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The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: Nissan Cube not boxed in by design

Appearance: Our tester was the Krom edition, which is loaded with bling that gives it a slightly more custom look: 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, integrated body design — front and rear fascia, grille, body side sills and rear roof spoiler.

Performance: The CVT transmission makes for a smooth, consistent drive. The 1.8-liter 4-cylinder is actually peppy, if not powerful. For a boxy car, it handled corners with minimal lean and has a smooth ride helped by traction control. The speed-sensitive, power-assisted steering gives it just the right feel.

Interior: It's like a closet full of your quirky belongings. There are bungee cords on the door panel to hold maps and other things. The ambient lighting under the dash and in the footwells can be set to change colors every few seconds. Or pick your favorite. The curved dash has titanium-trim accents, and the AC controls are simple and easy to use. Of course, it's iPod compatible. Then there's the inexplicable round, shag-carpet pad that sits on the dash (it's held down by a Velcro strip). You can rest your phone or whatever else is in your pockets on it, but what's the point? There are small hooks in the center dash to hang little bags. We both liked the ripples in the roof fabric, which made it resemble a Zen garden. You can see this theme throughout, including in the speakers, floor mats and curvaceous dash. And let's talk cup holders: Maybe it's all the energy drinks the intended demographic throws back, but there are a total of six, along with five bottle holders. We especially liked the cup holder to the left of the steering wheel — it made an easy reach for the morning coffee. The seating for five is comfortable and has nicely textured fabric. Lyra found the back seats to be too firm — the ride made her young son feel carsick. But Peter had elderly passengers in the back who liked the ride (and the quirky design — demographics be damned!). The rear seat's backs can be reclined, and the seats slide forward and backward. The cloth cargo cover is flimsy and cumbersome. One major nit: At night, Lyra found that the near vertical angle of the side windows made reflections of other cars seem as if they're right next to you. That's distracting.

The bottom line: Love it or hate it, this car is an eye-catcher. It's more a lifestyle choice than an automotive one. This is a people mover that rises above its "square" competition. And it packs a lot of features for $20,420.

There's nothing average about the Cube. And the design? A common comment we heard was, "What the heck is that?" Its whimsical shape looks like a car thought up by Dr. Seuss. Then there's the asymmetrical rear hatch window. The one-shouldered look may be in this season . . . but only if you're Michelle Obama.

Our 3 favorites



Ambient lights: Mesmerizing. With music blaring, it's almost like a dance club.

Fluid design: From the rippling details to the curving dash, the interior is elegant.

Love to make fun of it: Oh, but it's just so ugly.

Quirky factor: If you need an appliance, it might as well be distinctive.

Head room: It's NBA player-sized and welcome.

Rear door: It swings open like a fridge — would you expect any different?

Peter Couture



Lyra Solochek

2009 Nissan Cube Krom

Price: $13,990 base, $20,120 Krom base, $20,420 as tested.

Powertrain: 1.8-liter DOHC 4-cylinder with continuously variable transmission

Horsepower: 122 at 5,200 rpm

Torque: 127 pound-

feet at 4,800 rpm

Curb weight: 2,869 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 99.6

Length, 157.5

Width, 66.7

Fuel economy:

28 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway

Safety features: Advanced air bag system, side-impact bags and curtains, front active head restraint, traction control, ABS, vehicle dynamic control, electronic brake force distribution with brake assist.

Other trim levels: 1.8 (base), 1.8S, 1.8SL

Options worth considering: Cargo area organizer, alarm impact sensor.

Web site: www.nissanusa.com/cube

The Daily Drivers: Nissan Cube not boxed in by design 01/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 8, 2010 3:57pm]
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