Haters bust out the Haterade: I mastered your drama back at the College of Creative Studies. My luxury car proposals sported stand up grilles…and why not? The (beautiful-ish) 1990 Lexus LS400 proved an upright grille happily exists on a sleek, masterfully engineered machine. But very talented, well-praised drama queens in the design studio can’t be proven wrong by a talentless schmuck. Even if they get super butthurt when your Lexian-precedent made their grandstanding look like the adolescent ranting of one unfit to judge a grade school art show…
To wit, an extreme argument: The Nissan Cube.
Not that the Cube is remotely as elegant as the original Lexus LS. But unlike the Nissan Juke, the Cube has many logical elements assembled on a boxy body. The headlights are quite square, but with enough curves to look appealing, not upsetting. The grille, oversized emblem notwithstanding, looks right: slots and static forms do the job. The air slot below is another logical element. Add the lower valence’s strong egg crate grille and you are done.
My only recommendation is to emulate the angular fog lights of the mildly redesigned, 2005 Lincoln Navigator’s fascia.
Imagine the boxy-ish fog lights making more sense with the square-ish elements in the headlights and the slotted grille. This is quite the well-designed piece. Considering the asking price, let’s assume that unique fog lights were never part of the deal.
And while the lighting pods in the headlight assembly looked square from some angles, note how round they are from this angle! This is the secret sauce of car design: the perfect balance between soft curves and hard angles. If the rest of the Cube looked this good, we’d have a stellar machine.
Again, square and round at the same time. It works, especially adding the depth of the recessed lighting pods in the headlight assembly. The Nissan Cube is far from an actual cube. It’s a
seriously somewhat complex design.
This is the big problem, or the key selling feature: an upright–yet rounded–A pillar. It’s jarring. It’s brutal. It’s cool and stupid at the same time. And, after looking at the window sticker, that makes the Cube both cheap and cheerful.
On the plus side: NO DLO FAIL, SON! Love me some logically beginning glasswork with a distinct lack of plastic triangles.
Pretty clean cowl trim. A leaf blower will make short work of any debris stuck in these nooks and crannies, probably. Yet, like many vehicles with more concealed wiper arms, the Cube’s goods are somewhat tucked away as to not attract attention.
Unlike the Juke, the Cube has a nice ratio of bumper-to-fender real estate. The fender does creep into the logical place for the A-pillar: that cutline should be at the base of the windshield, not several inches above. Too bad about that.
Then again, those 4 spoke wheels are ugly as sin: static and counter-intuitive to the mission of a round element. My design school teachers insisted that 4 spoke wheels are the work of the Devil, and I agree. Then again, they do take away from the odd A-pillar cut line.
Actually the combo of round elements here (recessed into the sheet metal, much like portholes on a cruise ship) is quite beautiful.The cutline between the doors is super Cube-y rigid. The window’s DLOs (plural) are round and quite entertaining next to the rest of the package. It’s a delicate balance, balanced.
The problems are elsewhere: and they have an adverse relationship to the B-pillar presented here. The asymmetric C-pillars (different between Driver’s and Passenger’s side) detract from the quirky anti-Cube design. You will see it as we progress around the Cube…and I’ll try to make it super memorable for you.
Of course, this argument hinges on one’s approval of the Cube’s appalling boxy, top-heavy, overtly JDM space-efficient car styling.
I’ll admit that the plastic trim’s ripple effect negates the foolishness of this DLO FAIL, but it’s certainly not enough. This is horribly ugly. No doubt, this needs to be a quarter window instead. Raise the base price by $50 and make it happen, Son.
Or $100. Or whatever: easy credit is flowing like cheap wine once more, just fix it. We can afford it!
So step back and look at the thing: not bad! The wavy door cut line below the equator is only somewhat upsetting. The big DLO FAIL on the C-pillar is well, still pretty horrible. But the stylish “I” design present in the B-pillar personifies all that’s right with the Cube: static yet quite dynamic.
And I’m lucky to have both 4-spoke wheels stopped in the same position: they look even more static when double teaming the Cube’s body.
There’s something very right about a vehicle with zero rear overhang. Maximum space efficiency, just a little bend and stretch at the bottom for a crashworthy(?) bumper. This is a seriously cool piece of
Turning the corner, confusion. The elongated panel between the bumper and the tailgate looks like an afterthought. While I didn’t have the keys to open and inspect the Cube’s door mechanism, it’s a safe bet there’s some hinge that demands a unique panel. On a car this cheap, it’s only a mild bummer.
The CHMSL gets the job done without overselling, over styling. Nice. Too bad the rear wiper washer jet pokes out rather cheaply.
I took these pictures last July, so I forgot if this Cube has a backup camera: but this tacked-on thing looks like a backup camera. (Go ahead and Google it, show me up, etc.) On a vehicle this cheap, this is acceptable. Like Cindy Crawford’s birthmark, it’s just a cute little bump on a cute little curve of sheet metal.
Well maybe not Cindy Crawford cute, but you catch my drift.
I like how this reflector is tucked inside the bumper cover. It makes a unique plane within the body. A simple, cheap and often overlooked way to add some texture on an otherwise boring and massive sheet of painted material.
Alright no more teasing: the back-end is head-scratchingly fantastic. There’s the trim bumper with an elegant, full-width tail light treatment. Go further up and it’s a tall JDM van-let, except with a flaw: the asymmetrical rear glass treatment.
Honestly, after months of deliberation, I don’t know if this is brilliant or idiotic. Probably both, since I can’t take my eyes off of it. This isn’t eye-watering like a Pontiac Aztek, it’s just…profoundly interesting.
Something about the full width tail lights makes this design more cohesive and expensive: it makes up for the normally horrid feelings most of us feel about asymmetric design. It’s like Lyle Lovett and Julia Robert’s child, on wheels.
More good design: the rear door seamlessly blends into the bumper and quarter panel. Very trick, and a good use of minimal cut lines to carry out a particular need. Add that unique plane for the reflector light and you have something exciting, and not offensive.
Note how the C-pillar is completely encased in glass. And glass equals class. It makes me wish the other side was this impressive. Totally worth the extra cost, no matter what it is! (i.e., this isn’t a loss leader Versa, go ahead and ask a little more for being unique.)
Also note how the 4-spoke wheels continue to fight every damn element on the body.
While I’ve mentioned the Cube’s nice use of hard edges and soft forms, the square gas cap needs a good rounding out. This would help accentuate the “Julia Roberts” C-pillar and it will also match the round negative area behind the door handle. Shame.
Maybe this DLO (odd fitting black paint between two sheets of glass) isn’t as pretty as Julia Roberts, but this ain’t no Lyle Lovett. I like how the DLO’s hard edge (Left) and round edge (Right) play with the straight-then-curve demeanor of the rear door’s cutline. This is just car design cool.
Yes, car design cool. Offensive? You betcha! But, aside from the wavy door cutline (just like the driver’s side) that smears reflections (note the Versa’s wheel cover) from an unfortunate curvature, the Nissan Cube is a well-integrated design with moderate attention to detail.
At least on the Julia Roberts side. The Lyle Lovett side? Not as much.
Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.