If you’re in the market for a compact crossover – and seems like maybe 20 percent of buyers are these days – the task of finding just the right one is getting harder and takes more work; LOTS more work!
Once upon a time … say 15 years ago or so the market was pretty manageable. You had your Toyota RAV4 and your Honda CR-V, both around since the early ‘90s, with the Subaru Forrester, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Santa Fe thrown in for good measure. Ford and Mazda followed suit not long afterwards, introducing the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute cousins in time for the 2000 model year.
But in 2017, if you want to sample the full range of compact crossovers on the market, you’ll probably need to trudge off to at least a dozen different dealerships now. That means not only visiting the original six –Toyota, Honda, Ford, Mazda, Kia and Hyundai – but Subaru, Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Dodge, Jeep, VW and Nissan. And for those buyers in the upper income brackets, there are even compact-ish crossovers from Audi, Cadillac, Buick, Volvo, Land Rover, BMW and even Mercedes for crying out loud! So saying there’s heated competition in the compact crossover market is something of an understatement.
So let’s see how the freshened 2017 Nissan Rogue stacks up. But first, here’s a little history. The very first Nissan Rogue, morphed from the compact Sentra frame and mechanicals, didn’t arrive until the 2008 model year. It was first offered with seating for five, in simple S and SL trim levels. It came with a 170-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), with available all-wheel drive.
The list of luxury and convenience options available for 2008 was pretty extensive, and included all-disc antilock brakes, an antiskid system, traction control and both front and rear side curtain side airbags, in addition to the two in the dash. Leather seats (heated up front), a sunroof, and xenon headlights were optional. So were a wireless cell-phone link, keyless entry, and a remote engine start system.
For 2011 the Rogue undewent its first major restyle and a new SV was added. Fast forward six model years, and for 2017 the Rogue undergoes quite a transformation. Given the level of competition now, it’s clear that Nissan had no other choice.
This second-generation Rogue, unveiled as a 2014 model, included an available 3rd seat, allowing seating for seven (joining the Dodge Journey and Mitsubishi Outlander in that category), a power rear liftgate and a host of technology upgrades and features in an effort to keep pace with the growing level of competition. Other features included the NissanConnect system, featuring a 7-inch touch screen that serves as a portal for a navigation and traffic information system, a Bluetooth phone link, radio and sound system upgrades, plus various other mobile information “apps.”
Now in its fourth year, Nissan saw fit to tweak this second-generation Rogue further, giving it a more aggressive front-end appearance and added an available gas-electric hybrid version. The Rogue Hybrid combines an advanced 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC aluminum-alloy inline 4-cylinder engine and a compact lithium-ion battery with an innovative one-motor, two-clutch control. The system’s gasoline engine is rated at 141 horsepower and 144 lb-ft of torque, while the advanced 30 kW electric motor is rated at 40 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. The hybrid system has a net power output of 176 horsepower.
It also provides projected fuel economy of 33 mpg city, 35 mpg highway compared to 25 city, 32 highway for the gasoline engine which comes standard on the rest of the fleet.
Our test vehicle was the premium SL with AWD, which carried a base sticker of $32,210 (freight included). For the S and SL models, there are no major changes under the hood, as it still comes with Nissan’s corporate 2.5-liter, mated to its TorqueXtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission).
The two major options included on the test vehicle were the SL Premium Package and the Platinum Package. The Premium adds a power panoramic moon that extends nearly the entire length, LED headlamps and Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), which senses when you’re tailgating and too close to the vehicle in front and begins applying brake pressure. The Platinum provides more rubber, with 19-inch tires and wheels at all four corners, plus Intelligent Cruise Control and Lane Departure warning lights which signal you when cars are in your blind spots to the left and right. In addition, the FEB is upgraded to include a more aggressive stopping feature called Pedestrian Detection. Tally up the extras, and Nissan posts an asking price of $35,475.
The freshened exterior reinforces the wide-mouth, flat-bottomed “V” shaped grille design that’s become the family signature these days for nearly all Nissan models ( …the hot little Z and GT-R sports cars being the exceptions). We find the look to be bold and distinctive without shifting into the nasty or “overdone” category.
The crisper edges give the new Rogue a contemporary look which incorporates the requisite roof rails and even heated outside mirrors for folks in the upper Midwest, New England and other parts north of the Mason-Dixon who experience “real” winters.
The cabin of the 2017 Rogue is veeeeery comfortable and well appointed. The test version came with the optional (for $250 extra) Platinum Reserve Interior, which features lovely golden-tan leather seats with seat-back stitching. Leather accents are added to the center console, dash and door panels which help complete the look of luxury inside. And of course the seats are heated, too. At the price Nissan is charging, they might even be losing money on the deal. So by all means, add the upgraded leather to your option list. I suspect they’ll try and make up the difference by charging $225 for the floor mats and cargo area protector … which I’m sure you can find elsewhere for much less.
Nissan’s controls are among the easier units to sort out, with some duplicates situated on the steering wheel. Thankfully, climate controls are operated by familiar knobs and buttons, as are radio controls for volume and station or pre-select scanning. Even so, I wouldn’t pass up a one-hour session with the owner’s manual to ensure you’re all up to speed on its operation. Our unit came with the Sirius XM radio, which makes road trips a joy these days, rather than an arduous job.
Another likeable feature is the flat-bottomed steering wheel. My first exposure to this type of smaller wheel with a flat southward side came when piloting expensive exotics like the Lamborghini Gallardo convertible and Audi R8, where the cabins are small and space is limited between the seat and bottom of the steering wheel. But it works well on the Rogue, too, even if you don’t have thick thighs plagued with pockets of cellulite.
I have to say, the CVT transmission technology has come a LONG ways I the last 10 – 20 years! Early models offered by Subaru, and the miniscule Smart cars weren’t all the pleasant to drive. In fact, there was no getting around the fact that it felt like the transmission was little more than a series of large balky rubber bands – which wasn’t too far off. Our Rogue exhibited excellent acceleration and smooth segues from gear to gear, unlike previous CVTs we had experienced, which made shifting an issue where the unit would hunt and peck to find its proper alignment.
Steering, handling and braking are all above average. For those keeping score, it requires just 3.1 turns, lock-to-lock, making it quite nimble in either city traffic or on countryside twisty bits.
While the Rogue slots into the “compact” crossover category, you won’t feel the least bit cheated if you drive one of these away from your local dealership. It handles a lot more like a sedan than a crossover. And even if you strip away the cornucopia of electronic gadgets and gizmos that now come standard or are optional, this CUV loves the highway. It proved to be the ideal companion for a weekend day trip to the country, where scouring thrift stores and antique shops were the order of the day. While we wound up NOT finding any bulky treasures to load onboard, there’s plenty of room for that. With the 3rd seat up, the 9.7 cu. ft. of cargo space is adequate for groceries and the like. But if you find an antique hall tree or dresser you can’t live without, fold down the 3rd and 2nd row seats and you’ll wind up with 70 cu. ft. – more than adequate.
All things considered, this is a very impressive package. After a thorough bumper-to-bumper inspection, there are really no failures or flaws to report. The Nissan Rogue is spacious, comfortable and fuel efficient. While the sticker is a bit higher than expected, we suspect those with good bargaining skills can walk out the dealership door paying something slightly south of $30,000. Also check the stickers on the S and SV models of your dealer’s lot if the highline SL is a bit too rich for your blood.
Nissan’s Rogue compares very favorably with the better-know Japanese mainstays in the class, such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV-4. Drive all three and we without the attached badges you may not be able to tell them apart, except for the third seat and details of the various infotainment systems.
Nissan reports steady sales growth of the model since bring introduced in 2014, and to where the Rogue is now the company’s sales leader. For the 2016 calendar year Nissan sold 329,904 Rogues compared to 307,380 for the Altima, which had been the firm’s perennial sales leader for decades.
Rogue sales were a hair under 200,000 in calendar year 2014, the second-generation’s launch year, then sky-rocketed 45 percent in 2015 to 287, 190. Strong December sales of over 40,400 Rogues helped give it the company sales lead, with the Rogue showing no signs of slowing, according to Nissan’s Dan Passe. The company posed sales of nearly 29,000 units in January and over 33,000 in February, putting it up 14 percent above last year’s record pace. Interest in the model should continue to grow with the addition of a new “Sport” model to the line later this spring.
So if you haven’t added the Rogue to your compact crossover shopping list yet, it might be wise to do so. You just might discover a “gold nugget” you might otherwise have overlooked.