2009 Nissan Rogue Expert Review:Autoblog
click above image to view high-res gallery of the 2008 Nissan Rogue S
Crossovers. Every automaker either has one or has one in the works. Nissan has perhaps the first CUV in the Murano, and now it's joined by the Sentra-based Rogue. Let's start with that name. We're pretty sure Nissan intended to invoke thoughts of rebelliousness and individuality. But the word can also be used to indicate someone who is a cheat, a swindler, disobedient and savage. Nissan's Rogue is none of these, which is neither bad nor good. The Rogue is pretty much a tall Sentra wagon, and we think perhaps Sentra Wagon might have been a much more honest name.
On the outside, there's little to get excited about. Our base model Rogue's monochrome exterior could have benefited greatly from some chrome door guards, handles or mirrors – just something shiny to break up that expanse of Venom Red. The Rogue's face gets a little shiny nose sandwiched between two egg-crate Venom-red nostrils that lead down to, again, a Venom Red air dam. Those two creases seem lost in the hood, and do little to give the car any visual excitement. Out back Nissan continued the monochrome theme and we're surprised they didn't find a way to fit a body-color exhaust tip. We've seen photos of a chrome roof-rack equipped Rogue that proves brightwork can be a good thing. Nissan, meet chrome. It can be your friend.
Continue reading about our first encounter with Nissan's new Rogue after the jump.
Live Photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.
Inside, the Rogue's interior isn't bad, actually. Fit, finish and quality aren't bad for the price point and will win over some low-end CUV shoppers. Cup holders and storage bins are lined with removable rubber, the seat fabric is nice to the touch and the seats themselves are comfortable for the 30 minutes we drove it. A generously-sized glove box opens wide enough to hold even a medium-sized purse, but unfortunately doesn't lock. Valuables can also be hidden behind the car's rear seats beneath the carpeted cargo mat. Still no lock, but a bit less obvious.
Brushed-metal-look accents make the otherwise all-black interior less dreary and feel more upscale. Behind the front passenger seat is a pocket for maps and papers, as well as a useful bag hook. It's not so useful, though, with someone in the back right seat. With the front seats comfortably adjusted, rear legroom is good, with an inch or so to spare between knees and seats and space below for feet to slide.
The Rogue's rear seats fold flat as you would expect, opening up lots of cargo-carrying possibilities. The back wheel wells don't intrude nearly as much as some crossovers we've seen, which makes for very usable space.
If the 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers don't tip you off to the Rogue's econo-car roots, the performance will. Mating a 2.5-liter, 170-HP four-cylinder to a CVT does nothing to make the Rogue more likable. Acceleration is gradual, and while some probably like how a CVT eliminates gear changes, we're pretty sure most Autobloggers prefer the feel of first to second to third. As a reward for putting up with a CVT, drivers should see greatly improved fuel economy. But we wouldn't call the Rogue's 22 city, 27 highway greatly improved. It's good, sure, but the Sentra with the same engine and transmission gets 24/30. We chalked up the difference to weight, but comparing the 2.5-liter Rogue to the 2.5-liter Sentra SE-R comes up with the Rogue weighing only 195 lbs. more.
On the road the CUV isn't sporty at all, with a soft ride contributing to a bit of lean in the turns and understeer if pushed harder. Sure, it's a crossover and not a sportscar, but we still expect better handling in our cars. On the plus side, wind and road noise are controlled rather well.
At just over $20,000, our base model Rogue S had air conditioning, power windows and doors, cruise control with steering wheel controls, keyless entry and a CD player. The only options were splash guards and floor mats.
With some exterior sprucing up, a tighter suspension and either a real transmission or real improvement in fuel economy, the Rogue will be a contender, but will still find it hard living up to such a provocative name.
Nissan provided the vehicle and SEAMO the location for testing. Autoblog does not accept travel or lodging from automakers when attending media events.
Live Photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Carlike ride and handling in a compact SUV.
The Nissan Rogue is a compact SUV. Based on a car platform, it's considered a crossover vehicle, like the Honda CR-V. The Rogue seats five and comes with a four-cylinder engine, as with the CR-V. No V6 is available, nor is there a third row for seven-passenger seating.
The Rogue is meant as a daily commuter, not an off-road adventure vehicle. Its all-wheel-drive system is intended for snow and rain, not rocks and mud. A so-called crossover, it's based on an economy-car platform. The towing capacity is only 1500 pounds. The four-cylinder engine works well with the continuously variable transmission to provide decent pickup and frugal fuel economy.
Behind the wheel, the Rogue offers carlike ride and handling. We think it's one of the better handling small SUVs, but it's not sporty. The ride allows for a lot of road feel and can become harsh on rough and irregular surfaces. Road imperfections and engine sounds intrude into the cabin.
The cabin is pleasant, with materials that would look good in higher-priced vehicles. The controls are easy to use and understand, but the Rogue lacks creature comforts and gadgets filtering down to other low-priced vehicles. There is no navigation system, for instance.
An SUV should provide cargo utility, and the Rogue is up to the task. The rear seats fold flat and, on the Rogue SL, there is an available folding front passenger seat to permit longer items to be loaded. In back, Nissan offers a handy cargo organizer that can keep groceries from sliding around and provide storage for muddy clothes.
With prices starting around $20,000, the Rogue is a worthy competitor vs. the Honda CR-V. Its carlike road manners, cargo utility and prudent fuel economy make it appealing. It's aimed at young families or active singles.
Introduced as a 2008 model, changes to the 2009 Rogue are minimal. There are auto speed-sensing door locks. Standard equipment on the Rogue SL has been upgraded and a Leather Package is available. Bluetooth and Nissan Intelligent Key have been added to the front-drive Premium Package.
The Nissan Rogue is offered in two trim levels, S and SL. Each offers front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. All Rogue models have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower mated to a continuously variable transmission. When the SL Premium Package is ordered, the transmission has shift paddles to select among six predetermined gear ratios. The all-wheel-drive system is meant for on-road use, and it does not include low-range gearing.
Rogue S ($20,220) and comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, four-way manually adjustable front seats, cruise control, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD stereo with four speakers and auxiliary input jack, 60/40 split-folding rear bench seat and 215/70R16 all-season tires on steel wheels. Rogue S is available with all-wheel drive ($21,420). Splash guards ($125) are the only option. Dealer-installed accessories include floor mats, a towing package, and a rear spoiler.
Rogue SL ($21,810) with front-drive or all-wheel drive ($23,010) include six-way manually adjustable driver's seat, roof rails and 225/60R17 tires on aluminum wheels.
The optional SL Leather Package ($1,950) includes leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats, six-way power driver's seat with power lumbar, driver's one-touch power window, HomeLink, heated outside mirrors and auto-dimming inside mirror. The Premium Package ($1,930) includes Bose premium audio with seven speakers and six-CD changer, XM Satellite Radio, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, speed-sensitive volume control, paddle shifters, foldable rear cargo organizer, rear tonneau cover, fog lights, and pre-wiring for a tow hitch; on all-wheel-drive models Premium ($2,230) also includes Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone link, xenon headlights, and Nissan Intelligent Key keyless ignition.
Safety features include dual front airbags, torso-protecting front side airbags, head-protecting side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors, front seat active head restraints, LATCH-style child seat anchors, tire-pressure monitor, ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and Vehicle Dynamics Control electronic stability control with traction control.
The Nissan Rogue appears to be aimed squarely at the Honda CR-V. The styling is swoopy, with rounded lines and a wedge shape from front to rear. Flared rear shoulders and an upswept window line give the Rogue a sporty feel.
Ornamentation is minimal. A black and chrome Nissan badge up front is flanked by a body-color grille. Only that badge and the headlights lend any contrast to the front end. There is even less character to the sides, which have no ornamentation at all. The mirrors are black on the Rogue S and body color on the Rogue SL. The 17-inch aluminum wheels on the SL help, but the S has plain steel wheels with wheel covers.
We think the Rogue looks best from the rear, where the dark rear glass, eye-shaped taillights, rounded panels and license plate recess give it some definition. Unfortunately, the rear liftgate lacks a separate opening glass.
Among compact SUVs, the Rogue has a sleeker, car-based crossover look, like the CR-V, as opposed to the upright mini-SUVs like the Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty.
The Rogue is the longest vehicle in the class, though it doesn't look it. At 182.9 inches overall, it is even longer than the seven-passenger Toyota RAV4 and the seemingly large Jeep Liberty.
At first glance, the interior of the Nissan Rogue seems nice if somewhat plain. Closer inspection reveals quality materials impressive for the price. The dash, for instance, is molded in a soft-touch material that seems as if it might be right at home in an Infiniti. The door tops also have a nice soft-touch material. The remainder of the materials is price-appropriate plastic that fits together well.
The instrument panel features only two gauges, the tachometer and speedometer. There is also a round graphic readout that displays the fuel level and water temperature and, on Rogues so equipped, trip computer information.
The center stack features three easily used round climate-control knobs and Nissan's unique radio layout. It has substantially-sized buttons, but the presets are grouped in A, B and C folders, instead of AM and FM sets. It takes some getting used to but, with 18 total presets, most drivers will be able to program all of their favorite stations. An auxiliary input jack is provided for MP3 player connectivity.
Storage for small items up front is adequate. The center console has two integral cupholders and a small tray that will work for holding little odds and ends. If that's not enough, the console bin is very deep and is available with a removable tray to give it two levels of storage.
The driver's seat is comfortable and offers a good driving position, even though there aren't many seat adjustments. The tilt steering wheel helps, and there is enough head and leg room for all but the tallest drivers. There is good visibility to the front and the side mirrors are large, but over-the shoulder visibility is compromised by a smallish rear window and rear side windows that are pinched at the rear. The ride height makes getting into and out of the Rogue very easy.
The second row is usefully roomy, with head and leg room that can accommodate adults, even with the front seats moved far back. Three adults in the rear will be cramped, but they should be able to deal with short trips. Toe space under the front seats is plentiful.
Cargo space is good but not at the top of the class. The second-row seats are split 60/40, and they fold flat in an easy one-step motion to open up to the maximum 57.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
The SL model includes a folding front passenger seat, which folds almost flat to allow loading of longer items. The Premium Package offers a rear cargo organizer, with a recessed floor and removable nets to act as partitions, that helps prevent groceries from rolling around in the back.
While the low floor makes loading items easy, separate opening rear glass would make the cargo area even easier to access.
The Nissan Rogue is based on an economy car platform and those roots show through in more ways than one. While it is among the better handling compact SUVs, it's not sporty. It drives more like a car than an SUV, but it has more body lean in turns than most cars. The electric-assist steering requires only a light effort, but it feels natural and direct with good road feel. In fact, the Rogue transmits more road feel to the driver through the steering wheel than most compact SUVs.
The ride is generally comfortable, but it can become busy on bumpy pavement and sharp ruts can give passengers a jolt. Perhaps the Rogue's biggest drawback is interior noise. The noises from rough pavement, bumps and potholes, and the engine are somewhat as we'd expect in an economy car. The Rogue seems like it could use more body insulation, though we realize that would add weight.
Like the CR-V, the Rogue offers only a four-cylinder engine; it makes 170 horsepower and is one of the better four-cylinder powerplants available today. It has the low-end punch to provide good pickup from a stop. Midrange power is adequate, but the Rogue needs to get going a bit for passing maneuvers.
The continuously variable transmission works well with the engine, quickly switching to an appropriate ratio for the driving conditions. The only way to tell that it's not a standard automatic is to floor the accelerator and keep it there. The transmission reacts by picking the ratio to put the engine in its optimum rev range and keeping it there. With the available Premium Package, the CVT has steering wheel shift paddles and six preset ratios. The shift paddles allow for a sportier driving experience by giving the driver more control.
The Rogue goes fairly easy on gas. With front-wheel drive, it is EPA-rated at 22/27 mpg City/Highway; AWD models are slightly lower at 21/26 mpg.
While the powertrain works well, it's best suited for around-town duty. The available six-cylinder models from Toyota and Saturn are considerably faster. The Rogue is not built for towing, with a maximum capacity of only 1500 pounds.
The Nissan Rogue matches the Honda CR-V for carlike road manners and fuel economy, though it's not as quiet on the inside and doesn't ride as smoothly. The Rogue is priced lower than the CR-V. It should be a good choice for drivers looking for a daily commuter with lots of cargo space. Drivers who tow boats and go off-road will want to consider more rugged vehicles such as the Nissan Xterra or Jeep Liberty.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Kirk Bell filed this report on the Nissan Rogue from Baltimore.
Nissan Rogue S ($20,220); AWD ($21,240); SL ($21,810); AWD ($23,010).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($2,230) includes Bose premium audio with seven speakers and six-disc CD changer, XM satellite radio, steering wheel mounted audio controls, speed-sensitive volume control, paddle shifters, foldable rear cargo organizer, rear tonneau cover, fog lights, Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link, xenon headlights, Nissan Intelligent Key keyless ignition, and pre-wiring for tow hitch.
Nissan Rogue SL AWD ($23,010).
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