The first thing I noticed was how shiny this Krom edition of the Cube looked in mid-evening setting sun, especially the grille. Kinda cool. The second thing I noticed was the metallic-look seat upholstery, which looked good and seemed like it would wear well. The Krom is the top-spec version of the Cube and is clearly Nissan’s attempt to circumvent the aftermarket by offering a street-savvy Cube rather than having people spend the money elsewhere to dress up a base model. In that sense, Nissan is taking a page from Scion, which offers all manner of dealer-installed wheels, grilles, and other exterior and interior trim for the xB, the original Japanese box on wheels. If you like all the shiny bits, have at it. If you’re looking for a cheaper Cube, there are three models, more modest in appearance and much more modestly priced, below the Krom.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Nissan Cube Krom, Kia Forte Koup – the kool thing these days is to retire traditional spelling in favor of hipster verbiage. This is the third Cube (or, perhaps, Küb?) that Nissan has sent us over the past month, and I’ve enjoyed experiencing all of them.
This particular model comes tricked out with a ground effects package, a spoiler, and chrome wheels, naturally. It plays tricks on your eyes with its badgeless grille, convincing you it’s some kind of teddy-bear/bulldog mix with bulging, growly eyes. It wants to play fetch – in this case, for friends or groceries – and gets plenty of looks while doing so.
After I spent a good portion of the weekend in a ZipCar Scion xB, the Cube’s strengths as a wow-it’s-bigger-in-here-than-it-looks! city car became apparent. Although the Cube is not fast by any means, its optional CVT (continuously variable transmission) operates smoothly to make the most of the modest four-cylinder engine. Steering feel is very light, especially at low speeds, but it still helps you deftly glide through tight spots in traffic.
The Cube is a vehicle to inspire strong declarations and to stir emotion. Why? It presents a different and unfamiliar vehicle experience sure to befuddle shoppers of mainstream vehicles. And it will polarize opinion.
It’s like walking into a cardboard box! It’s like a big rollerskate! The seats are like couches! It’s a hipster with tires! (OK, no one said that.) It’s a lot of fun for commuting and around town but probably not the best for a cross-country drive. The Cube will probably not appeal to everyone, but those who like it will end up loving it.
Jeffrey Jablansky, Intern
How different is the chic, limited-edition Krom model from a normal Cube 1.8SL? Not different enough, it seems-Nissan’s test car haulers accidentally sent us a fully tricked-out 1.8SL instead of the Krom we actually requested.
Then, the actual Krom arrived. A slight mishap, but it goes to serve a point–does a big, shiny grille really make all that much of a difference on a car like this? Not in the least. People, ranging from art fair hipsters to burly train engineers, react to this car, but mostly because the Cube is shaped like–well, a cube. Passersby point at the boxy stature and bicker over the bubbly windows, but few seem to notice the Krom’s trick front fascia.
It’s entirely possible to get all of the Cube’s endearing qualities-and a few extra goodies-for the same price as a Krom. For $19,340, you get a similar 1.8SL model equipped with the Rockford Fosgate sound system, Bluetooth, interior décor package, park assist, and foglamps. Sadly, you can’t get the Krom’s sweet woven seat fabric on lower trims.
There will almost certainly be a Cube in my family’s future, but given the price and content, I highly doubt it will be Kromed.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I know it’s nitpicky, but this Cube Krom surely has the most sensitive car alarm on the planet! If it belonged to a consumer, he or she would promptly take it back to the dealership, where it would (I assume) be easily fixed. Before visiting the local Nissan dealer, say, tomorrow morning, this Krom’s owner (based on my experience with the car) would be rudely awoken–twice–in the middle of the night. During breakfast, the car alarm would be triggered two more times, seemingly for no reason. Once at the dealership, the alarm would go off again when someone closed the door of a nearby Versa. And again when a Harley-Davidson bike passed by on the street. And again when a Nissan GT-R was started … I hope for the sanity of Cube buyers that this was a unique problem.
Perhaps the Krom’s anger biased me, but I’m really not a fan of the chrome, badgeless grille; I much prefer the simpler black grille on more basic Cubes. The bright chrome wheels are a bit much for me, too, even though they’re smallish sixteen-inchers. The ginghamlike seat upholstery, however, is extremely cool and works well in this spacious interior. I even like the silly shag-carpet dash patch, even though it’s merely Velcro’d in place. Myriad other ridiculous items could also be Velcro’d to the dash, if an owner so chose.
I prefer a six-speed manual to this vehicle’s continuously variable transmission, but this CVT generally seems to work quite well. I did note, however, that it tends to bog excessively if you’re rolling at about 5 mph and then floor it, which can be very annoying if you’re trying to keep up with traffic.
One note of clarification, Joe: It’s arguable that the Scion xB was the “original Japanese box on wheels.” The first-generation Cube, circa 1998, actually predates the Toyota bB (the progenitor of the xB). The first bB, though, was boxier than the first-gen Nissan. [Note from Joe DeMatio: Point taken. But I was referring to the U.S. market, not the Japanese home market!]
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I haven’t yet decided whether the Krom is the coolest Cube or simply the goofiest. Because, let’s face it, a Cube of any stripe is pretty quirky-looking (but not in a bad way), and when you adorn it with all manner of chrome (or is that krom?), it becomes even more so. Then again, isn’t that the point? Anyone who’s buying a Cube isn’t afraid of being noticed. It’s not exactly a car that blends in with traffic, so why not buy the most extroverted one on the lot?
Of course, once you’re inside the Cube, you notice other things, like the cool magenta mood lighting low in the cockpit, the rippled headliner, and the piece of shag rug on the dash (?!). Yep, the Cube is definitely cut from a different cloth than your average, every-day entry-level car.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Like many others at Automobile Magazine, I’m not so keen on the exterior Krom package add-ons. In my mind, the body cladding, chrome grille and trim, and other miscellaneous sporty bling clash with the geeky, “living-room-on-wheels” idea of the Cube. It’s like putting racing stripes on a La-Z-Boy. It just looks wrong. I prefer the Cube in its most basic form where it even looks good with plastic wheel covers…how many vehicles can you say that about?
On the inside, though, this Krom-ed Cube, which also includes the interior designer package, has some attractive and useful features, from the superhip metallic-looking, geometric-patterned seat fabric (which is possibly even cooler than the plaid print in our Four Seasons Volkswagen GTI), to the adjustable rubber-band-like ties on the door arm rests, to the rainbow of possible ambient lighting choices. The shag carpet patch on the dash completes the funky theme, but because it’s angled toward the windshield, I’m not sure it’s the safest place to store items while driving.
Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
My neighbors already know I’m nuts so not an eye was batted when Roger Rabbit’s goofmobile rolled into the neighborhood. The Cube takes the box on wheels concept literally with a dash of asymmetry thrown in to exceed the bounds of good sense. I found the CVT to be great for passing gawkers without hesitation or lurching through a couple of up- and downshifts. The sliding, folding rear seat is a handy touch but I’d appreciate it more if it could be tumbled forward or removed to open up additional cargo room. The elevated roof is handy for passengers with a fetish for top hats but I could think of no use for the shag rag stuck atop the dash. The near-vertical windshield demands custom brackets for radar detectors and aftermarket nav units, while the picture windows adorning the sidewalls admit way more sunlight than any visor could possibly block. Of course, those cool enough to be at home in a Cube wouldn’t be caught dead without fashionable shades.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
2009 Nissan Cube KROM
Base price (with destination): $20,090
Price as tested: $20,420
Interior designer package $230
Vehicle alarm impact sensor $100
28 / 30 / 29 mpg
Size: 1.8L DOHC 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 122 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 127 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Weight: 2864 lb
16 x 6-in aluminum wheels
P195/55VR16 all-season tires