The Cube, Nissan's quirky, boxy, city car, is expresssly aimed at the design-aware young urbanite – that's you, well, some of you. So, is it a car that CR readers will want to own?
I first saw an earlier version of the Nissan Cube (above) in 'the flesh' at Kenya Hara's Japan Car show at the Science Museum last year. There it was presented as a piece of High Design – a visitor from another culture. A bizarre, chunky little alien that, like many of the Japanese car industry's more eccentric products, would surely never grace UK roads. But late last year, encouraged by a growing import cult, Nissan launched the third generation Cube in the UK.
Nissan is presumably hoping that the Cube will find favour among designers and other creative types – it already has a cult following among CR readers for its retro convertible, the Figaro. So, I was loaned a Cube for the weekend to give it a try.
It was pretty easy to spot where the man from Nissan had parked the thing as it stood about a foot taller than any other car on the street. In fact, on getting into a Cube the first impression is not unlike a London taxi (although I'm going on memory here, thanks to last year's budget cuts at CR).
Mine (above) was a suitably off-beat dark brown with matching velour-covered seats (not sure what the design reference was here – MIke Reid's leisure suit maybe).
Another dash of eccentricity came with the translucent pull-back shade for the big glass panel in the roof, recalling Japanese sliding doors.
While the dashboard and door handles are meant to recall waves
Apparently, earlier versions were more eccentric inside, with a bench-style front seat and column gear-shift. It seems that things may have been toned down for UK drivers but I liked the simple forms and the lack of clutter. Some of the controls felt a little cheap and insubstantial to the touch, though.
And there's one final quirk at the back where the rear door swings open from the side rather than lifting up vertically
It does feel a bit van-like but, with the big glass roof and huge windows, everything's wonderfully bright – not unlike driving around in a goldfish bowl or the mode of transport favoured by a certain mail deliverance operative namesake of mine. And it's definitely fun – my ten-year-old son adored it.
Can I see CR readers rushing to buy one? It definitely has the appeal of all things Japanese that many designers and creatives find so alluring and now that Minis are a no-go area thanks to their wholesale adoption by estate agents, it would be in the running for anyone looking for a city car that's not a Golf or a Golf-a-like (at least until a more viable electric car like Nissan's own Leaf comes onto the market).
But would you want something so 'look-at-me-aren't-I-kooky"? Just as so many creative people retreat to the anonymity of black when it comes to clothing, so many prefer a bit of Germanic underestatement when it comes to cars.
For what it's worth, opinion in the CR office is split fairly evenly between "oooh, cool" and "oh my God, you must be joking".
What do you think?