2012 Nissan Cube Review and Prices

Last Updated: Dec 13, 2010

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2012 Nissan Cube Buying Advice

The 2012 Nissan Cube is the best car for you if you want a small, affordable wagon that’s roomy and reasonably practical – and want it wrapped in eccentric styling.

The 2012 Nissan Cube should remain virtually unchanged, save perhaps some added features to option packages or trim levels and the addition or one or more new colors to the exterior palette. This means the 2012 Cube will continue as a boxy compact wagon with oddball styling and a surprisingly roomy interior and adequate overall performance. It should also remain affordable, at least in base form, where it should again start around the $15,000 mark. A fully loaded 2012 Nissan Cube should top out over $25,000.

Should you wait for the 2012 Nissan Cube or buy the 2011 Nissan Cube? Buy the 2011 Cube. The 2012 Cube isn’t expected to change and in fact is likely to continue in its current form until model-year 2013 or perhaps even later. That’s significant because the Nissan Versa compact car upon which Cube is based probably will be redesigned before any revamped Cube appears. Buying the 2011 Cube would help you beat the inevitable price increase and give you an additional year with this styling statement before its curious exterior inevitably begins to look dated.

2012 Nissan Cube Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Nissan Cube isn’t apt to receive any changes to its distinctive appearance. That means the 2012 Cube will continue as a narrow, upright wagon with large rounded windows. The right-rear window is shaded to appear as if it asymmetrically wraps into the tailgate window. A pudgy front end, muscular wheel arches, and a protruding sculpted rear end complete the look. In all, the 2012 Cube will again look like a front-load washing machine on wheels, a small delivery van from a science fiction movie, or something else entirely, depending on your eye.

The 2012 Nissan Cube will remain among the smallest cars on the road, with only minicars such as the Smart ForTwo and Scion iQ besting it in the tiny-footprint sweepstakes. At just about an inch longer than a Mini Cooper, the 2012 Cube will remain easy to park in even the tightest urban environments. Unfortunately, you’ll need to leave some room behind to accommodate opening the Cube’s full-width side-hinged rear cargo door.  

Its inherently tall design will keep the 2012 Cube sufficiently roomy for four adults; though it’s a five-seater on paper, a too-narrow back seat all but precludes a middle-rear rider who isn’t a toddler. The rear seats will again be adjustable fore and aft to maximize either rear legroom or cargo space. And though the rear seatbacks fold down, they’re not likely to be modified for 2012 so that they fold completely flat. That’ll again limit Cube’s utility for carrying larger objects. The 2012 Cube is expected to continue to offer a “cargo” option that creates a distinctive-looking delivery vehicle. The option is likely to again delete the back seats, albeit at an extra cost.

The large windows give the Cube good outward visibility, though not everyone will like the feeling of being on display and means the air conditioning has to work especially hard on a hot day to lower the car’s interior temperature. The 2012 Cube’s interior will otherwise remain efficiently designed with elements of sufficient quirkiness likely to continue. These include a headliner with a molded-in concentric-circle design; it’s soothing or cloying, based on your perspective. Same goes for the optional oval patch of shag carpeting atop the dash.

The 2012 Nissan Cube should again be offered in multiple trim levels, with each incrementally adding features and various refinements. Expect four models, with the numeric designation referring to the size of the vehicle’s engine in liters: 1.8, 1.8 S, 1.8 SL, and 1.8 Krōm Edition. The latter, pronounced “Chrome,” comes with specific front and rear styling cues and interior appointments.

Mechanical: The 2012 Nissan Cube should carry on without mechanical changes. While it’s expressively styled, there’s nothing fancy or particularly sporty about it under the skin. Based on the popular and proven Nissan Versa, Cube is essentially a subcompact car with economy-minded elements like rear drum brakes and a solid-beam rear axle.

A 122-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder should continue as the Cube’s only engine. It delivers adequate but not-stirring acceleration. Performance is best with the six-speed manual transmission, which is likely to again be the only gearbox offered in the base 1.8 version and continue as standard on the 1.8 S.

Again optional in lieu of a conventional automatic transmission on the 1.8 S and standard on the Cube 1.8 SL and 1.8 Krōm will be a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). A CVT eschews gears for a belt and pulleys to deliver seamless acceleration by keeping the engine at its most efficient rpm. As with most CVTs, Cube’s works well enough but some motorists will be put off by the loud engine whine and lack of shifts in hard acceleration.

All 2012 Nissan Cube should again come standard with antilock brakes for added control in emergency stops, traction control to enhance get-aways on wet or snowy pavement, and stability control to reduced chances of a spin-out.

It’ll never be overtly sporty, but the 2012 Nissan Cube should continue to deliver reasonably lively cornering abilities. An adequately smooth ride and highway-speed stability are assets, though wind noise can get intrusive due to the large panes of glass and a relative lack of sound-insulating materials.

Features: The 2012 Nissan Cube should continue to come decently equipped even in lower trim-level versions. Standard features on every 2012 Cube should again include power locks, mirrors, and windows, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, and a rear-window wiper.

Additional features either optional or standard depending on model should again include keyless entry and pushbutton ignition, a GPS navigation system, cruise control, a premium Rockford Fosgate audio system with XM satellite radio, 20-color interior accent lighting, and a rear-view monitor to help make parking safer and easier. Also offered will be a Bluetooth interface for hands-free mobile phone use and a USB interface for streaming music from iPods and other portable devices to the audio system.

The 2012 Cube 1.8 and 1.8 S models should continue to ride on 15-inch wheels and tires with basic wheel covers, with 1.8 SL and 1.8 Krōm Edition versions coming with 16-inch alloy wheels. Alternate wheels will probably again be offered, along with an aerodynamic body-panel package and a rear roof spoiler.

2012 Nissan Cube Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Nissan Cube had not been announced in time for this review, but they’re not expected to rise beyond a few hundred dollars of their model-year 2011 levels. This means a base 2012 Nissan Cube 1.8 with a manual transmission should again start around $15,000. (Estimated prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination charges; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 Cube was $720).

Estimated base price for the 2012 Nissan Cube 1.8 S is $16,500 with a manual transmission and about $17,500 with an automatic. The 2012 Cube 1.8 S should again build on the base 1.8 model by adding as standard features like Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity and a six-speaker audio system.

Estimated starting price for the 1.8 SL with its standard CVT is $19,000. Expect it to build on the 1.8 S model with standard automatic climate control and 16-inch alloy wheels, among other features.

The 2012 Cube 1.8 Krōm Edition’s estimated base price is $22,250. It’ll again come with distinctive styling cues and standard amenities such as a navigation system, high-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system with subwoofer, rearview monitor, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition.

If Nissan doesn’t radically change the 2012 Cube’s options list, expect an SL Preferred Package to again add most of the 1.8 Krōm Edition’s features to the 1.8 SL; it should again cost around $1,900. Examples of other options likely to carry over are upgraded wheels at about $800, an Interior Designer Package with assorted cabin upgrades at around $250, an Exterior Accent Package at about $350, and an aerodynamic body kit near $1,300. On the practical side, a rear cargo organizer should again be available for around $180.

2012 Nissan Cube Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel economy estimates for the 2012 Nissan Cube weren’t available in time for this review, but they’re expected to remain at or near their model-year 2011 ratings. That suggests 2012 Nissan Cube fuel-economy ratings of 25/30 mpg city/highway with the manual transmission and 27/31 with the CVT automatic.

With the latest compact cars rating in the mid-30-mpg range in city driving and 40 mpg in highway driving, Cube’s fuel-economy numbers are unimpressive. Blame the Cube’s decidedly un-aerodynamic shape and its relatively bulky weight compared to other four- and five-passenger subcompact and compact cars. 

2012 Nissan Cube Release Date back to top

The 2012 Nissan Cube should arrive in dealers’ showrooms in mid-fall 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Nissan Cube back to top

The Nissan Cube made its U.S. debut for model-year 2009, but it had been popular for years in Japan. It was brought here to compete with the boxy Scion xB and Honda Element for the funky hearts of youthful urban buyers.

U.S. sales have been steady, though not stellar, with Cube ranking as Nissan’s lowest-volume passenger car aside from the 370Z and GT-R sports cars. Unfortunately, Cube had the misfortune to launch just months before the Kia Soul, which is a more-mainstream square-hip wagon that’s outsold the Cube nearly 3-1.

The Cube’s long-term fate depends largely on whether Nissan will commit to pursuing niche buyers or would prefer to throw its resources into more conventional small cars like the next-generation Versa, which is due for a model-year 2012 introduction.

Assuming a second-generation Cube is coming, it wouldn’t arrive until model-year 2013 or 2014. It’s possible a redesigned Cube could lose much of its polarizing oddness and continue as an affordable wagonlike alternative to the Versa. Or Nissan -- a carmaker that seems to embrace its styling excesses -- could well take Cube to the next level of eccentricity, whatever that might be.

2012 Nissan Cube Competition back to top

Honda Fit: An arrow on wheels compared to the Cube, Fit is in fact as roomy inside and far more cargo-friendly, too. It owes its marvelous utility to rear seats that flip and fold completely out of the way to create a fairly large and rectangular compartment. Though no speedster, Fit’s lively handling makes it a perfect commuter car for enthusiasts looking to leave the sports car in the garage during the week and save gas at around 28/35 mpg. This Honda also offers a nice range of features, with stability control standard and a navigation system optional. Expect a 2012 base-price range of $16,000-$17,750. Fit probably will be redesigned for model-year 2013.

Scion xB: Larger than the Cube, this box from Toyota’s youth division features modestly aggressive styling and a more-powerful four-cylinder engine than the Nissan. It’s not as economical as some small cars, at around 22/28 mpg, but it’s reasonably quick and nimble and actually quite refined. The interior is in fact roomy enough for the xB to see service as a taxicab. Many dealer add-ons are available for customization. Expect a 2012 xB starting price around und $16,750. This Scion isn’t likely to receive major revisions until model-year 2013.

Kia Soul: Both the price and sales leader in the boxy small-car circle, Kia’s Soul is a “stylish” alternative with just enough funky touches to make it stand out from the crowd. The entry-level model is short on power but most versions come with a peppier engine. Transmission choices look to continue as a weak point, with a sloppy-shifting manual standard and the only alternative an automatic that, like the xB’s, has just four speeds in a day when top rivals have at least five. A Expect the 2012 Soul lineup to again include a Sport version with a stiffer suspension that purports to enhance handling but just tends to make the ride rougher. Estimated base-prices range for the 2012 Soul is $14,000-$19,250. This South Korean product isn’t likely to be redesigned until model-year 2014 at the earliest.

2012 Nissan Cube Next Steps