If you’ve ever visited Japan, you’ll probably be aware at how different and even alien its culture is compare with the West.
Car buyers in Japan are often given access to some unusual designs that never see the light of day in Europe.
One very Japanese product has been available in the UK since the beginning of 2010, but you’d possibly not know unless you lived near a Nissan dealer in a large city.
The Cube has been on sale in Japan since 1998 and since 2002 – when it adopted its now iconic shape – it has achieved cult status.
It seems unnecessarily square, and looks larger than its dimensions suggest. It’s actually shorter than a Renault Clio, Fiat Punto Evo or Vauxhall Corsa, but its flat sides and tall body mean it’s exceptionally roomy for its size.
It smacks of urban chic and although different from cars like the Fiat 500 and Mini in terms of its size and on-road behaviour, like those cars the Cube is available with a vast array of options and accessories.
However, the Cube is the only one where you can choose as an accessory the ‘fluffy dashboard mat’.
It looks like a small, circular rug that sits on top of the dashboard in the centre. You’re meant to put items like house keys on it while travelling.
Left empty it has a tendency to slide from side to side as the Cube’s body lurches slightly when cornering. However, even a small bunch of keys will keep it in place.
Yes, the tall Cube makes you aware of its height if you try to rush it on twisty roads, but that isn’t why the car appeals.
It’s a fashionable urban contrivance, designed to get you from A to B in town, while making you feel good about driving it, while passers by point and stare. Some might even feel good from seeing it.
Other personalisation – dark alloys, pearl white alloys, various decal shapes called ‘tattoos’ – is possible, even encouraged. It probably helps you feel more of a bond with the car too.
The 110bhp 1.6-litre engine is lively enough – available either with a five-speed manual or optional CVT auto – and feels responsive around town. It’s also hushed on the motorway where the biggest risk to comfort is wind noise intrusion around the A-pillar.
A diesel model was planned for the UK, but sales of the Cube have been so slow to date that Nissan has decided against introducing it.
All models come with a glass roof, which also has a conventional sunblind, and a 'shoji' shade for allowing light in, but reducing heat build-up.
All are well equipped, but the higher-grade Kaizen model comes with sat-nav, climate control, auto headlamps and wipers, and a rear-view camera for reversing.
It might look unusual, but the Cube is endearing. It’s different, but in a non-threatening way.
Nissan has admitted it is a niche product making a design statement about the brand, and will never sell in large numbers.
Maybe we wouldn’t like it as much if it was a more common sight, but personally I think this is a great shame.