Color me impressed. Nissan’s Rogue is going on four years without any major revisions (a mild face-lift is due in 2011), but there’s still a lot to like, especially if you’re in the market for a comfortable little sport-utility.
No, the 170-hp, 2.5-liter I-4 isn’t the most powerful four-cylinder in its class (that nod currently goes to Chevrolet’s Equinox), but it’s certainly peppy enough to propel the Rogue’s 3400 pounds. Better yet, it’s smooth — and so, too, is the continuously variable transmission. Nissan’s done a great job in calibrating the CVT to respond to tapering throttle input much like an automatic; the engine drone many associate with the gearless transmission only rears its head if you firmly plant the accelerator to the floorboard.
Yes, dark plastics are the norm in a $20,000-dollar interior, but designers have done a good job of placing soft textures where passengers are most likely to actually touch them. The upper door panels and dash surfaces have a soft, finely grained plastic, while each door is treated to a padded fabric armrest. The seats have an attractive fabric pattern; the front bucket’s cushions are nicely bolstered, but the backs are lacking in lateral support.
Suspension tuning is rather soft, and there’s a noticeable amount of body roll. On the plus side, the ride is compliant and never choppy, and the steering is well weighted and fairly direct. Buyers wanting something firmer may need to check out the sport-tuned Rogue Krom model or check out Kia’s super-stiff 2011 Sportage SX.
I’m perhaps most impressed with the price tag — $22,500 isn’t unreasonable for an all-wheel-drive CUV, and the $1040 360 Value Package adds some surprising content, notably the self-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated rear camera. Those longing for more luxuries can always step up to the decked-out SL model, but the Rogue S strikes an attractive (and affordable) chord.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer
The Rogue arrived somewhat quietly on the scene in late 2007 and has remained an afterthought for many people. Still, it’s a solid entry in the cute-ute class, and a surprising 77,000 U.S. consumers purchased Rogues in 2009 (and after six months, the car is on pace for even better 2010 sales numbers). As opposed to competitors like the Ford Escape and the Honda CR-V, the Rogue’s design takes more of a tall-station-wagon approach than a mini-SUV slant, which is a refreshing change.
It had been a few years since I’d driven a Rogue, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much room there is in the back seats and the cargo area. After driving a cramped Dodge Caliber the previous week, I felt like I was in a Rolls-Royce when I tried the Rogue’s back seats.
As Evan pointed out, the Rogue is no sports car, but its steering is direct (though numb) and body roll isn’t as extreme as I expected. Power from the big 2.5-liter four-cylinder is certainly adequate, and the CVT is well suited to this application. The sub-$24K price is also quite respectable. I must note, however, that I thought the driver’s seat felt pretty flat and somewhat uncomfortable (our test car had manually adjustable cloth seats). Also, FM radio reception was really poor compared to most of the cars I driven recently.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
The most attractive aspect of the Rogue has to be how attractive it is. It brings the exterior design of the Murano down to a three-fourths scale, and even more so with the 2011 refresh. The CVT, which seems more refined than the one in our Four Seasons Nissan Cube, does a good job of stretching the power band, but won’t excite enthusiasts. The interior is let down by its darkness, but as Evan mentioned, soft plastic and cloth finishes are where you’d hope to find them. This example is equipped with all-wheel drive, and, interestingly, you must be at a standstill to engage the AWD lock, but you can disengage it on the fly.
For 23 grand, the Rogue’s vital statistics are impressive, and I could live without most of our test car’s list of optional equipment. At that price, you get the space of most crossover SUVs with the best-looking face in town.
– Jeffrey Jablansky
The Nissan Rogue is a comfortable crossover that finds that perfect middle ground between an SUV and a traditional wagon. It has the elevated seating position that draws many consumers to SUVs but is still low enough to avoid the high, awkward step-in height that afflicts many sport-utes. As such, entry and egress is more of a side-step, even for the vertically challenged like me, and loading cargo into the rear hatch requires less effort than most of its truck-based competitors.
This relatively low center of gravity combined with a fairly responsive chassis makes the Rogue feel more nimble than many others in its class, too. It’s not as agile and tossable as its corporate cousin, the Infiniti EX35, but its base price is also $10,000 less than that car. This Rogue S is a decent value at $23,735 which includes all-wheel drive and the 360 Value Package. At only $1040, the 360 Value Package is a fairly cheap way to get the useful rearview camera and also add some exterior bling: 16-inch wheels, a rear-hatch spoiler, privacy glass, and a chrome grille.
Even with these exterior additions, I still find the Rogue’s exterior a bit bland. From the pictures I’ve seen of the 2011 model though, this has been addressed by giving it some harder lines much like the Murano. It does have a pleasingly sleek overall shape though that helps it stand out from the herd, and in the crowded crossover segment, that’s important quality to have.
– Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
I signed out the Nissan Rogue for a recent three-day weekend, and, having only driven a Rogue for a very short time quite a while ago, I wasn’t that familiar with it. I have to say that I came away quite impressed.
Everything about the Rogue seems to fit me perfectly. I like the high seating position; the simple, well-placed controls; and the versatility of the vehicle as a whole. In fact, after three days, I felt completely at home in the Rogue, as if I’d been driving it every day for weeks.
I’m especially impressed by the value you get for your money. All-wheel-drive, a powertrain that’s quite capable, if not exactly a powerhouse, and great everyday usability for less than $23,000.
My one complaint is the blind spot in the rear-quarter area. However, you can largely take care of that by properly positioning your mirrors and by opting for the reasonably priced backup camera, whose image is projected onto the rear-view mirror.
– Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Base price (with destination): $21,260
Price as tested: $23,735
2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine
Xtronic CVT transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
16-inch steel wheels with covers
Vehicle dynamic control
Traction control system
Electronic brake force distribution
Tire pressure monitoring system
AM/FM/CD audio with 4 speakers
Auxiliary input jack
Remote keyless entry
Options on this vehicle:
All-wheel drive — $1250
360 value package — $1040
Auto-dimming inside mirror
Rear hatch spoiler
Chrome finish grille
Floor mats and cargo mat — $185
Key options not on vehicle:
Fuel economy: 21/26/23 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.5L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 175 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission
Curb weight: 3435 lbs
16 x 6.5-inch steel wheels
215/70R16 all-season tires