Fashionably late but still welcome
Sitting on the sidelines for nearly a decade, Nissan finally gets into the cute-ute game with the 2008 Rogue. Rogue rides on a modified Nissan Sentra chassis and goes on sale in September 2007. It will compete with vehicles like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Compass, Kia Sportage, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn VUE, Subaru Forester, and Toyota Rav4. Nissan is angling Rogue as a sporty alternative to much of its SUV-like competition.
Rogue comes only as a four-door wagon with a single-piece rear tailgate. Passenger capacity is five on two front bucket seats and a 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat. The front passenger seat also folds flat and a full-length center console with armrest is standard.
Rogue has a wheelbase of 105.9 inches and an overall length of 182.9 inches. Those numbers make it one of the longest vehicles in the class. However, with a height of just 65.3 inches it is also one of the squatest vehicles in the class. Suspension is fairly traditional with struts up front and a multi-link setup at the rear. Unlike most of its competitors, Rogue offers variable-assist electric steering.
Two trim levels are available: S and SL. Front- or all-wheel drive versions of each are offered. Sole engine is a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder, which mates to a continuously variable automatic transmission. According to Nissan, the CVT is completely revised and has a new computer that can change ratios 30% more quickly than its previous generation CVT. The CVT also has pre-programmed ratios that can mimic the feel of a manual transmission when activated via steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Traction control is standard on all. The available all-wheel drive system does not have a low range and is not intended or extreme off-road use. Nissan claims that the AWD system does have the ability to alter power delivery front-to-rear to help minimize skids.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock brakes, tire-pressure monitor, stability control, and front-, front-side, and curtain-side airbags. A rollover sensor will deploy the curtain airbags if the vehicle tips over. Park assist and a backup camera are not available.
S standard equipment includes air conditioning, 16-inch wheels, power windows, locks and mirrors, keyless entry, and AM/FM/CD player with four-speakers and an auxiliary input for MP3 players. SL swaps the S's 16-wheels for 17-inch alloys and adds rear privacy glass, and roof rails.
Key options include sunroof, leather upholstery, power heated seats, Bose audio system with six-disc CD changer and seven speakers, satellite radio, steering-wheel radio controls, Bluetooth cell-phone connection, Intelligent key pushbutton starting, folding cargo divider, and HID headlamps. The folding cargo divider is designed to minimize small item shifting. It's optional on the SL and pops up from the floor to create three bins. Navigation and rear-seat entertainment are not available as factory options.
Rogue is built in Japan.
Get up and Go
When sprinting away from stoplights, the all-wheel-drive Rogue doesn't feel as sprightly as most of its V6-powered competition. The four-cylinder engine doesn't have an abundance of low-end torque and is slow to build power. Nissan doesn't quote a 0-60 mph time, but it is likely about nine seconds. Front-drive Rogues will be slightly faster because they weigh 200 pounds less.
The continuously variable transmission does its best to speed power delivery, but it can't match the instant response of a traditional automatic. This is most obvious in two places. Off the line, throttle response is somewhat lazy compared to a fixed ratio transmission. Second, in highway passing bursts the CVT takes too long to change ratios to get the engine into its power band. In routine driving the CVT does a good job of keeping the engine speed in tune with power demand.
The all-wheel-drive system seamlessly transferred power to the wheels with the most traction in hard acceleration, effectively limiting wheel spin.
Rogue sports EPA numbers of 22/27 mpg for front-drive models and 21/26 mpg for all-wheel-drive models. Those are 2008 numbers and are comparable to other compact SUVs. Nissan says that Rogue's engine will run fun on regular-grade gasoline.
On the Road
Rogue drives more like a compact car than a compact SUV. In other words, the ride is comfortable and controlled and devoid of any excess body motions that are common to SUVs. In addition, the 105.9-inch wheelbase, which is long for a compact SUV, provides a stable ride on scalloped concrete expressways.
Minor impacts are absorbed by the compliant suspension and hard impacts are acceptably softened. The electric steering feels natural and doesn't require any extra attention. Brakes have adequate stopping power and the pedal is easy to modulate. There's little body lean in turns and the tires have reasonable grip.
Interior noise levels are higher than expected. There's a fair amount of wind and road noise at highway speed and the engine groans coarsely under hard acceleration.
In all, the Rogue rides much more comfortably than most compact SUVs. In addition, it drives like a sedan rather than a truck. Kudos to Nissan for giving the Rogue a sporty feel without a pounding ride.
Behind the Wheel
Rogue's interior is design is simple and straight forward. It features large, easy-to-read gauges ahead of the steering wheel and a nicely organized center stack housing large and clearly marked audio and climate controls. Ancillary controls for mirrors, windows, and locks are right where they should be and materials are on par with other vehicles in the class.
Nissan incorporated two nice interior storage features. The glove box is extra large and has a removable divider. Also the center-console bin is extra large and has lots of specific-size holders for things like pens, cards, CDs, cell phones, etc.
Front seats are soft but offer adequate support when navigating twisty roads. There is also good leg and head room for large adults. Driving position is upright, but not as high as most compact SUV competitors. The manual tilt steering wheel does its best to adjust to driver size requirements, but a telescope feature would be welcome for some.
Rear seats are on par with other compact SUVs, meaning that they have adequate head room and acceptable leg room. Rear-seat leg room disappears quickly, though, if the front seats are moved more than half-way back. The rear seat itself is comfortable if not a little soft. There's not enough width to seat three adults comfortably.
Step-in height is better than most other compact SUVs and the doors open wide to aid egress.
The cargo area is smaller than most other compact SUVs. This is mostly due to the Rogue being shorter than most of its competition. That's cargo space that you wouldn't normally use, so it's not really missed. Optional on SLs is a neat little pop-up cargo organizer that helps keep small items in place. It is removable so it can be washed.
Refreshingly, Rogue drives like a compact car, not like a compact SUV. It has a well-thought-out interior and lots of nice creature comforts. In addition, the Bluetooth connection and keyless starting are two nice features in this class.
Not everything is perfect though. Nissan needs to work on making the continuously variable transmission more responsive--or at least more conventional feeling--and add some sound insulation. To be fair though, both are faults are found in many other compact SUVs.
Thanks to its car-like handling and innovative features, Rogue offers a slightly different take on the typical cute-ute design. Nissan is also trying to keep the price down by offering a single engine/transmission combination and that's admirable. If you're in the market and looking for a compact SUV that's more car than SUV, the Rogue would be a perfect fit.
|Front Head Room, in.|
|Front Leg Room, in.|
|Rear Head Room, in.|
|Rear Leg Room, in.|
|Curb Weight, lb|
|Cargo Capacity, cu. ft.|
|Fuel Capacity, gal.|
|Towing Capacity, lb|
|Horsepower @ RPM|
153 @ 5800
166 @ 5800
170 @ 6000
166 @ 6000
|Torque @ RPM|
152 @ 4250
161 @ 4200
175 @ 4400
165 @ 4000
|EPA Fuel Economy 2WD|
18 / 23 mpg
19 / 26 mpg
21 / 26 mpg
20 / 25 mpg