“What am I driving again?” I mumbled to myself, as I drove home on my second day with the Nissan Rogue. A totally forgettable driving experience was not a promising beginning to the week – or this review – but fortunately for me, and Nissan, the Rogue has a lot else to offer. The Rogue lacks the driving excitement of some of its competitors, but it is a stylish, capacious, practical, and surprisingly affordable way to transport seven people … or 126.5 cubic-feet of sandwiches. For a $28,000 crossover, those are the qualities that actually matter, particularly when most of the drivers are going to be too busy yelling at their kids to pay attention to a car’s personality.
The previous version of the Rogue always looked a bit like it was wearing a particularly medieval form of braces. But the new edition is all grown up, and quite good-looking. The nasty grille is gone, replaced with a bold chrome “V” that unlike other chrome beaks (I am looking at you Acura) manages to be both eye catching and tasteful. The chrome nose and the LED running lights taken together give the Rogue a surprising amount of presence of a family car, but also don’t make the car look like it is trying too hard.
Once past the front end, the Rogue does get a bit more forgettable. It has a nice, high-waisted crease that gives the side profile some interest, but ultimately there isn’t much Nissan’s designers could do to hide the fact that the most practical shape for a crossover is a box on top of a larger box. The same too might be said of the interior, which is pleasant but mostly utilitarian, but for the tech.
Wait, this costs $28,000?
One of the Rogue’s outstanding features is tech. The mostly loaded model I drove featured a touchscreen display with navigation, Bluetooth streaming, satellite radio, voice commands, and one of the best combinations of backup camera and parking guidance that I have seen short of a $100,000 Audi A8.
With the Rogue, buyers aren’t just getting space, for they money, they also get a quality product.
Wow, that’s big
The Rogue doesn’t impress just with it tech; it is also deceptively massive on the inside. Sliding into the driver seat, I felt like I had slipped into the Tardis. Despite its modestly sized exterior, the Rogue’s interior feels like it could come from a Chevy Tahoe. And it’s not just the driving position that delivers this sensation, because the rear seat and cargo area are huge.
If anything, it might have slightly more useful space than the Toyota 4Runner, an SUV I thought was as big as anyone could possibly need. In fact, there is more than enough space for three adults in the Rogue’s second row and two kids – or travel-sized adults – in the third.
Good news, bad news
Despite its many good qualities, the Rogue has one big problem: it just doesn’t drive that well. Don’t misunderstand me; it doesn’t drive badly, but it is completely without personality. In part, this is down to the underwhelming powertrain. The Rogue’s only engine and transmission combination is a 2.4-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). This paring is just barely sufficient to propel 3,413 pounds of Rogue down the road. And up a hill? Forget about it. You might as well get out and push – or get one of those gondola stick thingies.
The only flaw with the Rogue’s tech suite is its somewhat balky voice command system.
Personally, I love to drive. Any car – fast or slow – that connects me to the road and the driving process is always going to win my love. Due to its bland personality, the Rogue wasn’t able to do that. However, it did earn my respect. The Rogue is one of the cheapest ways to seat seven people. With the Rogue, buyers aren’t just getting space, for they money, they also get a quality product. For less than $30,000, it is available with nearly every feature a crossover buyer might want, thanks to its styling and some charisma. It would be a lot to ask for the Rogue to deliver driving excitement to boot. Nissan’s designers knew what was important when they designed the Rogue. Instead of making it OK at everything, they made it practical and saved on the dynamics. It may not be the compromise I would have made, but, in a segment defined by compromises, it was probably the right one to make.
- Excellent infotainment system
- Surprisingly large interior
- Cool all-around view backup camera
- Excellent rated fuel economy
- Lack of driving excitement