From Quirky to Bizarre

A Cube review wouldn't be complete without mention of its quirky and optionally bizarre features. The water-droplet ceiling and overall design are generally well-received, though the materials quality seldom impresses. (In fact, all three of the boxy cars mentioned seem a step behind the more traditional economy cars introduced recently.)

The strangest car feature of the millennium, though, must be the Cube's "shag dash topper," which is basically a 1-foot-diameter shag rug on top of your dash. "Topper" is another name for "toupee," and it fits. This tuft of '70s-era carpet might seem a good place to throw your cellular phone or sunglasses, were it not for the warning label underneath the piece that warns you not to do such a thing, as distraction or injury might occur. Because I live in the fast lane (ask anyone), I tried it anyway, and my stuff slid all over the place. The toupee doesn't even do well what you think it should.

That means the toupee is there solely for the look. It must seem quirky and fun in Japan, whereas in this country it serves solely to entertain car reviewers and inspire mockery. Not since Honda's "The Fit is Go!" ad campaign has a Japanese automaker presented such a generous gift. The topper is to car reviewers what former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is to comedians: Fish in a barrel. The side of a barn. A deer in the headlights.

Another conundrum is the shelf built into the dashboard in front of the passenger, which seems another good place to, uh, shelve items. Once again, the very bossy owner's manual warns against it. For what it's worth, owner's manuals are always full of warnings about loose items on dashboards and inaptly named "parcel shelves." Then again, it's one thing to warn people not to loiter in a rockslide area and quite another to do so after building a bench there.

Fortunately the topper feature is an option, and, as toupees often are, it's a bad one. In 2010, it's perfectly acceptable to shave your dashboard and go au naturel. People will respect you for it. If Nissan introduces an optional dashboard comb-over, we might have to revoke their import license.

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