When the Nissan Rogue was introduced in 2007 (for the 2008 model year), it was arguably the first of its kind, a compact crossover that abandoned all pretext of being a sport-utility vehicle. Other crossovers were on the market, but they all still had at least mostly squared-off profiles, unlike the Nissan Rogue, which had a more rounded aero-like design, much like the Nissan Murano it was joining. Although a compact crossover based on the compact Sentra, which was hardly a rebel, the Rogue was roguish in departing from the herd of boxy alternatives, even if its behavior was less than, well, roguish.
Well, that was then, and this is now. The Nissan Rogue is fundamentally unchanged from 2008, still on the same chassis and still with the same 170-horse four under the hood. A CVT (continuously-variable) is the only transmission available, and there’s no V6 option either. Leg room and head room is still good, and as one might expect from a vehicle based on a Sentra platform, even if just a tad wider, fitting three adults in the rear seat will define the word snug. Unlike some of its competitors, there’s no third-row seat, which is fairly realistic for a compact crossover (although a seat for an added two occasional pint-sized neighborhood soccer players does have its appeal).
The problem, however, is that there are new players on the field, including the Ford Escape, an early compact crossover-SUV of the mini-sport/ute genre, that has adopted the streamlined crossover look and then some. And the previous Escape’s Mazda-based platform was replaced by a beefed-up version of the Ford Focus architecture, which of course is also all-new. And with the optional 240-horse 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, the 2013 Ford Escape we recently tested could really scoot.
But we digress. This is a review of the 2013 Nissan Rogue SL AWD. Well, technically, it’s the Rogue SV AWD with the SL Package, and that’s a bundle of neat-to-have stuff that raised the bottom line by $3,900 but includes leather “appointments,” heated front seats and outside mirrors, automatic climate control, navigation with a five-inch touch-screen and SiriusXM NavTraffic, Bose premium audio, moonroof, auto headlamps, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror, Xenon headlamps with manual “Levelizer,” fog lights, and 18-inch wheels.
The SL Package also includes Nissan’s AroundView. More than just a backup camera, AroundView makes it look like the Rogue has its own Google Maps satellite, giving an all-around look as if from overhead. There’s no satellite, of course, but rather four minicams, one each at the front and rear, plus one under each outside rearview mirror. True, we lived without it for a long time, but then, so did much of mankind without indoor plumbing.
Seriously, AroundView is a boon to safety, particularly around miniature humans shorter than the window bottoms (and who may come up to the vehicle when the driver is otherwise distracted, as he or she may be when lots of kids are around), or for general maneuvering in tight places. The system doesn’t turn on only when backing but can be manually activated as well.
The screen, however, plugs into the dash like an aftermarket radio into a standard double-DIN space. That doesn’t change its utility. It just looks a little utilitarian. One good thing, however, is that the system has a day/night hard button that allows easy switching from one mode to another, depending on what’s best at the moment. Don’t ever stop doing that, Nissan.
The front seats are well bolstered and the rear seats have generous knee room and toe room under the front seats, but the seat bottoms are short and short, literally, on thigh support.
The seatback folds for extra cargo space, of course, but not completely flat, making it harder to slide large items in. There’s an underfloor hidey-hole under the cargo floor, however, that’s about the right size for an assault rifle.
The engine provides adequate power but is otherwise unremarkable. The CVT transmission, however, does what all CVTs do, change engine revs quickly in response to accelerator pressure. With less than an overabundance of power, it’s almost possible to play tune by changing engine pitch. Of course, with a conventional automatic, the transmission would be jumping from gear to gear. It’s all what one is used to.