Thumbs Up: Car-like ride, crossover practicality
Thumbs Down: Four cylinder engine only, CVT transmission
Buy This Car If: You need the capability of a crossover but prefer the ride of a sedan.
If you’re in the market for a crossover vehicle, no one offers you more models and trim options than Nissan. Their crossover range starts on the high end with the superb Nissan Murano, then goes down in size through the Nissan Rogue, Nissan Juke and even the Nissan cube. Nissan even offers a ragtop version of the Murano, so they literally do build a crossover for any taste and budget. Unlike competitor’s vehicles, Nissan’s crossovers aren’t simulated trucks built on a car platform; in fact, every Nissan crossover I’ve ever driven feels more like a sedan than a box-on-box, scaled down truck.
The 2011 Nissan Rogue is no exception to that rule, thanks in part to its roots in their Sentra sedan. Despite these humble beginnings (and a very reasonable price tag), the Rogue never feels like an economy car and manages to offer more style, inside and out, than a lot of the competition. All of Nissans crossovers, with the exception of the cube, bear somewhat of a family resemblance. The Rogue borrows styling elements from the Murano, but manages to avoid looking like a Murano in three-quarter scale. The front end shape is similar (although the Rogue employs more conventionally styled headlights) as is the shape of the C pillar. The Rogue looks a bit less “sporty” than the Murano, thanks in part to larger front and rear overhangs, but it never manages to look bland.
Up front, the Rogue’s grille reminds me of the previous generation Murano, but the headlights come straight from the Altima sedan. The front fascia blends a rounded “snout” with chiseled recesses for the fog lamps, and Nissan was wise to paint the lower fascia in body color rather than making it black plastic. In body color, it minimizes the front end (a good thing, since that’s my least favorite angle on the Rogue); in black, it would have drawn attention to it. Chrome is used sparingly on the outside, and that’s a good thing. A chrome trim strip defines the door bottoms, door handles are finished in chrome and a chrome strip sits atop the license plate. Window surrounds are painted black, which gives a cleaner appearance (in my opinion, anyway) than chrome trim. Out back, the Rogue’s rear styling isn’t particularly distinctive, featuring a curving lift gate integrating into a rounded and angular rear fascia. It may not be a cutting-edge design, but it certainly won’t offend anyone with it’s style.
Inside, the Rogue’s cabin offers buyers a decent amount of style and content for the price. The dash blends black soft-touch vinyl with black plastic and interior-colored plastic. It’s a simple but tasteful layout, and my SL trim version had a nav / infotainment system embedded in the center stack above the HVAC controls. Metal colored trim is kept to a minimum on the inside, used for the door pulls, steering wheel trim, shifter trim instrument surrounds and vent trim only, so the center stack could use a little more to keep it visually interesting. Too many automakers err on the side of garish, so I’m glad to see that Nissan chose to keep things simple on the Rogue.
Instruments are trimmed with chrome rings, and are hooded to block sun glare. The tachometer has an embedded temp gauge, and the speedometer includes a fuel gauge. Splitting the two is a large and brightly lit information display, which displays trip information, fuel economy information, distance to empty, outside temperature and other useful data. The display is changed via a small push button in the instrument panel itself, which can make it difficult to scroll through settings as you’re driving.
Most Rogue models come with cloth seating, but my SL tester included leather seating. The driver’s seat is power adjustable and even includes an inflatable lumbar cushion. Front seats in my tester were heated, another reason to check the SL package option box, and were nicely padded and bolstered.
Rear seats offer a reasonable amount of head and leg room, but the seat backs don’t recline for long-distance comfort. I don’t see this as a big issue, since the Rogue’s primary mission is commuting and around-town hauling, and the rear seats are perfect for short trips. Adults with long legs amy find the rear seat cushions to be short, but children and pre-teens certainly won’t complain.
As you’d expect from a multi-purpose crossover, the rear seats fold flat to create a decent amount of cargo room. The front passenger seat can also be folded flat in the event you need to haul long or oddly shaped cargo.
The only engine option on the Nissan Rogue is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder good for 170 horsepower and 175 ft lb of torque. There’s only one transmission choice as well, and that’s Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). I’ll admit that Nissan builds the best CVTs in the business, but I’m still not a fan. Hard acceleration produces droning from the over-worked four-banger, and I found myself lifting off the throttle regularly to engage a lower RPM. I’d much rather have a good six speed automatic in a vehicle like the Rogue, but buyers don’t have that choice. My tester was FWD, but Nissan offers the Rogue in an AWD variant as well, increasing the compact crossover’s appeal in snowbelt states.
Performance isn’t the Rogue’s area of expertise, but it still managed a zero to sixty run in under nine seconds. I wouldn’t call that quick by sedan standards, but it’s more than adequate for compact crossover vehicles. Fuel economy for the FWD version is rated at 22 MPG city and 28 MPG highway, and I saw an indicated 22.5 MPG in around-town driving.
On the road, the Rogue handles better than most vehicles in its class. It’s still got a relatively high center of gravity (and lots of visor warnings to remind you of that), but the suspension allows moderately fast cornering with surprisingly little body roll. Despite the four-cylinder engine and CVT, the Rogue had little problem accelerating to blend in with highway traffic, and even acceleration off a standing start was decent. If you’re looking to replace a 350Z, the Rogue isn’t going to provide much driving amusement; if you’re coming from a Sentra or an Altima, on the other hand, the Rogue won’t feel like you’re driving a minivan.
The 2011 Nissan Rogue starts at a very reasonable $22,020, including a destination charge of $810; option out an SV model with AWD, and the sticker price still doesn’t reach $33,000. Sticker price for my Rogue SL tester was $28,530, including the $810 destination charge, the $190 floor mat package and the $3,900 SL package (leather seats, leather steering wheel, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, nav system, Bose audio system, power sunroof, HID headlamps, fog lamps, 18” wheels). By comparison, a similarly equipped Honda CR-V EX-L would run $29,425 and a comparable Toyota RAV-4 Limited would price at $29,311. The Rogue is by far the most car-like of the bunch, and its pricing makes it the value leader here; if you’re shopping for a compact crossover, the Nissan Rogue is well worth adding to your “must drive” list.