First drive: 2008 Nissan Rogue S

click above image to view high-res gallery of the 2008 Nissan Rogue S

Crossovers. Every automaker either has one or has one in the works. Nissan has perhaps the first CUV in the Murano, and now it's joined by the Sentra-based Rogue. Let's start with that name. We're pretty sure Nissan intended to invoke thoughts of rebelliousness and individuality. But the word can also be used to indicate someone who is a cheat, a swindler, disobedient and savage. Nissan's Rogue is none of these, which is neither bad nor good. The Rogue is pretty much a tall Sentra wagon, and we think perhaps Sentra Wagon might have been a much more honest name.

On the outside, there's little to get excited about. Our base model Rogue's monochrome exterior could have benefited greatly from some chrome door guards, handles or mirrors – just something shiny to break up that expanse of Venom Red. The Rogue's face gets a little shiny nose sandwiched between two egg-crate Venom-red nostrils that lead down to, again, a Venom Red air dam. Those two creases seem lost in the hood, and do little to give the car any visual excitement. Out back Nissan continued the monochrome theme and we're surprised they didn't find a way to fit a body-color exhaust tip. We've seen photos of a chrome roof-rack equipped Rogue that proves brightwork can be a good thing. Nissan, meet chrome. It can be your friend.

Continue reading about our first encounter with Nissan's new Rogue after the jump.

Live Photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.

Inside, the Rogue's interior isn't bad, actually. Fit, finish and quality aren't bad for the price point and will win over some low-end CUV shoppers. Cup holders and storage bins are lined with removable rubber, the seat fabric is nice to the touch and the seats themselves are comfortable for the 30 minutes we drove it. A generously-sized glove box opens wide enough to hold even a medium-sized purse, but unfortunately doesn't lock. Valuables can also be hidden behind the car's rear seats beneath the carpeted cargo mat. Still no lock, but a bit less obvious.

Brushed-metal-look accents make the otherwise all-black interior less dreary and feel more upscale. Behind the front passenger seat is a pocket for maps and papers, as well as a useful bag hook. It's not so useful, though, with someone in the back right seat. With the front seats comfortably adjusted, rear legroom is good, with an inch or so to spare between knees and seats and space below for feet to slide.

The Rogue's rear seats fold flat as you would expect, opening up lots of cargo-carrying possibilities. The back wheel wells don't intrude nearly as much as some crossovers we've seen, which makes for very usable space.

If the 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers don't tip you off to the Rogue's econo-car roots, the performance will. Mating a 2.5-liter, 170-HP four-cylinder to a CVT does nothing to make the Rogue more likable. Acceleration is gradual, and while some probably like how a CVT eliminates gear changes, we're pretty sure most Autobloggers prefer the feel of first to second to third. As a reward for putting up with a CVT, drivers should see greatly improved fuel economy. But we wouldn't call the Rogue's 22 city, 27 highway greatly improved. It's good, sure, but the Sentra with the same engine and transmission gets 24/30. We chalked up the difference to weight, but comparing the 2.5-liter Rogue to the 2.5-liter Sentra SE-R comes up with the Rogue weighing only 195 lbs. more.

On the road the CUV isn't sporty at all, with a soft ride contributing to a bit of lean in the turns and understeer if pushed harder. Sure, it's a crossover and not a sportscar, but we still expect better handling in our cars. On the plus side, wind and road noise are controlled rather well.

At just over $20,000, our base model Rogue S had air conditioning, power windows and doors, cruise control with steering wheel controls, keyless entry and a CD player. The only options were splash guards and floor mats.

With some exterior sprucing up, a tighter suspension and either a real transmission or real improvement in fuel economy, the Rogue will be a contender, but will still find it hard living up to such a provocative name.

Nissan provided the vehicle and SEAMO the location for testing. Autoblog does not accept travel or lodging from automakers when attending media events.

Live Photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.

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