft handling relegates it to midpack status among compact wagons.
The 2012 Nissan Cube is a compact four-door hatchback wagon offered in base, S, SL and chrome-bedecked Krom Edition trim levels. Motivation comes from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 122 horsepower, joined to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. Base-level Cubes come standard with head curtain airbags, air-conditioning, power accessories, a 60/40-split sliding rear seat and a CD player. Higher trims offer frills like alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, upgraded audio (with iPod/MP3 capability), a rearview camera and automatic climate control. Customizing Cubers can tempt themselves with a mind-numbing multitude of factory- and dealer-installed accessories that include body kits and interior styling mods.
Along with its attention-grabbing exterior design and park-anywhere footprint, the 2012 Nissan Cube boasts a tall, spacious cabin. Headroom and legroom are plentiful for all occupants, and the rear seat slides fore and aft. If you need to carry people and cargo, though, the Cube won’t hold as much out back as some rivals, particularly with the rear seat in its rearmost position, which is required for adult-sized legroom. Subpar dashboard plastics also cheapen the experience.
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Enjoying the sprightly 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and the smooth, responsive CVT. Other than a gentle ride, those are pretty much the only driving highlights, though; the Cube’s high center of gravity and soggy suspension simply can’t keep up with an eager right foot, and its steering is numb and slow-witted. If you tend toward the slow and steady, you may not find much to complain about. Other competitors, however, inspire far more confidence when changing directions. Overall, even for fans of these compact bricks-on-wheels, the basic Nissan Cube is an unremarkable effort.
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