CUBE: THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Seven years ago, a new type of small car was revealed to startled Japanese motorists. It was the Nissan Cube and it approached city driving from a new angle... a right angle. And it quickly became a cult hit. Now it's Europe's chance to discover what the fuss is all about, as the Cube moves from being a domestic market special to becoming a global phenomenon.
"You want different? Try Cube. Quite unlike anything else on the roads today, Cube will appeal to individuals. Not show-offs, but style-conscious and open-minded original thinkers, people who will see Cube as an extension of their personality."
Simon Thomas, Nissan´s European Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing
At a glance
When it appeared in 2002, the all-square Nissan Cube was an instant success. Building on the appeal of the more conventional first generation Cube, its inspired exterior design - an outwardly simple yet ultimately complex blend of straight lines and subtle curves - gave the car a cult following in its home market. It quickly became the car to drive in Roppongi Hills, Shibuyu and the other trendy areas of Tokyo.
But its appeal didn't stop there. Although designed specifically for the Japanese market, thanks to global exposure via the internet and appearances in the fashion pages as much as in the motoring press, it wasn't long before the rest of the world clamoured for Cube.
First time outside Japan
And now it's here. First shown at the 2008 Los Angeles Motor Show and previewed in Europe at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, the latest Cube is the first to be sold outside Japan and the first to be available in both left- and right-hand drive.
Although sharing a broadly similar profile to its immediate predecessor, the new Cube - the third generation model to wear the badge - is new from the ground up. The square styling remains, but it's been softened with further curves and geometric shapes with inspiration garnered from some very unusual sources. The car's wider stance and longer wheelbase, meanwhile, give it even more presence on the road. As if it needed it.
"The new Cube is a different take on the car. In fact, it's been described as the anti-car, a vehicle aimed at the non-believer as much as at the car enthusiast. It's a car for non-conformists, a car that people of all ages can fall in love with and that gives it a unique place in the market," says Simon Thomas, Nissan´s European Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing.
The 2010 Cube retains the non-conformist design DNA of its predecessor but is longer, taller and wider than before. Its wheelbase of 2530mm represents an increase of 170mm while overall length has grown by almost 250mm to 3980mm. It is 1670mm tall and 1695mm wide, increases of 54mm and 85mm respectively. For comparison, the Nissan Note is altogether longer with a wheelbase of 2600mm and overall length of 4100mm, yet is just 1550mm tall.
Cube was created to put the fun in function. Despite its compact footprint - perfectly suited to crowded city streets - Cube's boxy body provides ample interior space. And while its unique asymmetric rear end styling means it stands out in a sea of look-alike mainstream models, it has a practical purpose, too: by wrapping the rear window around the nearside C-pillar, rearward visibility is greatly enhanced, particularly useful when parallel parking. The rear door is side hinged, refrigerator-style, and opens to facilitate loading from the kerb for added convenience and safety. It has three fixed opening positions, allowing loading and unloading in tight spaces without having to hold the door.
Eye-catching colours with names such as Sea Turquoise and Bitter Chocolate add to the overall appeal.
Relaxed and calming
Interior styling is equally individual with features inspired by nature: the ripple effect caused by dropping a stone into still water is reflected in the headlining, the cup holders and the loudspeaker grilles. Lounge-style seating in the front and rear creates a relaxed and calming atmosphere. The overall calming, comforting ambiance of the interior is enhanced by the standard inclusion of a glass roof, which has a sliding shade to allow light into the cabin and which is inspired by the traditional Japanese Shoji shade. Equally, a full sliding blind is available to block all light from entering the cabin.
There's ample storage space and the opportunity to personalise the interior - shag pile carpeting is available for the top of the dashboard, for example.
Cube uses a modified version of Nissan's acclaimed B platform, the front-wheel drive chassis which also underpins Note. The long wheelbase, wide track and proven suspension layout - MacPherson struts at the front and torsion bar arrangement behind - provide the ideal blend of safe handling with a comfortable ride.
Two engines, three transmission choices
There's a choice of petrol and diesel power units - 81kW (110PS) 1.6-litre petrol and 81kW (110PS) 1.5-litre diesel with Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) - with a total of three different transmission offerings. The petrol version has a five-speed manual gearbox as standard with the option of an X-tronic CVT, while the diesel has the latest generation six-speed manual transmission.
To ensure Cube meets the higher performance requirements and the quality and refinement expectations of a discerning European audience, a team of more than 50 engineers from Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE) based in the UK and Spain developed European-specific settings for the vehicle.
As well as assuming total responsibility for development of the Europe-only diesel version, the team established new engine calibration and suspension settings for all European Cubes. All aspects of vehicle dynamics came under scrutiny, notably acceleration, ride and handling, braking performance, stability at high speeds and in strong cross winds and overall driveability.
The team also fine-tuned Cube's NVH performance, aspects of interior quality and the vehicle's practicality and usability.
In Europe, Cube will be available in just one grade but with three option packs for those buyers wanting more. Standard equipment includes ESP, cruise control with speed limiter, air conditioning, six airbags, electric power steering, power windows, a large fixed glass sunroof and a single disc CD player with AUX-in facility for MP3 players and Bluetooth phone connectivity. The three option packs add equipment such as alloy wheels, climate control, Intelligent Key combined with start button, auto lighting and wipers, satellite navigation, USB connection for portable audio players, privacy glass and a rear-parking camera.
"Cube is unique, distinctive and fun. It's clever and it will appeal to lovers of style regardless of whether they are ‘car-people' or not," says Vincent Wijnen, Vice President of Marketing for Nissan in Europe.