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Nissan Cube LDN 1.6

Click to view picture gallery“Want a set of wheels that doesnt
  just stand out but that yells Look At
  Me
? Then Nissan has exactly
  what you need. Forget YouTube

  get yourself YouCubed with the new
  ‘cool to be square
Nissan Cube...”


THE UPRIGHT AND BOXY NISSAN CUBE has been a cult car in Japan since 1998 with over one million sold to date. The UK is the first market outside of Japan to receive it and to celebrate the Cube's long-awaited arrival here, the first 100 examples sold were the 'LDN' special editions.

LDN Cubes are finished in a choice of four colours, one of which is the unique Bitter Chocolate colour with matching velour interior trim. The Cube LDN costs £14,600 but it can be kitted out with further bespoke options to tailor it to a customer's whims or fantasies. Cube prices range from £14,000 to £15,100 with a manual gearbox or £15,200 to £16,300 with the CVT auto transmission.

The LDN comes with climate control, rain sensing wipers and auto lights as standard. Commendably, ESP electronic stability control is standard on all versions. All Cube models are currently powered by a 108bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine but a 1.5-litre turbodiesel unit is now being added to the range.

The Cube is not likely to be a volume seller in the UK — in its first year only around 2,000 will be available. However, that should keep residual values high because sometimes oddball models, if they are not well received, quickly slump in value.

Cube's competitors are many and varied but none are as quirky for style inside and out. Rivals include the highly-rated Citroen C3 Picasso followed by the new Vauxhall Meriva, MINI Clubman, Toyota Urban Cruiser and Skoda Yeti as well as a host of five-door hatchbacks.

So, whacky or what? Nissan's designers affectionately describe the Cube as a 'bulldog in sunglasses' — a reference to its wide stance and unique headlamp treatment. And looking at the pictures, you can see exactly what they mean.

So, whacky or what?
Nissans designers
affectionately describe
the Cube as a ‘bulldog
in sunglasses’...”
Measuring only 3,980mm in length, the Cube is designed to be an urban transporter but in fact it can cope better than some with longer journeys using motorways and fast A-roads. Its wheel-at-each-corner design maximises interior space without compromising the compact external footprint and it is functional. But be prepared — you will be stared at. A lot.

The Cube's compact footprint is well suited to crowded city streets while the boxy body provides ample interior space and it is easy to get in and out. The unique asymmetric rear-end styling means it stands out but it also serves a practical purpose — by wrapping the rear window around the nearside C-pillar, rearward visibility is improved to make parallel parking and lane changing that much easier and safer.

Also convenient, the rear door is side hinged — refrigerator-style — allowing loading from the kerb for added convenience and safety, while its three fixed opening positions enable loading and unloading in tight spaces without any need to hold the door. The fabric load cover is a strange and somewhat flimsy affair, located by Velcro and elastic strips. The boot itself is not very large (255 to 403 litres) and the boot floor is deep so heavy items have to be lifted up over the rear sill.

Inside, Cube is equally oddball with what Nissan calls "an open lounge-style space for five — the 'Jacuzzi Lounge' concept — offering the perfect environment for relaxing, travelling and socialising."

Just in case you think I wrote what comes next after a saké-tasting session, I would stress that the following description of the interior is in Nissan's own words: "Its curve-themed design is characterised by a subtle wave formation in the shape of the instrument panel, the glass roof, door panels and seat shapes, while an iconic 'Water Drop' design that can be seen in the headlining, the loudspeaker grilles, cupholders and the climate control system is inspired by the calming way ripples spread outwards as a pebble is dropped into water.

"A large triple-layered glass roof fitted as standard gives a light and airy atmosphere throughout the cabin. As well as a traditional blind to prevent heat build-up on sunny days, it has a 'shoji shade', inspired by traditional Japanese shades made of rice paper, which can be drawn across the sunroof, allowing light while minimising heat build-up."

“The Cube might be
designed for
fashionable commuter
and city travel
but on the open road
it coped pretty well
...”
The Cube is indeed a small lounge on wheels, right down to its softly-sprung and rather unsupportive soft seat cushions.

Somewhere in the press information pack it mentions that the Cube also comes with a shag-pile mat on top of the dashboard: a place to put items that might slide around. Velour upholstery my Cube had; shag-pile it didn't — somebody obviously took a fancy to it!

Cube's unique approach has not gone unnoticed in the design world and it has been named one of the '50 cars that changed the world' by the London Design Museum. Perhaps it really is a design icon rather than a designer's flight of fancy…

Whilst its design and application is certainly different, all other aspects of the Cube are conventional. The ride is comfortable, it rolls a little during cornering, the suspension generally absorbs most of the potholes, there is considerable wind noise intrusion created by the upright body, a lack of front-end cornering grip at higher speeds and the steering, whilst light and easy for parking, lacks real feel and feedback on the open road.

The engine, though, is eager and pretty responsive and nicely matched with the five-speed manual gearbox. Officially the Cube will return 42.8mpg on average — my test car recorded 38.4mpg, which for a 1.6-litre petrol engine in a high-bodied vehicle is good.

If you want to get 'cubed' then you have to accept its radical love-or-hate styling, small boot and wind noise intrusion. There are more practical models of the same size on the road but if you go down the Cube road then you'll get distinctive styling inside and out and a well-equipped vehicle with good interior passenger space and a lively engine.

The Cube might be designed for fashionable commuter and city travel but on the open road it coped pretty well. Let us just say my time with this car was an interesting rather than a boring experience, and that eventually I gained enough courage to be seen driving it in daylight. — David Miles

Nissan Cube LDN 1.6
| £14,600
Maximum speed: 109mph | 0-62mph: 11.3 seconds | Overall test MPG: 38.4mpg
Power: 109bhp | Torque: 113lb ft | CO2 151g/km