Until you have driven a Cube nothing can prepare you for how many people will look at and appreciate your car. This is something I never really considered when I first bought one.
If you want a car that blends in with everyone else..? the Cube is absolutely not the right car for you, but… if you want a car that stands out from the crowd, and is a conversation point wherever you go..? then it absolutely is.
For this reason they often make very good small business/promotional vehicles. But don’t let that put you off owning one. I think if I’d have known the attention they get I may well have chosen not to get one. I’m glad I did though and when I drive my wife’s car I miss the attention the Cube gets.
Based on the Nissan Micra, which was arguably one of the UK’s most reliable cars for many years, the Cube has a small external footprint but is very large inside and extremely comfortable to drive. Obviously being shaped like a brick they’re not very fast – I actually opted for a slower car because of a heavy right foot. The Cube hasn’t disappointed on that front. Think of the slowest car you’ve ever driven and you won’t be disappointed when you drive one. With all of the Japanese imports being automatic/CVT and a very spacious driving position, they are very comfortable and practical for city driving. But, they are also quite capable of keeping up with modern traffic on motorways too.
Quite a few club members use a Cube as daily drivers for work and use them on motorway journeys. We even have a few Cubes that have been across into Europe and toured all over the UK.
It’s great to drive something which is really rather rare and unique yet under the bonnet is a common car with parts that are readily available – you won’t need a specialist garage to maintain one.
I’ve often heard the term smiles per gallon used when talking about the cars fuel economy and yes, they are slow, a bit underpowered and fuel economy can’t rival its modern counterparts. But they do offer a certain amount of charm and individuality to which a modern daily can’t compare.
With the rise of the global pandemic we find ourselves in, a lot of people want to get away but don’t really want to stay in a bed and breakfast or hotel. The Cube – although small – does offer the ability to convert into a bed inside which means you can travel and stay within your own bubble. There has been a massive upsurge in people doing stealth camping and I feel the gen 2 and possibly gen 3 Nissan Cubes are a fantastic option for this. With the addition of some curtains and an airbed for extra comfort the Cube does offer small but surprisingly comfortable sleeping arrangements. It’s got to be better than a tent surely?
The Nissan Cube as an investment?
If you look at the history of another design icon you can see similarities with what happened with the Nissan Figaro.
They were incredibly popular from the get go and when the trend for importing Japanese cars started off in the UK they were a massive success here. I believe there are now more Nissan figaro’s here in the UK than there are left in Japan and the price of Nissan figaro’s in the UK hasn’t gone down since they arrived. I honestly believe that the UK and other countries that gladly buy these imports are drying up Japan’s supply of good Cubes. Production ended on the third generation Cube in 2019 so they are slowly becoming fewer in numbers.
Let’s face it, the gen 2 is getting on in years and the gen 3 is finally 10 years old(More on this in a future article). So we are starting to see more and more Japanese gen 3 Cubes and less of the gen 2s being imported. Gen 2 values in Japan are at an all-time low so it’s a fantastic time to buy one. I believe the good examples will hold their money and possibly go up in the future similar to the Figaro before. I also anticipate UK sold Cubes climbing in value at some point. There aren’t many cars that you can own and use that end up being worth more than when you started and I believe this could potentially be possible in the future. You couldn’t go far wrong with the gen 2 cube or a good condition gen 3 UK car. I believe both will be worth good money in the future.
So why would you want to buy a Japanese import car in general?
Well, most Japanese imports have been incredibly well looked after and because of the way their Shaken(automobile inspection registration system) works, when a car becomes 10 years old they essentially either have to be rebuilt, scrapped, or exported. This has led to a culture where new is better and so anything over 10 years old is just seen as a really old car. When you get a JDM(Japanese Domestic Market) or Grey import – as they’re commonly known – they have generally got very low mileage and often have documented service history. This is especially true if you look for the highest grade possible (which is grade 5) and a good importer will tell you what grade the car was in Japan.
As from most Japanese manufacturers they are extremely reliable, imports often come with a lot lower mileage than a UK equivalent car.
People trying to put a negative spin on imported vehicles will say that they’re more difficult and therefore more expensive to insure, which just isn’t true and can often be cheaper than a regular UK registered car. You just need to know where to start looking.
One great place is the facebook group. If you’re considering getting into a Cube then it’s a fantastic starting point for any questions relating to insurance, parts, servicing, or the Cube community in general.
Parts are very commonly available because they share so many components with UK cars, and where they don’t there are several breakers in the UK who offer parts via mail order. The knowledge base on the Owners Club is incredible and they are a really helpful bunch, often any queries or problems are quickly and easily sorted. Auto Windscreens carry the windscreen in stock or can order it so a smashed windscreen is not a problem. All of the other glass components are available from the various cube breakers around the UK.
So Let’s talk about the options you have
The Gen 1 Z10 Cube. based on the K11 Micra and it is only available as an automatic. These cars are already a very rare car both here in the UK and in Japan.
The Gen 2 Z11 Cube. This car is based on the UK K12 Micra (which also shares the same base as the Nissan Note). These cars are the most common (in the UK) and they are available as Automatics and CVT’s and are also avaialable as 7 seaters known as Cubics .
The Gen 3 Z12 Cube. These come with two options – you can either have an imported model (which are available as CVT and are sold with the 1.5 HR15 engine), or you could buy a Gen 3 originally sold in the UK. These are available as either manual or Automatic CVT, these also featured an ever so slightly larger HR16de 1.6 petrol engine. In America they feature an MR18de and either a 6 speed manual or CVT Gearbox.
As with all cars just pay attention to condition when looking at one – you will need to find a car that has been well looked after if you aren’t mechanically minded yourself. You should try and take someone with you or if you don’t have access to that then the AA and RAC do offer vehicle inspections which will highlight any problems. Don’t be scared of taking the plunge if you have not owned a japanese import before. just look at it as buying a Micra or Note with a different body.
Obviously this is all just my own personal opinion and is written from the perspective of being a UK Cube Owner.
Coming soon: Buying privately – personally importing or buying from a dealer?