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Box Clever - 2010 Nissan Cube - 13th December 2012


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In August 2011 my wife gave birth to our son, George. He was, and continues to be our first, and is so far proving to be an absolute joy. However, as a result of this happy occasion I was cast from a world of 1980’s / 90’s Japanese sports coupes into the much more sedate (and to me unknown) world of the ’sensible family car’. To be honest I didn’t know where to start, and so to help I wrote a list* of my own car-related predilections, in the hope that it would in some way inspire me.

*(Japanese - Low insurance - Safe - Family sized - New (ish) - Not too common - Quirky)

For a while I flirted between the Mazda Bongo and the Nissan Elgrande (definitely one for the future) before ultimately falling head over heels for the smaller, much more economically pleasing Nissan Cube.

Like most infatuations it was initially based on looks alone, but over the last 12 months I have come to appreciate it’s true charm, as well as to tolerate it’s occasional annoyances.

So to the stats, I chose a 2010 1.6 petrol Kaizen model which is the highest spec Cube and comes complete with the following:

  • Keyless entry / ignition
  • Automatic lights / wipers
  • Nissan Connect (Sat Nav, Bluetooth, CD / Radio / USB Audio System)
  • Colour Reversing Camera
  • Plus numerous safety features

The general feel of the car is one of a solid, well put together unit but remember, this coming from a man who’s last vehicle was a 1996 Honda Prelude 2.2 Vtec (superb engine but tended to dissolve when it rained). However, all Cubes are built in Nissan’s Research and Development facility in Oppama, Japan and as such are generally considered to be built to as high a standard as the components allow.

The ride is very comfortable. In fact this is the most comfortable car I have ever driven or been driven in. The seats are like armchairs (the driver’s seat even has a hinged armrest for extra comfort) and at six foot one I could comfortably sit a good sized trilby on my head and still not be touching the roof. There’s loads of room for the back seat passengers and helpfully, as the cabin is raised to give a higher driving position, there is no annoying transmission tunnel getting in the way of leg room. Unfortunately however all this passenger luxury is at the expense of a less than average boot space. It’s tall but lacks depth. It’s OK for a big weekly shop but from experience you may well struggle on a family holiday. Incidentally the boot is also side hinged, allegedly to help with access in a tight spot, although in my experience this isn’t really the case.

Now if it’s cup holders your after then this is the car for you. It has eleven. That’s eleven cup holders in a car that holds five people, but then one of the main reasons I bought this car is for it’s quirks, of which there are many. When you see in the brochure that the front of the car was designed to look like "a bulldog wearing sunglasses" and the rear "a 1950’s American fridge" then you know the Japanese are behind it. Incidentally the interior is inspired "by the enveloping curves of a jacuzzi to promote a comfortable and social atmosphere". The half glass roof with a ripple style blind is a nice touch and bizarrely the sun visors are so large it isn’t possible to put them down without almost entirely blocking your vision.

As for the important bit, the engine, it isn’t quick (although this might be unfair when I’m subconsciously comparing it to a 190bhp Prelude). It’s a 1.6 petrol, it produces 110bhp and realistically achieves a combined 38mpg. Don’t get me wrong, 99% of the time (i.e. when you don’t need decent acceleration) it’s perfectly capable but don’t buy a Cube if it’s speed or excitement you’re after. As for handling it feels way too tall to be comfortably throwing around corners and on windy days it’s high flat sides act like a sail, but like I say, drive it like a normal 38 year old dad of one and you’ll love it.

The good points

  • Very comfortable for both the driver and passengers. Long distances are almost a pleasure.
  • Whisper quiet (at low to moderate speeds)
  • Rare (just over a thousand in this country and no more official imports as of 2011)
  • 4 Star Safety Rating (EuroNCAP)
  • Nissan reliability
  • Easy handling around town
  • Style. Some people will hate it, a lot will love it, but nobody will miss it.

The bad points

  • Poor mid range acceleration
  • Wind noise (at high speeds)
  • MPG not brilliant
  • Poor boot capacity

In conclusion, does this car make me happy? Absolutely. If you don’t mind kids laughing and pointing as you drive down the street (I don’t), and you’re not after ultra performance, then the Cube is a perfectly acceptable, reasonably practical family car with bags of personality and the looks to match.


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