2009 Nissan Rogue Review

2009 Nissan Rogue - Crossover SUV.


In the 2008 model year, Nissan brought to market the compact, five-passenger Rogue crossover/SUV.  The Japanese automaker was one of the last to join this popular segment of 'cute utes' that began arriving in abundance during the mid-to-late 1990s. These vehicles are designed to look good during on-road travel, but not suited for playing in the deep mud.  For those wishing to get down and dirty on the off-road trail, Nissan has the compact Xterra SUV which has developed a cult-like following as it battles the off-road-capable Jeep Wrangler. Four side doors and a rear hatch come standard in Rogue.  No three-door model is offered. Two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (an additional $1,200) are available.

Its unibody construction is borrowed from the successful Sentra sedan platform Nissan has perfected over the years.

A 2.5-liter double overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine delivering 170 horses comes standard in both trim levels (S and SL).  Also standard is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), a newer type of transmission with an infinite number of forward gear ratios (instead of a five-speed or six-speed transmission).  Nissan has built CVT transmissions successfully longer than most any other manufacturer. The CVT also helps to squeeze more miles per gallon out of a gallon of fuel.  Mileage in all-wheel- drive Rogues checks in at 21 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway. Front-wheel variants register one mile per gallon better in each category. The fuel tank holds 15.9 gallons of regular unleaded fuel.

Changes to the Japan-built Rogue in its sophomore year are minor.  The most notable is the passenger front bucket with fold down seat back in SL models.

Our test 2009 SL all-wheel-drive edition started at $23,010. Options included a moonroof ($950), floor mats ($110) and premium package ($2,230) and portable Garmin Navigation system ($540) for a total of $27,620 including a $780 destination charge. A front-wheel drive SL starts at $21,810.  The lowest priced offering, front-wheel-drive S checks in at $20,220.

The list of factory- installed options and  packages is simple and straight forward.  Option packages are found solely in the SL trim. The entry S trim comes basically as is. Cloth seating comes standard in both trims and a leather package (with heated front bucket seat) is a $1,950 factory-installed option in SL. The moonroof is also a SL option exclusive.  A premium package option is available in two-wheel-drive SLs which includes six-disc compact disc player, front fog lights, satellite radio pre-wiring (the monthly subscription is not included) and steering wheel mounted audio controls and seven speakers. The SL premium package available in all-wheel-drive variants adds steering wheel paddle shifters allowing for manual gear shift changes of forward gears with out a foot clutch. Yes.  This is possible even with a CVT transmission. A non-factory dashboard-mounted Garmin navigation system is available in both trims.

Inside, the dashboard has an 'industrial,' workman like appeal similar to the off-road intended Nissan Xterra. The black interior has a few hints of brushed aluminum sprinkled about. Four circular vents cross the dashboard. Two large circular, analog (speedometer, tachometer) gauges make up the instrument panel. In the middle towards the top is a smaller digital gauge illustrating fuel levels. Headlights operate from the turn signal stalk. The optional, portable Garmin full-color touch-screen navigation device sits atop the dashboard. 

Three easy-to-grab dials control fan speed, direction and temperature. All are located below the stereo. Power lock and controls for all four power side windows are located on the driver's door arm rest.  Power outside mirror controls are on the lower left dashboard region. The transmission shifter is in between the front bucket seats. Directly behind are dual cup holders with a nice molded area to stow a cell phone. A small arm rest with flip cover is also between the seats.  The parking brake is foot operated. No cupholders are molded into the doors and map pockets in the front doors tend towards the small size.  Two large grab bars adorn the front doors.  In addition to looking good, they're functional , too.

The 60/40 split second row bench seatbacks fold down relatively flat onto the cushions once a circular tab adjacent to the headrest is pulled up.  It's intuitive and simple to use. With the passenger bucket seatback also folded down, items up to 8-feet, five-inches in length can be transported. Seating is firm, yet comfortable. Three adults can fit in the rear seat for short durations.  Dual beverage holders retract out along the floor from the rear of the front arm rest structure.

Front doors open nice and wide for easy entry and exit. Rear doors don't swing out quite extensively. Drivers have a good feel for the road ahead as the bucket seat is a bit higher up than what most compact sedans offer.  Side and rear views are a bit compromised for a SUV-type design which traditionally has better sight lines.

On the outside, Rogue's design may look familiar.  That's because many visual cues are lifted from its larger Murano mid-size crossover counterpart  including flared front fenders and a wide stance. Large cat's eye headlight housing stretches along the top fender sides and hood. The square fuel tank door is on the rear passenger side fender.

In the early part of this decade, Nissan was ahead of the styling curve during the 2002 revamp of the midsize Altima sedan and  Murano.  The off-road capable Xterra also stood out from a crowd from a styling standpoint.  While Rogue borrows heavily from Murano, it features cues of its own including a checkered front grille with a trapezoidal framed Nissan logo front and center.

Sixteen-inch wheels come standard in S models while 17-inch wheels are found on the SL trim. A temporary spare is stowed under the cargo floor accessible from the inside.  The rear hatch, hinged at the top, opens high enough so a 6-footer can clear the opening without hurting his or her noggin. Nice touch in a compact-sized vehicle.

The cargo area in our test model included an under-floor, shallow, sectioned off storage partitions. A portion of the floor, hinged towards the center pops open to reveal the compartments. 

As with many new compact-sized vehicles arriving at showrooms, Rogue comes very nicely equipped with an array of standard safety features including front air bags, side-mounted front bucket seat air bags, roof-mounted side curtain  air bags, energy-absorbing steering column, anti-theft alarm system, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, traction control, and vehicle dynamic control. Both trims also include air conditioning, cruise control (with steering-wheel button operation), single-feed compact disc player, rear window defogger, power windows, locks and outside mirrors.

A scant few compact crossovers (Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander) offer a V-6 engine in addition to a four cylinder.  The Rogue's four-cylinder engine, however, was more than adequate for this vehicle. With the CVT transmission, a smooth glide was part of the experience during city travel.  Excellent braking enhanced the car-like ride of the Rogue.  From a responsiveness standpoint and road connect, Rogue is a step up from the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, although both rivals have more cargo storage capacity behind the second rows.

Although Rogue is built in Japan, Nissan North America has two vehicle assembly plants in the United States, one in Smyrna, Tennessee outside Nashville and one in Canton, Mississippi near Jackson.  The Smyrna plant cranks out Altima and Maxima sedans, Xterra  and Pathfinder SUVs and  mid-size Frontier pickup (along with sister Suzuki Equator pickup).  The Canton plant churns out the Quest minivan, full-size Armada  SUV and sister Infiniti QX56, the full-size Titan pickup and Altima sedan. Nissan's U.S. headquarters is in Nashville.

Rogue's powertrain warranty is good for five years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes first).  The basic warranty covering most other moving parts is good for three years or 36,000 miles. While not the 100,000-mile powertrain warranty offered by Kia and Hyundai, it's on par with what most other automakers offer.

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.