Nissan is showing its Teatro for Dayz concept car at Tokyo Motor Show Friday, Oct. 30 through Sunday, Nov. 8. While it has tons of neat conceptual technology, the thing we ought to pay attention to is how it shows us what the now-discontinued (everywhere except Japan, anyway) Nissan cube might have evolved into.
Full disclosure for those who don’t know: I own two Nissan cubes — a 2010 and a 2014. We liked the first one so well, we bought the second after test-driving a number of other cars and crossovers. So I’m coming at this from an enthusiast’s perspective.
A press release from Nissan outlined the Teatro for Dayz concept ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show. The release called the Teatro for Dayz concept “an innovative concept that signals a new direction in mobile technology.”
Given that verbiage, which makes the concept car sound like the latest mobile phone, you might not be surprised to learn it’s an electric vehicle. Slightly more surprising would be the clamshell doors and the blank-slate instrument panel that can be used to display gauges and maps while in motion and scenic backdrops or video games when the vehicle is stopped.
But forget about all that. What we’re seeing is a collection of styling cues that could have been the basis for the fourth-generation Nissan cube, albeit somewhat downsized.
Those cues start with a couple of cube signatures. First, there’s the wraparound glass. In the cube, this has always been asymmetrical at the rear, so the Teatro for Dayz concept’s symmetrical design is different. However, it would be easy to sketch an asymmetrical rear window design into the concept’s rear quarters. Remember, the cube’s rear glass was flipped depending on which side of the road it would be driving on — Japanese cubes had the wraparound glass on the left rear corner, while American cubes had it on the right rear corner.
Another signature design element that harkens back to the cube is the full-width single-piece tail light lens. While mounted higher on the body of the Teatro for Dayz concept than on either the second- or third-generation cubes, the design is similar enough that cube fans might think to themselves, “That looks mighty familiar.” Also helping lend this air of familiarity to the rear lighting situation: The bustle-butt design of the rear bumper cover as it rounds over the rear tires.
But perhaps the most signature design element familiar to cube fans would be the overall shape of the Teatro for Dayz’s exterior form, with its wheels pushed way out to the corners and a big, boxy midsection designed to maximize interior space. The press release called the concept car a “minicar,” so it’s likely a fair bit smaller than the cube. Having said that, it’s easy to imagine Nissan adding a few inches here and there to make the car fit into the U.S. subcompact class like the third-gen cube did.
So forget all the super cool but totally impractical interior tech, the exterior LED displays, and the crazy rubber-band tires of the Teatro for Dayz concept. Heck, forget the EV powertrain, too — no way does Nissan want to create same-brand competition for its LEAF electric car here in the States, anyway. What’s exciting about the Teatro for Dayz concept to cube fans like me is the fact that its design could so easily be translated into a fourth-generation cube if Nissan wanted to do it.
Why would Nissan want to revive a model that sold so slowly that it was pulled from the brand’s North American lineup starting with the 2015 model year? Because like it or not, boxy people-movers remain popular when done right. Kia moves nearly 150,000 Souls a year in the United States and basically has the segment to itself now that Nissan and Scion have exited. To think a car company like Nissan wouldn’t try to stage a comeback to seize a piece of that potentially lucrative pie would be disappointing.
Then again, we cube fans were pretty disappointed Nissan gave up on the cube after displaying a lackadaisical attitude about marketing it, so disappointment is something we’re used to.