If the spirits of Christmas are truly kind, this will be the last review I write in 2011. Sitting here fireside, sipping scotc… err… carrot juice, I'm marveling at the year it's been for memorable test drives: the new Porsche 911
, the Mercedes-Benz C63 Coupe
and that Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
, to name but a few.
That said, I have a soft spot for reviews of machines like this Nissan Rogue. Why? Because for all their tire-walloping power and high-techery, I can't afford those ragged edge automobiles listed above. The Nissan on the other hand, starting at $23,778, is a vehicle that I could actually buy for my family. It's a compact SUV I can see arriving in our driveway, which may be why I'm more critical of it and its ilk then any super-sonic, six-figure sports machine.Performance
There are three models of Rogue on offer: S, SV and SL. All are powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine. On the market now about five years, the Nissan was one of the first compact SUVs/crossovers to offer only four-cylinder motivation with no V6 option. Maximizing fuel economy is the goal here.
This is the same engine Nissan uses in the high-spec Sentra SE-R and the base Altima sedans. It's a proven, smooth runner, good for 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque.
Make no mistake, despite its bad-arse name, the Rogue is an appliance for getting you and the family places in comfort while burning the least amount of fuel. (More like Nissan Regular, amiright!) I won't chastise the crossover for that and in no way is it a sloppy mess out there on the street.
Its gearless Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) make the engine drone loudly when you mash the gas, but the payback is stellar fuel economy of 9.0 L/100 km city, 7.0 highway and 644 km per tank. The fully independent suspension too is a welcome modern design, but tuned for comfort, not attacking on-ramps.
There is a new sport mode on the 2012 Rogue, which spices up the response from the engine and transmission to a degree.
Kudos to Nissan for making all-wheel drive available on all models, not just the priciest, top-shelf ones as so many other automakers do. The price of a base S model jumps to $26,578 when it's fitted with AWD.Ergonomics/Comfort/Quality
As mentioned, this generation of Rogue's been on sale about half a decade now, so one thing we noticed straight away was the stellar build quality. There are no squeaks or rattles and all the parts and pieces inside and out have a quality look and finish. Many other automakers should be taking lessons on how Nissan builds this little SUV to such a high caliber.
The driver faces a very simple dashboard with easy-to-sort controls and good sightlines (save for that smallish rear window…). Our only issue is the placement of the radio and climate controls way down at the bottom on the centre console can sometimes your eyes well off the road.
Really there's nothing new or innovative in here. Most of the parts and switchgear are proven bits from other Nissan products. Again, I won't chastise the SUV for this, though.
Taking a page from the Korean's playbook, Nissan outfits even the base S model with lots of equipment: a rear sonar parking system (probably because of that smallish rear window…), six airbags, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, iPod connectivity and remote keyless entry.
Note that while the Rogue's rear seats are roomy enough for adult riders, they don't recline or slide fore and aft like some rivals. They will split-fold 60/40, though and the front passenger seat topples too, meaning you can get an eight-foot long object inside with the rear hatch closed. (Side note: the Nissan's glovebox is unusually cavernous).
Based on the Sentra's chassis, the Rogue keeps its dimensions in-check, meaning it's a great compact size for tackling city driving, but a little down on cargo room versus some larger, more squared-off rivals. We fit a stroller in, but check the trunk for your needs.
A couple standout features we enjoyed: the drive computer between the main gauges, which (like a premium car) gives info like distance until empty, average fuel consumption and the outside temperature. Nissan says Rogue is the first non-luxury vehicle to offer the option of an Around View Monitor, cameras in the front, rear and sides of the sport ute that give a bird's eye view on the main screen to help with parking.
Check all the boxes on a Rogue and it tops out near $35,000 with features like leather seats, AWD, navigation, said Around View Monitor, automatic climate control, 18-inch wheels and Bose stereo.Conclusion
The only critical drawback for the Rogue is no fault of its own. There's just so much great competition out there for a family like mine to consider: the Hyundai Tucson, the new Honda CR-V, and Kia Sportage… heck even Nissan's own stellar, turbocharged Juke or the Quest minivan.
For me, the Rogue's pricing, build quality and family-friendly engineering (e.g. Nissan publishes a guide for what child seats fit the rear seats best) are what puts it on my shopping list. Your priorities will determine whether you need to test drive one too, but I'd recommend it.