Test Drive: Nissan Rogue

With more than 30 small or compact SUV/crossovers available now, the category is one of the most active on the market.? That makes for competition and that means the consumer benefits from the resulting innovations and increasing value.

A good example of a strong competitor in the category is the 2011 Nissan Rogue. ?Still in its first generation, after debuting in 2007, the Rogue gets refreshed for 2011with exterior upgrades plus added technology and more features.

Visually, you?ll have to know the original body style quite well to be able to pick out the changes.? But, take a close look at the front fascia and grill and you?ll notice more dimension on the new model, which has a more sculptured look around the low-mounted fog lights, a tasteful application of chrome on the grille plus other minor changes that add to a more mature overall appearance.

For a shopper wanting a sportier look, the Rogue S Krom? Edition returns.? It has a bar grille replacing the egg-crate design of other models and a wire mesh treatment on the lower fascia.? It also has a cool looking exhaust system with center mounted dual exhaust and an integrated high spoiler in addition to several other cosmetic enhancements. ?The Krom package gives the Rogue a very custom look.

Available in four models, S, SV, S Krom? and SV with SL Package, Rogue offers shoppers everything from a well-equipped value model, the S, up to the SV with SL package that competes with more premium crossover.? Pricing ranges from $22,020, including the destination charge, for the front-wheel drive S up to $28,340 for an all-wheel drive SV with SL package.? With all the available options it tops out at just over $30,000. (All-wheel drive is $1,250 extra on all models.)

The S gets a good basic list of equipment with features like air conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and locks.? The SL package gets the premium treatment adding items like moonroof, Xenon headlights, heated (front) leather seating (a must for me) and Bose audio.

Of special interest is the new Nissan Navigation System (Secure Digital Card-based) with 5-inch color touch screen display and XM real-time traffic information.? Of course, you have to subscribe to the XM service for the traffic information, but XM is another one of those ?must have? features in my book. ?The only downside is it?s part of the radio, which means it?s mounted far down on the center stack between the small screen so it requires the driver to look away from the road to much.

Inside, the instruments are freshened for 2011 with a cleaner, more upscale look. All models also get a trip computer which help keep track of things like miles per gallon and distance to empty.

All Rogue models get the same basic drivetrain with the 170-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and Nissan?s Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission).? Nissan was one of the first companies to offer a fuel-efficient CVT, and in my estimation, it?s one of the best I?ve tested.? It has a positive feel and doesn?t sound like it has a clutch slipping when you accelerate.

Using the Rogue for day-to-day driving is a very pleasant experience.? It?s a nice size for negotiating for parking places in crowded mall lots plus it has plenty of pep for the race to an open space.? The tight 37-foot turning radius helps make quick and easy U-turns, too.

Access is easy, with no climbing up or dropping down when getting out. The seating is comfortable for four, but a third person in the rear seat would be uncomfortable.? With the rear seat back in place there about 29 cubic feet of cargo space.? When both sides of the 60/40 split seat backs are folded down, there?s about 58 feet of space.? That?s plenty of room for picking up plants, bags of potting soil and even a couple of small trees.

The Rogue isn?t the fastest small SUV on the road, but it does pretty good making a run from 0 to 60 mph in about eight seconds.? Fuel economy is good too — the EPA rates it at 22 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.? I actually averaged 27.1 mpg after a week of mixed driving without my husband getting behind the wheel and messing up my numbers.

Nissan outfits all the Rogue models with important safety equipment like stability control, ABS brakes, traction control, the electronic brake assists and they even include four-wheel vented disc brakes.? That?s a feature we seldom even see on most sporty cars.

On the highway the Rogue has a nimble feeling and relatively smooth ride.? Confronted with a winding mountain road it stays flat, the steering is precise and I felt confident.? I especially liked that it now has the built-in navigation system, that?s become one of my best friends.

On the negative side, it doesn?t have a backup camera, yet.? That will be coming by government mandate by 2014 or maybe sooner.? Also, it doesn?t have the blind spot warning system that is offered in many of the pricier vehicles.? I know it adds more to the price of a vehicle, but I?d like to lobby for making that standard equipment on all cars.

If you are shopping for a smaller SUV/crossover, be sure to try this one; I think you?ll like it.

Barbara Schaffer


More from Our Auto Expert