Lounging About

Nissan says it wanted to make the Cube's cabin feel like a "casual lounge." (When, pray tell, is a lounge not casual?) True to form, my test car's off-white cabin had the modish feel of a California design student's dorm room. The seats have fuzzy cloth upholstery and gobs of cushioning, and the cream-colored panels in my test car had appealing, if unpadded, textures. The cupholders, door speakers and headliner have concentric wave moldings that Nissan says were inspired by water droplets. Cabin quality isn't always consistent — the chrome door handles and Infiniti-grade turn-signal stalks contrast with exposed screw heads and rudimentary center controls — but the sum of it all makes the Cube seem higher-rent inside than either the xB or the Soul.

Problem is, all this is the case only when you're parked. Start driving, and you'll soon find that this dorm room sits right atop the San Andreas fault. Even around modest corners, I had to brace myself against the driver's armrest to keep from sliding one way or another — the chairs are just that flat. Any items on the shallow shelf atop the glove compartment fly right off, as do things on the central dash-top cutout. Nissan says both were designed to hold items only when the car is stopped. Useful, no?

The front seats have wide backrests, and even tall adults will have no issues with headroom. The gearshift mounts near the floor, opening up enough space for your knees to spill out — something neither the xB nor the Soul allows. (The location doesn't fall naturally to hand, though; it's less of an issue if you get the automatic.)

The rear seats recline and adjust forward and backward — both the xB's and Soul's are fixed — and with them all the way back, adults should have ample legroom. There's also a folding center armrest with integrated cupholders; that's a feature neither competitor offers. Still, the seat sits an inch or two too low to the floor, robbing you of much-needed thigh support. The xB's backseat does the same, but the Soul's is better. (If you want a full comparison of all interior aspects, click here.)

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