Nissan takes the big leap into the small crossover segment with the all-new 2008 Rogue, a smaller version of the style and value benchmarks set by big brother Murano. There are two trims available: S and the SL. I test-drove the base S model with a starting price of $20,450.
First impressions often pay big dividends for vehicle sales, and the Nissan Rogue delivers a bright and stylish message with its exterior design. If you are a fan of the Murano's low-stance, signature arched roofline and curving lines with big glass visibility, you will like the Rogue. Rogue sits on standard 16-inch wheels with 17 inchers offered as options. My tester had the 17-inch upgrade and it really made a big difference with exterior impact.
Base priced to be very competitive with a crowded class of over-achievers and fuel-sipping utility wanna bes, Rogue holds its own by offering a fuel efficient CVT and a Midwest favorite - optional all-wheel drive (AWD).
Compact crossovers are not a dime a dozen, more accurately they start about $18,000 and can leap to more than $28,000. The Rogue tester topped out at $21,820, but it delivers a classy look that is more sedan than SUV.
Rogue is a front-wheel drive car-based sport utility vehicle with five-passenger seating and outstanding utility space. I especially liked the cargo organizer that pops up from under the cargo floor. This really extends the cargo hold without compromising the day-to-day space.
Featuring a long list of standard equipment, the Rogue S and SL come standard with traction control, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist. Safety equipment includes active head restraints, roof-mounted curtain airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and dual-stage front airbags.
The Rogue's cabin is driver-friendly to the Nth degree. I really found the red illumination on the guages to be especially easy to see and it added a real sporty feel to the look at night. Several options are available for the Rogue's interior. Items such as steering wheel-mounted redundant controls, Bluetooth hands-free phone and leather-appointed (heated) seating are extras worth checking into.
Rogue's drivability went beyond my initial expectations. Powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that is rated at 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque coupled to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), Rogue delivers an exceptionally smooth ride with easy maneuverability in all conditions.
The CVT is the only way to go for Rogue. Literally, there is no manual version, but who would want to fight shifting gears when you can free your hands with to work the audio system or engage the sporty paddle shifters (optional).
The new Rogue has an electric power-assisted steering system, which was highly maneuverable with a curb-to-curb turning circle of 37 feet. Fuel economy comes in at 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. This is pretty good, but down the road a ways, it will have to be better to compete with hybrids in this class that will be in the 30s. 2008 Nissan Rogue
Vehicle type: 5-passenger FWD CUV
Base price: $19,250
Engine type: 16-valve DOHC 4-cylinder w/SMPFI
Torque: 175 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm
Wheelbase: 106 in.
Track (front/rear): 61/61 in.
Length: 183 in.
Width: 71 in.
Height: 65 in.
Turning circle (curb-to-curb): 37 ft.
Curb weight: 3,267 lbs.
Fuel capacity: 16 gal.
MPG (city/highway): 22/27