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2012 Nissan Rogue (Mike Ditz/Nissan)
2012 Nissan Rogue (Mike Ditz/Nissan)

Nissan Rogue: Leader of the pack Add to ...

Nissan’s compact crossover might be called the Rogue, but it’s really just another member of the ever-growing herd of vehicles in this category, albeit one of those running up near the front.

Nissan’s first-generation Rogue arrived for 2008 and immediately won accolades from the automotive press for its style and features. But more importantly, once the word got out, began attracting compact crossover buyers to the company’s showrooms in increasing numbers, from which many drove away at the wheel of one.

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That’s the reward reaped when a car maker manages to get a new model just about right, which must mean there are fingers crossed in the marketing department that the second-generation, due to launch some time next year, won’t stray too far from what continues to be a winning formula.

Proof of the accuracy of Nissan’s initial weapon development and target acquisition with the Rogue is that it’s still selling well in its fifth year. The current model, which was revamped for 2011 and only tweaked a little bit more for 2012, currently holds down the eighth spot so far on this year’s Canadian compact crossover popularity poll.

And while the Rogue has never set the compact crossover class ablaze, none of the 27 other vehicles in the category have either, as most stick to a similar and by now familiar theme, some just doing it a bit better than others. But if the Rogue had followed something a little more appealing than the kinda-clunky X-Trail, it might have done even better. And with the upcoming second-gen riding on the current version’s popularity momentum possibly will.

In the meantime, the 2012 Rogue – which is available in three models starting with a front-driver at $23,778 and an entry all-wheel-drive model at $26,578, and topping out with our tester SL at $34,278 – doesn’t seem particularly dated at all.

Its Murano-inspired styling, after the update last year that freshened its looks a bit, remains distinctive and arguably still places it among the better-looking vehicles in the class. And the SL rides on cool-looking 18-inch alloy wheels.

The interior doesn’t quite live up to the image presented by the exterior. The dash is made up of large expanses of rather dreary-looking soft-touch material (while the door caps, which you’ll actually come into contact with are hard plastic) with only some dull silver trim for adornment. Updates to the instruments, actually now rather nice, and the addition of “mood lighting” help, and the test SL was equipped with red-stitched leather on the seating surfaces that raised the tone, but perhaps not all the way up to “tony.”

There’s plenty of stuff in the SL though, including a basic navigation system, a Bose audio system, trip computer, sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free phone, cruise control, AC and power driver’s seat.

The cabin is roomy and fitted with front seats offering some support and a rear bench that will hold two comfortably. Behind its 60/40-split seatback, there’s room for 818 litres of cargo and, with it folded, 1,639 litres, which can be easily loaded through the rear lift-gate.

Under the Rogue SL’s hood is the single engine available across the lineup, a somewhat growly 2.5-litre four-cylinder rated at 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque and a continuously variable type automatic transmission. In the SL AWD tester’s case, this delivers drive to all four wheels through an all-wheel-drive system that automatically apportions power between front and rear axles as required. Or the driver can select a 50/50 lock mode for really mucky going or deep snow, but despite a generous ground clearance of 201 mm, you shouldn’t be tempted into real off-road conditions in the Rogue.

Nissan obviously figures continuously variable trannies are the way to go, and has improved them considerably in recent years, but they still retain a degree of disconnect between throttle application and response I, well, “don’t like” is about the best way to describe it. And you might not either, although as with many car-related quirks, your awareness of it might fade with familiarity.

The Rogue does step off with enthusiasm, however, and accelerates efficiently up to highway speed, or for passing purposes. And the engine/transmission combination yields fuel economy ratings of 9.6 litres/100 km city and 7.7 highway. Honda’s new CR-V’s ratings are 9.0 city/6.4 highway and the Toyota RAV4 (also due for replacement soon) is rated at 9.7 city/7.2 highway. The test Rogue was showing an average of 9.5 L/100 km when returned, and recorded 8.8 litres/100 km on a hilly, highway-speed, 200-kilometre run.

The suspension is independent at both ends and is set up with a level of muscularity that allows it to carry some weight inside (and tow up to 680 kilograms) as well as handle as well as any of its rivals. The electric power steering has some “feel” and the Rogue responds to driver input in a competent fashion you’ll appreciate without really thinking about. Dynamic vehicle control and traction control will help you keep it on the road and four disc brakes stop it effectively.

If you can live with the transmission, you won’t likely find anything else to complain about in how the Rogue drives on a day-to-day basis. And in most other respects it should do a good job of handling the chores that make these family-friendly sized vehicles so popular.

globedrive@globeandmail.com

Tech specs: 2012 Nissan Rogue SL AWD

Type: Compact crossover

Base Price: $34,278; as tested, $36,063

Engine: 2.5-litre, DOHC, inline-four

Horsepower/torque: 170 hp/ 175 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT

Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.6 city/7.7 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Hyundai Tucson, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi RVR, Honda CR-V

Follow us on Twitter: @Globe_Drive

Globe rating for the 2012 Nissan Rogue

Our ratings guide
8.5

Ride

Nicely tuned to perform its chores while providing those aboard with reasonable comfort.

8.5

Looks

Definitely crossover rather than pretend SUV and thus completely contemporary.

8

Interior

Dull is the defining word here, although not actually unpleasant, and it is functional.

8.5

Safety

All-wheel-drive, good handling and brakes and plenty of safety gear. And its safety ratings are high.

7.5

Green

None of these vehicles gets brilliant gas mileage and neither does the Rogue.

8.5

Overall

(out of 10 / Not an average)

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