Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update

Following his Final Report from 2015 and his subsequent Update from last April, here’s another one from Sean. Until the penultimate, absolute final update report he plans for late 2017 or thereabouts.

There was always the worry that, with time, the scales would fall from my eyes and I would see the Cube as the embarrassing and rather fatuous novelty that others see it as. Certain respected visitors to this site have made their abhorrence of the car apparent, and others have possibly implied it politely, by evading the subject entirely. However, for me, the satisfaction of ownership hasn’t worn off. Of course, city dwelling, and my rag-bag of alternative vehicles, means that I’ve only done about 7,000 miles in it over 18 months but, for me, it’s an excellent thing to have. Spacious inside, compact outside, good all round view. It’s perfect in town, and perfectly tolerable on long journeys. A hypothetical electric Cube might be preferable but, when I consider the alternatives actually available, I have no regrets.

There is at least something to report. Elsewhere I mentioned that I had purchased a warranty when I bought the car. Really, I thought that was a mistake for various reasons. First, on principle, my innate fatalism means that I’m not someone who finds it necessary to go through life with insurance for every eventuality. Second, I am never going to put tens of thousands of miles on it. Third, from some previous experience, I view aftermarket warranties with scepticism, assuming they will try everything to wriggle out of paying under ‘improper use’ or ‘wear and tear’ clauses. Last, it’s a Nissan and everyone knows that Japanese cars never go wrong, do they?

Well, in fact this one did go wrong. Over two weeks, first a rear passenger door handle failed, then the entire Nissan Connect screen went dead. This reinforced my dislike of multi-function devices since I lost stereo, reversing camera, satnav and hands-free at one go. It was the first time I’d actually looked at my AA Warranty and the first thing I noticed is that it’s not strictly run by the AA. As with any self-respecting brand these days, the AA have licensed their name to be used by another party. Already I feared the worst and anticipated a depressing plod through sludge trying to get things sorted out. But, actually, it was sorted efficiently and without any haggling. The display did take a week to get repaired (a new one would have cost £2,000) and, a problem about running a rare car, the door handle cable took around 3 weeks to arrive from Japan, but guessing what the bill would have been, these two things probably justified a fair part of the cost of the Warranty, and it’s still got another 18 months to run. The only other attention it has had is that the broken rear light lens, not a warranty item and which would have cost £200 from Nissan UK, was sourced new from Ebay in the USA for £60.

For reasons I won’t elaborate on, a few weeks ago I actually slept in the Cube on the first cold night in Autumn. You can fold the front seat near flat and recline the rear seat backrest to make a very comfortable chaise longue and the rear privacy glass finally came into its own – a pity I didn’t take a sleeping bag.

Irritations are pretty arbitrary. If I thought too much about it, the excessive radiusing of the door windows would irritate me, but that is less noticeable from inside – they got it perfectly right with the previous model.  The charcoal coloured upholstery is still dull and will only get duller with age – but at least it isn’t obviously patterned. The displayed painted metal around the doors viewed from inside comes and goes in an unsatisfactorily uneven way. The rear seat folding mechanism should be a bit more clever. I wish the panoramic (sic) glass roof opened. A decent load cover rather than the floppy thing Nissan provides would be good. I’ve mentioned some of these before and I’m still really scraping the barrel here.

As long as it works, the Nissan Connect (Mark 1?) system is fine, though my requirements don’t go beyond a radio, hands-free and being able to play tunes from an iPhone. But the combination of touch-controls and fixed buttons is good. The satnav seems to be OK, though I tend to use TomTom on my phone.  Fuel consumption, etc are separate, all accessed in an old-school way from those pointy, unfriendly buttons that poke out of the instrument panel. As for cruise control and the like, I assume it works but I never use it – you might question the wisdom of this since, as I write, I believe a speeding fine and endorsement are fighting their way through the Christmas post to me.

A check on Japan’s Nissan site shows that it still remains available over there, but I suspect that there won’t be another generation Cube, at least in that form. Comparing its failure in Europe with the runaway success of the cheeky, chunky Juke which, objectively, does little better whilst offering a lot less practicality, it’s clear that it doesn’t really fit in with today’s zeitgeist.

If I consider city driving alternatives for me, the BMW i3 still appeals, particularly since it’s now possible to pick a secondhand one up at significant depreciation – but the restricted EV range (recently increased) or the pathetic range extender means that I’d have to swap cars to leave town. Otherwise a Citroen Mehari would be fine, though maybe not for my passengers. But I can’t think of much else I’d want instead. Probably overpriced here when new, the Cube is a secondhand bargain, but if I was purchasing again, I’d try and get one with the ‘Lounge Design’ LDN trim comprising what Autocar described as the “questionable brown suede interior”. Looks fine to me, but what do I know, I’m a Cube owner.

6 thoughts on “Our Cars – Nissan Cube : End Of Year Update”

  1. There’s no way to guess why this didn’t sell in greater quantities than it did. I’d have called the shape usefully strange whilst the Juke is uselessly strange. I may be the only person who admires both but I prefer the Cube.
    The repair cost you dodged is shocking. A similar problem applies to laptops and other shortlived consumer disposables. The repair cost is obviously a fiction unrelated to the cost of manufacture. Whilst retiring a laptop is not an emotional wrench, a big bill like that kills cars at around 10 years – that’s the idea, I expect.

    1. This brings up a point that is worthy of a separate post for next year. Once most modern consumer goods get to X years old (fill in to your own personal preference) even if they are repairable, it makes no financial sense. This wasn’t always so. The motor industry still functions broadly the way it always has. Building a car from parts ordered through the spares department of a dealer, even disregarding labour, would cost significantly more than the list price of the vehicle. By significantly, I don’t mean 10%, more maybe 1000%. This is justified by the legal requirement to provide spares for a fixed period after the vehicle ceases production and to keep a sprawling dealership’s workshops sweet. Cars are becoming more modular, but in a largely haphazard way. We’re still used to the idea that a car has a potentially infinite life. I don’t think this is a sustainable idea any more and that has serious implications to the financial model of the motor industry.

  2. People are entitled to their opinions, of course; but it also happens that people are idiots. Thankfully car purchases are not a democratic decision, otherwise curios such as the Cube would not exist. My two penneth is that it is a fun vehicle, and Christ knows we need a bit of that in this day and age. Sorry to invoke the dreaded acronym, but one wonders how the Cube would have faired as a CUV? The design might not have challenged the fragile sensibilities of the hooting, braying mob, were the ride height foisted up a few inches.

  3. Sean, I recently gave a course of lessons to someone who had a grey import cube (previous gen to yours) . The two things that struck me every time I got in were its huge interior space which was cleverly laid out and the very off-putting feeling that the a-pillar was distinctly leaning away from me. Each time I got out I briefly checked it’s angle and I was mistaken but I couldn’t shake the feeling for the entire 12 hours of lessons.

    1. It’s certainly very upright by today’s standards, but maybe it was less distracting for me because I drive modern cars less frequently. An old Citroen A pillar is surprisingly almost as upright as the Cube’s but in comparison, a current Fiesta’s is incredibly laid back. The Cube’s pillars are thick, but far away, so visibility remains good.

  4. I read once that the Cube’s interior was conceived as a pleasant place to spend time when in traffic (jams). On peering into one, this struck me as logical.

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