The Nissan Rogue Is a Modern Take on the Compact Crossover [Review]

Nissan Rogue
Collin Woodard/The Cheat Sheet

When Nissan first introduced the Rogue, it was aimed squarely at other compact crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. The compact CUV segment is ultra-competitive, but sales are so high, failing to field a competitive entry means leaving lots of money on the table. The Nissan Rogue was comfortable and even a little bit sporty, selling well and giving buyers a solid alternative to the CR-V or Rav4.

For 2014, though, Nissan gave the Rogue a complete redesign. It added more rear seat room, more trunk space, better fuel economy, and additional features that promised to build on what made the Rogue great in the first place. Clearly Nissan did something right because the Rogue is currently the second best-selling vehicle in the company’s lineup, and so far in 2015, it’s the 14th best-selling vehicle in the country.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend 10 days driving a Nissan Rogue SV, which meant I got to see what it’s like to live with one for more than a quick test drive. So how well did it do? Is it really a viable alternative to the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4?

Nissan Rogue
Collin Woodard/The Cheat Sheet

The first thing you need to know about the new Nissan Rogue is that once you buy one, you will see them everywhere. As someone who’s more interested in motorcycles and used sports sedans, I never pay much attention to the CUVs on the road, and I can’t say I had ever noticed a new Rogue on the road. The day the nice man dropped the keys in my hand, however, I realized I was driving a much more popular vehicle than I had originally anticipated. The Nissan Rogue is seriously everywhere.

If you’re going to see a car all over the place, it’s nice for that car to be attractive to look at, and in that regard, the new Rogue is definitely an improvement. There was nothing wrong with the old Rogue’s looks, but the new version is much more muscular and distinctive. It’s not quite as attractive as the new Murano, but the Rogue also costs significantly less money. The Rogue SV I drove came in right around $28,000, which really isn’t all that much when you consider what you get for your money.

Most of what you get with the Rogue can only be experienced by driving it, though. Living in a city with an extensive public transportation system, the majority of my weekly driving is reserved for short trips to places too inconvenient to walk to or reach by train. The weekend I had the Rogue, however, my brother and his girlfriend came to visit, which meant whatever car I was driving was going to need to be able to handle all the New England tourism I could pack into a weekend.

I’m happy to report that, in that regard, the Rogue did admirably. Moving furniture would have been a more challenging test of the Rogue’s hauling ability, but the cargo area accommodated their luggage without a problem. Perhaps more impressively, the back seat accommodated my brother and his girlfriend with no complaints from them. I’m not sure how comfortable they would have been with a third person sitting there with them, but for four passengers, the Rogue was perfectly comfortable whether we were on city roads or out on the highway.

Nissan Rogue
Source: Nissan

Saturday morning, my brother, his girlfriend, my girlfriend, and I piled into the Rogue and headed down to Cape Cod for the day. Sadly, we couldn’t stay for the weekend, but it did give me an excuse to spend some time on the beach and figure out how comfortable the Rogue would be after driving it for most of the day. Nissan usually does a great job with its seats, and it was no exception here. The front seat was perfectly comfortable the whole day, and the back seat was comfortable enough to lull my brother to sleep on our way home.

The seats weren’t the only great part of the interior, though. All the materials felt high quality and purposefully chosen. It’s always nice when a vehicle gives you the feeling it was built with more than a price point in mind, and that’s the feeling you get in the Rogue. The SV trim level doesn’t come with leather seats, but the fabric is so nice, I doubt you’ll miss it. On a summer day, you’ll probably be even happier that you don’t have leather seats. Cloth seats aside, though, the rest of the cabin feels as luxurious as anything in the segment.

Even though it’s the mid-level trim, you get quite a number of luxury features on the Rogue SV as well. My tester had all-wheel drive, 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, a power liftgate, keyless entry, a push-button starter, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, navigation, a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a rear-view camera, an overhead parking camera, lane departure warning, parking sensors, and rear cross-traffic detection. For a car that stickers for less than $30,000, that’s a lot of features.

While the touch screen worked well enough and wasn’t complicated to learn, the voice control proved to be the most frustrating feature in the Rogue. It didn’t work properly once, and after a number of failed attempts to get directions, I ended up resorting to using my iPhone instead. If you’re using the navigation system, manually entering locations with the touch screen is the much faster and effective option.

Driving around the city, the Rogue has definitely lost some of the previous generation’s sportiness, but that doesn’t mean it’s ungainly or hard to drive. It’s the kind of car you can hop into and drive without really thinking about it. It’s definitely large and spacious, but from the driver’s seat, it really doesn’t feel all that big. Even on Boston’s narrow streets, I never worried about its size at all.

Nissan Rogue
Collin Woodard/The Cheat Sheet

One major help was the “overhead” camera that came as an option the Rogue. Plenty of drivers park every day without seeing a top-down view of their cars while they do so, but just because it’s not necessary doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly useful. In 10 years, don’t be surprised if it’s a standard feature on even the most inexpensive of subcompact cars. People who are unfamiliar with the magic that is an overhead camera may be uncomfortable trusting it at first, but with time, they’ll realize how convenient it is to have.

Had I been more concerned about fuel economy, I probably would have enjoyed the Rogue’s Eco mode, especially around town. Unsurprisingly, driving in Eco mode is the best way to get the most miles per gallon, but the much better throttle response of Sport mode meant it was my choice of driving modes most of the time. Even in Sport mode, it’s not exactly sporty, but the CVT works to make the most of the engine’s 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. You won’t be doing any four-wheel burnouts in the Rogue, but especially in Sport mode, it’s quick enough for daily driving.

Even in Sport mode and with lots of city driving to balance out our Cape Cod trip, I still managed around 26 miles per gallon. That’s not quite as good as its 28 mile per gallon combined rating, but considering the number of passengers and luggage I carried, it was still pretty good. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more conservative drivers easily hit that number.

Against the rest of the Nissan Rogue’s all-wheel drive competition, those numbers are pretty respectable as well. The Honda CR-V may edge it out, and the Toyota RAV4 may come in slightly behind, but for the most part, they’re all pretty evenly matched. Even the Mazda CX-5 is right there in the mix.

After the Rogue left and my driveway was empty again, I was left with the question of who should buy it. What person is the right person to buy the Nissan Rogue. Buyers with more money will probably go for the Murano and its added dose of luxury, while families who already kids will probably see the Pathfinder as more appealing. With an optional third row seat, though, the Rogue certainly opens itself up to the possibility of being a family vehicle.

Driving it for 10 days, I realized that it fit surprisingly well into my lifestyle. I’d like to think I’m more of a 370Z guy, but when it came to doing the things I actually needed to do, the Rogue was, honestly, the better vehicle to be driving. My suspicion is that most young professionals and small families will feel the same way.

Will they choose it over the CR-V or RAV4? Not every time. People have different priorities when it comes to shopping for cars, and different models are sometimes going to fit an individual’s needs better than others. That said, the Nissan Rogue is comfortable, spacious, fuel efficient, offers some pretty cool technology, and the package as a whole represents good value for your money. If you’re in the market for a compact CUV, at least give the Rogue a look. I think you’ll be impressed with what you find.

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