Mike Stevens | May 21, 2008

What is this travesty? There is no mention on TMR of one of the greatest automotive designs of all time. I'm not talking about a red-headed Italian or a precision engineered German or even a voluptuous French coach. No, I speak of (drum roll, please) the Nissan Cube. Performance-wise, there's nothing to write home about. It's got a standard 1.4L four cylinder powering the front wheels with a meager 98ps. It's not particularly fast, rare, or expensive. But just look at it.

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In 2002, Nissan took the upright 2-box design aesthetic pioneered by the Toyota bB (which itself stood for black box) in 2000 and elevated it into art. Whereas the bB resembles a Maytag, the Cube would look at home adorning the sculpture garden of any contemporary art museum. What other car is so unabashedly asymmetrical? The rear window appears to wrap around the passenger side in a sleek L, forcing the taillamp cluster down, way down, to the rear bumper. The squareness is part of its charm, too; a perfect compliment to the Lego-like grid of apartment buildings and elevated train tracks and highways that form the Japanese cityscape. Anyone can stretch a layer of sheetmetal over a wind tunnel exercise, but the Cube is the very definition of industrial design.

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That's why I felt like Carlos Ghosn was forcing a downsize of my soul when I saw the leaked photo of the next generation Cube set to debut this fall in Japan. Evoking a 50s mod lounge chair or, at best, some kind of lozenge, does it still deserve to be called the Cube when it is, in fact, not a cube? You can see how the designers wrestled with ways to update the look, but kept coming back to a the current design. In the end, it was a fool's errand. There just wasn't much you could do to improve perfection.

[Images: Nissan, The Hollywood Extra]

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