Chrome’s Nissan Cube Krõm Review

I finally bought myself a new car after getting frustrated with my old ’95 Nissan Pickup which has served me faithfully all of these years. I bent my rim on a nasty pothole last year and it hasn’t ridden the same since Firestone bent it back out. I wanted something with a high tech quotient and also something which met my tastes style wise. After seeing it in person and comparing it to the Kia Soul and the Scion xB, I chose the Nissan Cube Krõm Edition in Bitter Chocolate (a metallic dark brown).  It looks somewhere between a maroon and purple under certain lighting conditions.

(Updated: Added animated gif of interior colors and a few more pics – After the jump)

The style is visually striking with the interior based on a jacuzzi with a rounded dash that offers plenty of legroom, and the upgraded Krõm trim level provides 16″ aluminum-alloy wheels, a spoiler, a special front grille & flared out side sills.  Cruise control, automatic headlights, a 20 color interior lighting system (more on that later), a Rockford Fosgate Subwoofer, 6 speakers and Bluetooth Hands-Free Phone System are also included.  The major design accent is made to look like a pebble being dropped into water and this is seen in the headliner, the cup holder, and even the speaker grilles.  Although this is the first the US has seen of this car, it is actually a 3rd generation model in Japan, and thus came out before the Honda Element and the Scion xB it competes with.

The sale price was $20,220 out the door. This included the delivery fee and the interior package. The base model starts at $13,990.  The Krõm package by the way is the dumbest name for a trim level simply because they use a solid line above the O like it should be pronounced (chrome, not crom), but thats not a real letter. There’s no way to translate it into html.  So I use the squiggly tilde/umlaut (depending on the font) instead. Me purchasing this car had nothing to do with the fact that it’s pronounced Chrome. I swear, no influence at all.

Oddly enough the lower SL trim package actually offers a few options I would have liked to see incorporated in this trim line, including Nissan’s keyless Intellikey system, rear backup sonar, and XM satellite radio.  Although the Cube is more expensive compared to the Scion and the Kia, it would still take several thousands of dollars in aftermarket accessories to get those cars up to the visual level that comes from the Krõm trim (smoothed out grille, rims, spoiler and interior lighting).  I actually saw a tricked out Scion xB the other day, and I have to say I’m still happier with the way the Cube looks.

The sales pitches for it highlight the asymmetry of the rear wraparound glass and in practice its refrigerator style rear door works just fine. I was afraid it would not be as practical as most SUV’s top opening rear doors, but it hasn’t been a problem. I’ve done Target and Costco runs with nary a problem.  Mind you my family is just 4 people, so my cargo needs are not exhorbitant.  I do have the option to fold the rear seats forward for additional cargo room if needed.  It seats 4 adults comfortably, 5 if you are not an adult or want to get real comfortable with the other passengers in the back seat. The rear seats also recline, a first that I have seen in any car.  It has cute little knobs all over the passenger compartment useful for hanging stuff off of and attaching things to.  It also has interchangably colored bungie cords in the driver and passenger door handle, which I have found useful for holding parking lot tickets and debit cards temporarily while in the drive thru at fast food places.  Thoughtful indeed!

The interior package I got comes with a dash mat which I can only describe as a carpet circle.  It doesn’t really hold anything in place and so serves no purpose other than to look odd.  (It’s not to protect your forehead in case of in-car sexual activity).  One complaint I have is that it only has one 12V outlet.  Really?  In this day and age?  At least it has 6 cupholders and 5 bottle holders strategically placed throughout the cabin.

The radio supports RDS so it will display station information on all FM stations that support it but not HD radio (not that I was looking for that anyways).  It also supports iPod/iPhone compatibility via a cable that connects below the AC controls and above the cupholder.  The cable is about 6 inches in length and is impractical to store the iPod/iPhone in any location other than the cup holders, so a poor design choice in my opinion.  Also the cable only supports charging via firewire so I had to purchase this adapter (for $24.99) so I could charge my iPhone 3G via USB.  A minor inconvenience but an easy solution.  The ipod menu system is somewhat kludgy and I wish the steering controls supported alternative navigation other than just next or previous track.  I had to read the manual to figure out how to play playlists (they are only selectable from the head unit).

The unit supports mp3 playback via the single disc CD player.  There is also a 1/8″ jack on the front if you care to supply audio from an additional source.  Unfortunately Navigation is not an option and for some odd reason Satellite Radio is also not an option unless you’re on the SL trim level.  My guess is you can have XM Satellite Radio or Bluetooth/iPod but not both.  Once I figured out the menu system for iPods though, I have had no problems with the system.  I do wish there was a little more low end, but as it’s just an 8″ subwoofer and I understand there are limitations to what you can get out of it.  The South Floridian in me want to drop in two 12″s, but the fact that I’m married now, over 30 and not a complete douche means I’ll probably make do with the stock system.

The built in Bluetooth speakerphone works well. It’s nowhere near as clear as my Jawbone 2 but as a speakerphone it does a good job.  It requires it’s own phonebook though to speed dial anyone, and this absolutely requires you to be parked somewhere to program, because if it detects motion it will cancel any options.  The menu options for the Bluetooth are also kludgy and definitely a pain if you have more than a handful of numbers you want to use it with. You should just be able to give things single name entries if you want to say “call Bob” instead of “call Bob mobile” every time, but that’s just my own pet peeve.

The AC is automatic, with a “set it and forget it” temperature setting which controls the settings automatically to maintain a constant cabin temp.  Oddly the outside temperature is not in the AC temperature control display like you would think, instead it’s in the dash under the odometer.  The computer has 2 trip odometers, an average miles per gallon and a current miles per gallon setting (which always depresses me when I accelerate but fills me with glee whenever I’m coasting) and also a miles till empty setting which automatically kicks in when it gets to under 40 miles left.  It’s rated at 28 miles per gallon, but I’m usually quick off the line, so I’m seeing about 22mpg overall.

The Krõm trim level comes standard with an automatic transmission featuring Nissan’s CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). This option basically means there’s no gear change felt when accelerating.  It hits 4,000 RPM’s off the line and will continue to stay there until you reach your desired speed.  It takes a little getting used to at first, coming off driving a manual but I rather like it now.  Cornering is fine I would think mostly because the wheels are at the extreme corners of the vehicle and it sits lower than an SUV, more like a traditional car.  The turning radius also is very tight and as a result parking is a breeze although it took me some time to get used to the smaller dimensions of the Cube.

The major shortcomings I have with it are the lack of Navigation and the rear backup camera option that usually accompanies a video screen, and the fact that there is only one 12v outlet.  I have put in my Tom Tom GPS to compensate but because of the boxy interior (which incidentally provides great headroom), dash mounting is awkward above the radio (and unreachable for the driver) so I had to mount it high and upside down on the top left of the windshield next to the driver’s side pillar.  Also the location of the 12v outlet on the passenger side of the car is inconvenient as I have to string the power cord all over the place and it looks less than appealing.  I might wind up permanently wiring it into the fusebox, but until that time I’m less than happy with it.  The sun visors are also largely ineffective due to the boxy nature of the windows.  They only cover a small portion of the front windshield or the mostly useless front half of the side window (the driver sits at the back half of the window). There’s not much they can do to fix this other than to have seperate side visors which would be overly long.  I also would like to see an option for a sunroof.

The 20 color interior lighting package turns on as soon as you open the door and whenever the vehicle is on. You can set it to any of the available colors via a dial in the center console or you can leave it in demo mode where it will change every 15 seconds or so.  You can also disable it if you so choose, but I find that its not obnoxious enough to be distracting and it never bothers me to have it on.  The effect can be seen outside the car at night, but is mostly at your feet and in the cup holders in the center console with some of the brighter colors illuminating the passengers somewhat.  I’m considering tinting the windows which would lessen the ability to see the colors from outside.

I get looks constantly from other drivers (male and female) and on several occasions I have seen them taking pics with their camera phones.  I suppose the novelty will wear off after a while, but it is a smart looking car and definitely an attention getter.  My wife told me it looks like it drove straight out of an Anime vid.  The iPod and Bluetooth compatibility score high marks for me as well as the strong styling and personality it exudes.  Overall I’m quite happy with the Cube despite its’ shortcomings and I give it an 8 out of 10.

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