We don't envy the hordes of product planners working in the auto world. America's concept of quality transportation seems to shift with the seasons, leaving analysts scrambling to anticipate amorphous market demands while automakers fill barely justifiable voids in their product line. If you need proof, look no further than the scorching hot CUV segment. Buyers have developed a seemingly unquenchable thirst for small, car-based high riders, and nearly every automaker sports at least one tall hatch in their lineup.
Nissan hopped on the small crossover train belately in 2007 when it introduced the Rogue as a 2008 model. The pint-sized 'ute borrowed plenty of styling cues from the likes of the larger Murano and came equipped with an efficient and capable drivetrain built to suit a variety of tastes. But that was three years ago. In order to keep the Rogue as fresh as possible until a full-on next-generation model arrives, the company has rolled out a mildly updated version for 2011. It may not be the front-runner in its class, but the refreshed 2011 Rogue promises to hit all of the same notes that American buyers are singing right now. We spent a week with one to find out.
Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL
At first blush, it's clear that the Rogue isn't going to be shattering any boundaries. If you're looking for rule-bending design, you best head across the Nissan showroom to give the Juke a good once over. Instead of trying to rile controversy with its lines, the Rogue simply takes the generic CUV shape and spreads on a light Nissan flavor. While the overall design is slightly rounded, tricks like an upkicked C-Pillar and slightly wrapped headlights give the Rogue a familial flair.
Instead of going hog wild on a completely redesigned fascia for 2011, Nissan's designers simply opted for slight tweaks to the existing mold. Along with a massaged grille, the fascia now wears a subtle crease just below the headlights that's supposed to convey a touch of attitude. Down low, larger fog light openings now wear similar detail work as well.
Nissan is planning to market the Rogue as a more mature alternative to the rash of youth-oriented CUVs currently infiltrating the market, and the company has underscored that commitment by decorating the sides of the vehicle with new chrome strips. We aren't typically huge fans of sticking shiny stuff to the exterior of a vehicle, and this instance doesn't do much to change opinions. The new trim simply doesn't do anything for us, especially given that the rest of the Rogue is largely bling-free with the exception of some similarly tacked-on looking door handles. Fortunately, Nissan has also thrown in a new set of stylish 17-inch, bifurcated five-spoke alloys that give the Rogue's design a pulse. It's amazing what a new set of shoes will do.
Of course, if buyers in this segment really craved unique design, something tells us we'd see more attractive European sport wagons being driven off of the lot instead of gangly high-riders. Our guess is that the buyer who wanders onto a Nissan lot in search of a Rogue is there for a few reasons: massive amounts of cargo, a tall seating position and a reasonable price. Particularly on the spacial front, the Rogue delivers admirably. There's a total of 58 cubic feet of storage capacity with the rear seats folded flat and Nissan says you can stow something 8.5 feet long out back.
Up front, the Rogue delivers the same quasi-commanding view of the road as most of the small utility cruisers, and Nissan has made sure to throw in plenty of standard convenience options as well. Our tester came in SV trim, which means the cabin was packed with goodies like power mirrors, a rear-view camera system, satellite radio and six-way power adjustable seats as standard equipment. Bluetooth hands-free calling also comes along for the ride, making for a decently well-rounded tech package given what the Rogue costs.
Unfortunately, the interior pleasantries end there. Thanks to bolts of dark cloth and plenty of soulless black hard plastics throughout, light enters the cabin, never to return again. The Rogue could seriously benefit from an infusion of lighter colors, let alone higher quality materials. Even with the optional sunroof in our tester, the Rogue simply felt dreary from behind the wheel.
The good news is the various switches and knobs have a heavy, solid action seemingly at odds with the inexpensive materials scattered elsewhere. This is particularly true when it comes to the steering wheel – a smallish piece that feels good in your hands, despite being nothing fancy to look at. The wheel is loaded with various switches for controlling everything from cruise control to the hands-free calling system, but their locations are easy to memorize in short order.
Each Rogue ships with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine putting out 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The four-pot is bolted to a CVT complete with an overdrive function and the buyer's choice of either front- or all-wheel drive. Our tester came with its engine kicking at the front tires only, and while a high-riding, low-horsepower CVT machine sounds like a perfect recipe for motoring brain damage, the truth is that Rogue is a decently capable little machine. It handles city traffic, dispatches interstate jaunts and lugs around groceries and a couple of passengers without complaint.
Nissan has the benefit of utilizing one of the better CVT units available, and the 'box feels right at home behind the thrifty little four-cylinder in the Rogue. By putting the engine at the right RPM for whatever situation is at hand, cabin noise is kept to a minimum and there always seems to be more power available than the spec sheet would suggest. Throw in the fact that the EPA says that it's good for 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway and the Rogue begins to look a little more appetizing.
The 2011 Rogue also benefits from a fully-independent suspension, which helps give the CUV a more planted feel while tackling interstate clovers or slaloming the light poles at the local mall parking lot. Buyers are more likely to interpret the setup as feeling like a heavier version of their kid's Sentra, but it's nice to know that riding high doesn't necessarily mean giving up behind-the-wheel tomfoolery.
Perhaps the most surprising part about the Rogue is its price tag. Our mid-range SV model came riding fairly close to the vehicle's $23,220 MSRP, though if you're really on a budget, the Rogue is also available in S trim at $20,810. That's not a lot of coin for what you're getting, but unfortunately for Nissan, this segment is loaded with absolute bargain buys. Vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are all excellent choices, many of which carry top-notch warranties and slimmer price tags than Nissan's offering.
While the 2011 Rogue manages to cover all of the crossover bases, there's very little to differentiate this compact utility from the rest of the crowd. It's nicely sorted suspension and competitive fuel economy are nice selling points to be sure, but they simply aren't enough to give the Rogue an edge over the competition. If Nissan were to give the Rogue a slightly livelier exterior and an interior that doesn't feel like it was designed by someone with photophobia, the 2011 Rogue might be able to carve out a bigger niche for itself. Until then, this high-rider is likely to remain as a backup singer in the CUV rock opera.
Photos copyright ©2010 Zach Bowman / AOL
New Car Test Drive
Fresh styling for agile SUV.
The Nissan Rogue was restyled for 2011, with an upgraded look inside and out. Some of the model names have changed, and new features are available that were not before, including a navigation system, rearview monitor, a USB port, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The 2011 Rogue gets fresh styling with a new front fascia and grille, new front and rear spoilers, new trim accents. Rogue's exterior is designed to present an image of modern sophistication. Its dramatic styling includes dynamically arched forms and powerful rear shoulder lines. The extensive redesign for 2011 adds to its sporty feel, while enhancing its upscale appearance.
Interior changes for 2011 include a new instrument panel design and a new center cluster. Rogue's interior is designed to satisfy both the functional needs of the buyers and their emotional needs, including the versatility provided by a large 58 cubic feet of cargo space. Leather-appointed seating surfaces are available along with a six-way power driver's seat and a 60/40 split folding rear bench seat. We found the cabin pleasant, with materials that would look good in higher-priced vehicles. In addition to the navigation system and rearview monitor, the Rogue is available with Nissan Intelligent Key, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio and a powerful Bose-developed audio system with seven speakers with woofer, AUX input and MP3 playback. The controls are easy to use and understand.
The Rogue seats five. There is no third row available for seven-passenger seating. The Nissan Rogue is a compact SUV. Based on a car platform, it's considered a crossover vehicle, like the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, and Chevy Equinox. Utility is enhanced by numerous convenient storage and ultra-functionality features, including an oversized glove compartment, a large center console and a washable, removable tray that fits below the cargo area floor to hold wet or dirty gear and tools. The driver gets a variety of cupholders, a memo/pen holder, coin holder and cell phone/sunglasses holders.
In back, the Rogue offers good cargo utility. The rear seats fold flat and an available folding front passenger seat allows ladders and other long items to be loaded.
All Rogue models have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower mated to a continuously variable transmission. No V6 is available. We found the four-cylinder engine works well with the CVT to provide decent performance and frugal fuel economy.
All-wheel drive is available for snow and rain. The Rogue is meant as a daily commuter and weekend runabout, not an off-road adventure vehicle. Towing capacity is just 1,500 pounds.
Behind the wheel, the Rogue offers carlike ride and handling. We think it's one of the better handling small SUVs, though we would not call it sporty. The ride allows for a lot of road feel and can become harsh on rough and irregular surfaces. Road imperfections and engine sounds intrude into the cabin.
The Rogue was introduced as a 2008 model, and changes since then have been minimal. For 2011, the styling has been updated inside and out, electronics have been advanced, and the packaging of the models has changed.
The 2011 Nissan Rogue comes in Rogue S and Rogue SV models, a Krom Edition and an SL trim level. Each offers front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.
Rogue S ($20,830) comes with manual air conditioning, cloth upholstery, tilt steering wheel, four-way manually adjustable front seats, cruise control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and iPod connectivity, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat, trip computer, 12-volt power outlet, and 215/70R16 all-season tires on steel wheels. Rogue S AWD ($22,080) adds all-wheel drive.
Rogue SV ($23,240) and Rogue SV AWD ($24,490) feature automatic air conditioning, upgraded cloth upholstery, power driver seat, fold-flat front passenger seat, premium audio with six speakers, iPod/USB input, XM radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, 4.3-inch color display, rearview monitor, intelligent key, painted mirrors, Yakima-compatible roof rails. The SV Premium package ($1,650) adds the Nissan Navigation System with 5.0-inch color touch screen display and XM NavTraffic, a moonroof, automatic headlights.
The SL package ($3,850) upgrades to leather-appointed seats, automatic temperature control, heated front seats and outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 225/55R18 tires, the Nissan Navigation System with 5.0-inch display, XM NavTraffic, Bose audio system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, xenon automatic headlights, and the moonroof.
The Krom Edition ($24,430) starts with Rogue S trim and upgrades with a unique grille and front bumper with fog lights, custom rear bumper and center-exit sport-tuned exhaust, body-colored rear spoiler, body-colored power outside mirrors, rear privacy glass, the steering wheel audio controls, exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels and 225/55R18 tires. It's available with all-wheel drive ($25,680).
Safety features include dual front airbags, torso-protecting front side airbags, head-protecting side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors, front seat active head restraints, LATCH-style child seat anchors, tire-pressure monitor, ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and electronic stability control with traction control.
For 2011, the appearance of the Nissan Rogue has been freshened with a new front fascia and grille, new front and rear spoilers, new trim accents.
The styling is swoopy, with rounded lines and a wedge shape from front to rear. Flared rear shoulders, a contoured hood, large wheel housings and an upswept window line give the Rogue a sporty feel.
Ornamentation is minimal. A black and chrome Nissan badge up front is flanked by a body-color or chrome grille. The lower grille is substantial and framed by a pair of heavily contoured fog light nacelles. The sides, even those with chrome door handles and rub strips, are clean and smooth, with nothing to hide the clean lines.
Side mirrors are black on the Rogue S and body color on the Rogue SV. The standard wheels on the Rogue S are stamped steel with plastic covers that look like five-spoke alloys from a distance. The 17-inch aluminum wheels that come with the Rogue SV add a touch of drama, with five Y spokes that seem to actively cling to the rim; 18-inch wheels are also available. The Krom has a look all its own, still a Rogue but more entertaining.
We think the Rogue looks best from the rear, where the dark rear glass, tapering taillights, rounded panels and license plate recess give it some definition. The rear liftgate lacks a separate opening glass but the hatch is not heavy and liftover not too high.
Among compact SUVs, the Rogue has a sleeker, car-based crossover look, like the CR-V, as opposed to the more-upright box-on-box look Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty.
The Rogue is among the longest vehicles in the class, though it doesn't look it. At 183 inches overall, it is even longer than the seven-passenger Toyota RAV4 and the bulkier-looking Jeep Liberty.
For 2011, Nissan Rogue gets a new instrument panel and center stack and updated technology. We found the new layout for 2011 a bit easier on the eyes, quicker to read at a glance, and a hint more upscale than the cog-like trim of earlier models.
The Rogue has a spacious cabin. The interior uses a simple, rounded design trimmed with quality materials. The dash, for instance, is molded in a soft-touch material that seems as if it might be right at home in an Infiniti. The door tops also have a nice soft-touch material. The remainder of the materials is price-appropriate plastic that fits together well.
The instrument panel features large, white-on-black tachometer and speedometer, with analog temperature and fuel conditions inset. Between the gauges is a digital display for trip computer data, outside temperature, gear selected, door-open warnings and so on. We found the new layout for 2011 a bit easier on the eyes, quicker to read at a glance, and a hint more upscale than the cog-like trim of earlier models.
The center stack features two of four omnidirectional air vents at top, three easily used round climate-control knobs below, and Nissan's unique radio layout in between (or navigation if you order it). It has substantially sized buttons, and the presets are grouped in A, B, and C folders, each of which can mix radio bands; use the 18 presets as a group of six for three different drivers, locales, or attitudes. MP3 and iPod inputs bring your own, and an optional Bose audio system is available for better reproduction.
Storage for small items up front is adequate. The center console has two integral cupholders and a small tray that will work for holding little odds and ends. If that's not enough, the console bin is very deep and is available with a removable tray to give it two levels of storage. The glovebox is exceptionally deep, there's a bag hook on the back of the right-front seat, and Rogue's livability is first-rate.
The driver's seat is comfortable and offers a good driving position, now with six adjustments. The tilt steering wheel helps, and there is enough head for most adults and class-leading legroom. There is good visibility to the front and the side mirrors are large, but over-the shoulder visibility is compromised by a smallish rear window and rear side windows that are pinched at the rear. The ride height makes getting into and out of the Rogue very easy.
The second row is usefully roomy, with head and leg room that can accommodate adults, even with the front seats moved far back. Three adults in the rear will be cramped, but they should be able to deal with short trips. Toe space under the front seats is plentiful.
Cargo space is good but not at the top of the class. The second-row seats are split 60/40, and they fold flat in an easy one-step motion to open up to the maximum 57.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
Cargo utility is improved by a number of features. Rogue SV includes a folding front passenger seat, which folds almost flat to allow loading of longer items. A cargo floor undertray comes on all models and a foldable cargo organizer is available as an accessory to help prevent groceries and other cargo from rolling around; there are also grocery bag hooks and tie-down points. The roof rails are compatible with Yakima racks and accessories, so almost anything within roof cargo weight limits can be carried up there.
Rogue's 2.5-liter engine makes 170 horsepower and is one of the better four-cylinder engines available today. The Honda CR-V has a 5-hp advantage but notably less torque, which is more important in daily driving. The engine has the low-end punch to propel the Rogue from a stop and decent midrange. At higher speeds it falls off, however, so planning and momentum are needed for higher-speed passing maneuvers.
Fuel economy is quite good, with an EPA-estimated 22/28 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive; the AWD models are rated 22/26 mpg. The federal government classifies the front-drive models as cars, the rear-drive models as trucks.
The continuously variable transmission works well with the engine, quickly switching to an appropriate ratio for the driving conditions. The only way to tell that it's not a standard automatic is to floor the accelerator and keep it there. The transmission reacts by picking the ratio to put the engine in its optimum rev range and keeping it there. Since the transmission allows the engine to rev only as high as needed, it aids in fuel economy, particularly in the city. The transmission is also a bonus in hilly driving or slowing in snow or ice where you might like to avoid the brake pedal because selecting L will easily bring speed down to 10-15 mph on level ground.
The Rogue is not built for towing, with a maximum capacity of only 1,500 pounds (with the dealer-installed towing package) similar to many four-cylinder crossovers. Nor is it intended for off-road duty.
The Rogue is based on an economy car platform and those roots show through in more ways than one. While it is among the better handling compact SUVs, it is not sporty. It drives more like a car than an SUV, but it has more body lean in turns than most cars. The electric-assist steering requires only a light effort, but it feels natural and direct with good road feel and front bite when you turn the wheel. In our opinion, the Rogue transmits more road feel to the driver through the steering wheel than most compact SUVs.
The ride is generally comfortable, but the same suspension firmness that makes the Rogue handle well makes it busy on bumpy pavement, and sharp ruts can give passengers a jolt. Perhaps the biggest drawback is interior noise. The noise from rough pavement, bumps and potholes sounds like the soundtrack of an economy car. Ditto the sound of the engine. The Rogue seems like it could use more body insulation, though we realize that would add weight, which can reduce fuel economy.
The Nissan Rogue is an appealing compact SUV with carlike road manners, cargo utility and prudent fuel economy. The Rogue is a worthy competitor vs. the Honda CR-V. The Nissan matches the Honda for carlike road manners and fuel economy, though the Rogue is not as quiet on the inside and doesn't ride as smoothly as the CR-V does. The six-cylinder RAV4 is considerably faster than the Rogue but costs more and doesn't deliver the fuel economy. We think the Rogue is a good choice for drivers looking for a daily commuter with lots of cargo space.
Kirk Bell filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Baltimore, with G.R. Whale reporting from Los Angeles.
Nissan Rogue S ($20,830), S AWD ($22,080); SV ($23,240), SV AWD ($24,490); S Krom ($24,430), S Krom AWD ($25,680).
Options As Tested
SL Package ($3,850) includes leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated front seats, heated exterior mirrors, automatic temperature control, Nissan Navigation System w 5-inch color touchscreen display, XM NavTraffic, Bose Premium audio w 7 speakers, woofer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power sliding moonroof, automatic on/off headlights, High Intensity Discharge Xenon headlights w manual levelizer, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, 225/55R18 tires.
Nissan Rogue SV AWD ($24,470).
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