'Incognito Canine' Styling

Nissan says the Cube's styling was inspired by a bulldog. It resembles an "incognito canine," the automaker says, likening the dark headlights and black grille to Fido's eyes and schnoz. The oversized side mirrors are his ears. When Nissan introduced the Cube at last fall's L.A. auto show, I thought the design worked.

Now, not so much. In the big city, the Cube is no puppy; it's more of a runt. One Cars.com editor after another found the sheet metal just plain odd. A friend of mine called it "pretty ridiculous," and my girlfriend said she'd rather walk than be seen in the thing. (Granted, she's dating me, so her taste is clearly questionable.) I might charitably call the Cube more controversial than ugly — think BMW 7 Series, not Pontiac Aztek — and at the L.A. show, I witnessed a twentysomething spectator promptly fall in love with it. If you're a fan, drop me an email explaining why. Far too many onlookers said otherwise.

The Cube's small size has something going for it. It's 5 inches shorter from bumper to bumper than the Soul and 10 inches shorter than the xB, making it the easiest to shoehorn into a parallel-parking spot. And with the group's shortest wheelbase, it also has the smallest turning circle: a city-friendly 33.4 feet — 1 foot tighter than the next-best Soul.

Wheel choices start with 15-inch steel wheels and plastic covers; the 1.8 SL and Krom get 16-inch alloys. Like its competitors, the Cube can be had with more than a dozen exterior accessories — from body kits and custom grilles to roof spoilers and chrome side mirrors. The Krom comes with its own custom bodywork.

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