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Nissan Cube (KROM), 2010: The Weekly Driver car review

Nissan Cube (KROM), 2010: The Weekly Driver car review 1The Nissan Cube, under several names, has been around for a decade. But its third generation and first in the United Sates debuted at 2008 the Los Angeles Auto Show, and it was a shocker.

Few cars have received such polarizing reviews. The Los Angeles Times called The Cube an “air-hating box ugly.” The New York Times critic wrote: “The Cube is undiluted Tokyo chic, from its asymmetrical rear window to its shag-carpet dashboard pad to the bungee cords on the doors.”

Regardless of opinion, the current edition Cube is arguably the most uniquely designed new vehicle on the road. It won the 2010 Automobile Design of the Year Award.

Nissan engineers say the circular-dominated interior is inspired by the enveloping curves of a Jacuzzi. There’s a ripple motif in the ceiling, seat covers and cup holders. There are appliqués for air vents and window switches, utility hooks and elastic bands and variable color LED accent lights. And there’s even a piece of shag carpet that rests with a Velcro attachment in the shallow area on top of the dash.

It’s all about weird and wacky in the 2010 Nissan Cube and there’s no telling why half of the features are included. But it’s all fun and cool and hard not to like.

I’ve reviewed the Cube twice this year, most recently, the 1.8S KROM. The premium KROM package is an oxymoron, really, and that’s not meant to be an insult. It adds chrome fascia and grille and other modern conveniences like USB connectivity to 20-color interior accent lightning and push-button ignition to aluminum-trimmed pedals.Nissan Cube (KROM), 2010: The Weekly Driver car review 2
The KROM edition is the most expensive Cube, but at lightly less than $22,000, it’s hardly extravagant or extreme on any level.

The Weekly Driver’s Ratings

First Impression: It’s called the Nissan Cube, an obvious reference to its unique exterior design. And the Cube maybe the most unusual looking new vehicle on road. But one look at the interior and every feature, the roof motif to door handles, storage bins to gauges are curved. How can a cube be so curved?

Acceleration (5)
There’s no possibility of land speed records, and on a few steep inclines, the Cube wasn’t at its best. But in everyday city and freeway situations, the Cube holds its own without reservation, despite its pedestrian engine numbers: 1.8 liters, 122 horsepower and a 4-cylinder, 6-speed manual transmission engine borrowed from Nissan’s compact Versa.

Braking/Steering/Handling (6)
There’s a nice feel to the Cube. It’s nimble and seems to “enjoy” being driven. Maneuverability is good, especially considering the body design. Braking is good. too.

Cargo Room (8)
How many cup holders passengers need is open to discussion, but they’ll never be a shortage in the Cube. There’s a dozen or so, which seems like plenty for four adult passengers or even five passengers, if a youngster is along for the ride. There are several uniquely designed storage bins, a deep, but short rear cargo area and a cleverly designed clothe cargo cover. It works with the back seat upright or down and in any other way.

Controls (7)
Isn’t it nice when engineers get it? A simple, straightforward approach is best. Big numbers are good. Easy digital read-outs are good. White back-lighting meshed with an easy-on-the eyes color tone on the instrument panel at night is good.

Details (7)
Curved windows, swirls on the seats, curved design for storage bins, a concentric circle pattern on the ceiling? It’s all futuristic, and I like it. Who says cars have to be so traditional all the time?

Front Seats (8)
Nice panoramic views with a high sitting points. Cushions are firm and comfortable. They’re not leather, but have a high-priced look compared to traditional cloth seats. The light color (off-white) will likely show wear and dirt easily.

Fuel Economy (7)
It’s not the best in its category, but there aren’t many cars on the market that get more than 30 mpg on the highway. With its 27/31 city and freeway averages, there’s not much to complain about.

Quietness (7)
As a member of the “box-and-four-wheels” car segment, aerodynamics aren’t the best. Wind rush is evident at high speeds, but what’s surprising is how quiet the car is at stop signs or stoplights. It’s not a hybrid. It doesn’t have an electric motor, but it’s as quiet as many hybrids when idling.

Rear Seats (7)
Like the front seats, rear-seat passengers have plenty of head and leg room and ride in comfort on firm seats.

Ride Quality (6)
Once you get past all the funky stuff and eccentricities, the Nissan Cube provides solid transportation without difficulty in any area. Bumps are felts, acceleration isn’t the best, but nothing is bad.

Total (68 out of 100)

Class — Sport utility wagon.

Primary competition — Kia Soul, Scion Xb, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris.

For standard equipment/option package information, visit: www.nissanusa.com.

Price range — $13,990 – $20,120.

Price as driven — $21,070.00

Mileage Estimates — 27 mpg (city), 31 mpg (hwy).

Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles; 2010 editions equipped with a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) also have a 10-year /120,000 mile CVT limited warranty extension.

What Others Say:

“In addition to look-at-me styling, the Cube also offers good handling dynamics and excellent maneuverability. It boasts a number of innovative storage options, like bungee-cords on the doors for storing maps or other papers. It even has exceptionally comfortable front seats, all for an affordable price.”

—- U.S. News & World Report

“Our editors have commented favorably on the sprightly 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and the smooth and responsive CVT. Those are pretty much the only driving highlights, though, as the Cube’s high center of gravity and soggy suspension can’t keep up with an eager right foot, and its steering is numb and slow-witted.”

—- Edmunds.com.

“Dynamically, the Cube is something of a mixed bag. The electric power-assisted steering is delightfully light—your best friend in traffic or while parking—but otherwise feels artificial and reveals little about road textures. Turning radius is a gymnastic 33.4 feet.”

—- CarandDriver.com.

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“It’s as if a few Nissan engineers got together and said to each other, ‘Hey, fellas. Let’s have some fun and what we can come up with.’ It’s something, alright. It’s affordable and utilitarian. It’s the Cube.”

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