The second-generation Nissan Rogue, redesigned for 2014, is a good-looking five-seat crossover with a stylish cabin. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and CVT transmission continue from the first generation.
Rogue’s engine makes the same 170 horsepower and mediocre pep it always has, while the CVT often puts the engine in its noisiest range. Meanwhile the handling is secure and stable, but lacks the spirit of the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, or Subaru Forester, the benchmark crossover rivals.
What makes the Rogue different is its available third-row seat, unusual because the Rogue is small for its class. The second row slides forward nine inches, in order to make room for the legs of two third-row passengers, but it’s still not much room. Even with low cushions, head room is squeezed. Small children might think it fun, anyone else will think it’s a joke.
A rearview camera is standard, unlike too many other cars, and for 2016, new options include rear cross-traffic alerts and forward-collision warnings with automatic braking. Rogue’s crash rating is four stars from NHTSA, while it’s a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS.
The Rogue shines at gas time, with an EPA rating of 28 miles per gallon Combined, either front- or all-wheel drive.
The 2016 Nissan Rogue S ($23,290) comes with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive ($24,640). Standard equipment includes Bluetooth with audio streaming, curtain airbags, tire pressure monitor, and a rearview camera.
The Rogue SV ($24,470), also available with all-wheel drive ($26,090) adds alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, NissanConnect, which enables use of smartphone apps like Pandora, and satellite radio. The Rogue SL ($28,690), available with all-wheel drive ($30,040), gets Bose audio, navigation, a power tailgate, the surround-view camera, 18-inch wheels, heated front seats, and leather upholstery.
The conservative nose looks modern, bringing the Rogue upscale, at least compared to what it used to look like. Gone is the crazy grille, now with simple chrome bars and LED running lamps. Interesting character lines along the sides, borrowed from the wild Juke, push the car in an evocative direction, with correct proportions overall. Chamfered taillamps mimic competitors, namely the Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-5.
The cabin is handsomely finished, its materials high quality, with muted plastics and metallic trim. It’s elegant in an ordinary way, or maybe ordinary in an elegant way. The instrument panel is simple and well organized, with plain old round knobs for climate control and sound, and a center stack with LCD screen and balanced vents. No gimcrack. We like that.
Like the Nissan Altima, the front seats use dense foam that make them very comfortable, with a good driving position, although the steering wheel is raked a bit like a bus; still, we could be happy there for long hours. The heated front seats also use a Nissan Leaf trick, in that they warm up faster in places you feel it first. Manual adjustment on the driver seat is standard, power on the Rogue SV and SL.
The front power seat is manual in all models, however it folds almost flat, to increase cargo capacity and capability. This can be a big thing for outdoorsy types who carry kayaks or stand-up paddle boards.
The rear seats offer plenty of leg room, with that sliding track, assuming there’s no third-row seat or no one back there if there is. Plus, the rear seats recline. And again, for cargo, the rear seats move up and away behind the front seats. That creates a total of 70 cubic feet, with 32 cubic feet behind the second row, or a slim 9.4 cubic feet behind the third row, if there is one. Given the numbers, we would skip the third row, unless it’s a must-have for a small family.
Forward visibility is good, but the rear pillars intrude a bit into rearward vision. One option we like is the surround-view camera that pieces together a 360-degree view of obstacles from four cameras, and makes parking anywhere easier. It’s packaged with other functions smartphone connectivity.
The only cabin downer is engine noise, which the CVT doesn’t help.
With 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, the Rogue doesn’t offer blazing acceleration, taking eight seconds to reach 60 mph from a standing start. The CVT is programmed to simulate the feel of an automatic transmission, and it’s quick and smooth, but it lacks paddles for the driver to make those simulated shifts himself or herself, so they happen when the program wants them to happen. There’s a noisy pause at the top end of the powerband. Compared to the turbocharged four-cylinder engines and automatic transmissions in the Santa Fe and Escape, it’s pretty weak.
The Rogue has an Eco mode that reduces revs and slows throttle response, making it even weaker.
The secure handling is partly due to the electric power steering that doesn’t wander over grooves. The steering is hefty, not fast, fast but it responds smoothly to changes in steering. The ride on independent suspension is quite comfortable, using electronic assistance called Active Ride Control, which might dampen the throttle to smooth the ride over bumps, instead of surging over them; or Active Trace Control might apply the inside front brake in a corner to draw the Rogue through. In the end though, it works but it still feels bland.
The Nissan Rogue looks nice on the outside and the cabin is neat and comfortable, but its driving dynamics don’t match its style. Its only real advantage is the optional and squeezed third-row seat.
Sam Moses contributed to this report, with driving impressions by The Car Connection staff.