2011 Nissan Rogue Review

2011 Nissan Rogue - Going Rogue takes on new connotation.


In political theatre, 'Going Rogue' implies deviating from what the majority defines as the accepted norm.   In the automotive arena, Going Rogue takes on a slightly different connotation.

Despite the somewhat polarizing connotation, the five-door Nissan Rogue is actually politely pedestrian; not at all deviant.  This peppy people pleaser does nice job of appealing to a wide variety of demographics in the highly popular compact crossover segment.

Rogue, now in its fourth year, is a relative new comer to the cute ute category.  Although late to the party, Nissan stood back, observed what was successful, and came out swinging. A second-generation model (to be built in Smyrna, Tennessee) is expected by 2013. Rogue is intended for on-road travel, its corporate counterpart, the compact Xterra, handles off-road adventures.

Exterior wise, Rogue bears a striking resemblance to its slightly larger mid-size counterpart, the Nissan Murano. Pulling next to a black Murano at the Wheaton Crossing shopping center, the resemblance was more than subtle.  Similarities are by design, not mistake. Nissan chose to keep family resemblance strong since the flashy Murano has matured nicely.  

Nissan simplifies trim selections in 2011 and welcomes a few new nuances, including in-dash navigation and rear-view monitor. An entry S trim is joined by up level SV.  Both offer front or all-wheel-drive. Returning from 2010 is the sporty, stand-out-visually-from-the-crowd Rogue Krom edition with sparking chrome grill and wheels. If a Krom Rogue sounds appetizing, act soon since the limited-time trim is scheduled for retirement after 2011.

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) technology is one of Nissan's strong suit.  The Japanese automaker has tinkered with this silky-smooth shifting system longer than just about any other mainstream automaker. All Rogues feature CVT; no manual is offered.  Nissan's CVT effortlessly cycles through an infinite range of forward gear ratios for smooth riding sensation with few 'clicking' sensations, sometimes felt with conventional automatic transmissions.

Mated with the CVT is the sole available powertrain: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivering 170 horsepower, more than enough for Chicagoland's relatively flat topography. Some rivals including the long-running Toyota RAV-4 and Mitsubishi Outlander offer six bangers, but for most suburbanites, the Rogue's four is all that's needed.  Besides, segment sales leader Honda CR-V gets by with only a four-cylinder (generating the exact same, impressive 170 horsepower output).   By comparison, Outlander's four-cylinder chugs out 148 horses. No gas-electric Rogue hybrid is currently available.

Our all-wheel-drive tester fell short of the desirable 30 miles per gallon plateau, registering 22 miles per gallon city and 26 mpg highway. Front-wheel drive editions average two miles better highway. The fuel tank holds 15.9 gallons of unleaded, regular fuel. Other, newly arriving crossovers and wagons based on compact platforms have made it a mandate to pump up fuel economy.  For example, the recently revamped five-door Focus wagon delivers an estimated 26 mpg city and 36 mpg highway.

 Our SV, all-wheel-drive tester started at $24,470.  With options including $185 floor mats and $1,650 premium package (color navigation touch screen, moonroof, automatic on/off headlamps) the bottom line ended at $27,105 including $800 destination charge.  The lowest-priced front-drive S edition checks in at $20,810. By contrast, the lowest-priced front-drive Honda CR-V checks in at $21,895. To help ease the transaction process, only two option packages are offered:  the aforementioned Premium and SL, which includes leather seats, heated front seats, in-dash navigation system, moonroof and seven-speaker stereo. Both option packages are exclusive to SV trims.

Inside, Rogue is designed for five passengers, though two adults fit most comfortably in back.  Again, some smaller-sized crossovers try to shoe-horn in a third row, but at best it's for show or the pre-teen audience. Supportive cloth front bucket seats are not overly firm, yet pleasant.  Rear seatbacks fold down with a 60/40 split once a backrest knob gets yanked upward.  No fold-down armrest, but two cup holders retract out near the floor from the front storage bin housing. Decent head and leg room are experienced in back. Our SV tester included a front passenger seat back that folds forward flat for additional cargo availability. A class generous 28.9 cubic feet of cargo space is available with the back row prone. A temporary spare stows under the cargo floor.

The standard rear wiper operates from a right-hand-side steering column stalk, same location as the front blades. The column manually adjusts up and down, but no telescoping feature is available. The nicely-sized glove box door opens down flat, revealing a cavernous opening and pocket area.  Rather than an ignition cylinder and key, our test SV edition purred to life with a twist of a steering column knob.

Instruments are ergonomically placed and this user-friendly interior is easy to figure at a glance. Ventilation is monitored by three, easy to grab dials below the diminutive, optional, five-inch navigation screen. Soft-touch materials are found on the dash and front doors.  Back doors get shortchanged a bit with harder, plastic materials. The mostly black dashboard includes some brushed aluminum accents.  The rather-thin three-spoke steering wheel includes cruise controls on the face.  The updated-for-2011 instrument panel includes two large analog gauges with a digital window in between.  The small fuel gauge is built into the right side odometer gauge. The foot-operated parking brake opens up the center for in-line dual cup holders with a narrow lip to the left holding cell phones and other small items.  A USB port is found inside the deep, arm-rest storage bin as is a 120-volt power outlet. A second, more visible outlet is located on the dash.

Our tester's black amethyst coloring displayed a light hue of redness with the sun beating down.  When the red ball in the sky ducked behind the cumulous clouds, a more distinctive black took over.

Compact crossovers have been inching larger in size since their beginnings almost two-decades ago, but Rogue chose to start off with bolder dimensions from the start.  Static, cargo side windows adopt an arrowhead shape, increasing the dynamic of the high belt line, but amplifying blind-spot activity. The medium-sized front grille includes a crosshair-type design with circular Nissan logo centered, flanked by large, tri-angular shaped housing incorporating halogen type bulbs. Squarish side-view mirrors are sans secondary blinkers. The hatch, hinged at the top, opens up manually from the bottom with enough head clearance for those six-feet tall.  Rear doors swing out about as wide as any in this compact class for reasonable leg ingress and egress. Sixteen-inch steel wheels are standard in S varieties while 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels adorn SV.

For a small vehicle, Rogue comes loaded with just about all expected safety features including:  dual stage front air bags, front-seat side mounted air bags, roof-mounted side air bags, crumple zones, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and traction control. Nissan's powertrain warranty is good for five years or 60,000 miles.

While Rogue doesn't rate as the lowest-priced compact crossover or the most fuel stingy, the peppy 170 horsepower engine coupled with CVT transmission delivers sporty acceleration and decent passing performance for this popular segment. The Murano family resemblance doesn't hurt, either.

2011 Nissan Rogue

Price as tested:  $27,105

Engine:  2.5-liter four-cylinder

Horsepower:  170

City/Highway fuel estimates:  22 city/26 highway

Length:   183.3 inches

Wheelbase:   105.9 inches

Curb weight:   3,479 pounds

Assembly:  Kyushu, Japan

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.