The Nissan Rogue is an often-overlooked vehicle in a crowded segment of crossover utility vehicles. It may not be on the top of your list, but it deserves a second look.
One of its main advantages is its price. The 2013 Nissan Rogue starts at $23,978 for the base S front-wheel-drive trim. My tester is an S all-wheel-drive trim, which starts at $26,578. It adds the security of an AWD system for a reasonable price.
The Rogue comes in five trims – the most expensive is dubbed the SL AWD. It costs $34,398 and sets the bar high with a power glass moon roof, leather seats, a navigation system with a five-inch colour touch screen display, and a keyless entry and ignition system.
Personally, I'd skip the top model and stick to the S AWD. It has 16-inch steel wheels, a remote keyless entry system, air conditioning, cruise control, a tilt steering column and power windows, doors, and locks. There's an impressive list of standard safety features on all trims, too, including vehicle dynamic control, traction control, four-wheel disc brakes with an anti-lock braking system, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, driver and front-passenger seat-mounted side-impact airbags and roof-mounted curtain airbags. You also get child safety rear door locks and a LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system for kids.
From the outside, the Rogue is pleasant on the eyes. It's not daring, but it does have nice styling cues such as powerful arches and sleek rear shoulder lines. Roof rails, a chrome grille, chrome door handles and body-coloured front and rear bumpers and rear spoiler are attractive, too. I wish the 16-inch wheels were bigger – they 16-inch look too small and not proportioned well to the rest of the Rogue's body. A large gap between the wheel wells is clearly visible. The 18-inch, five-split-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, standard on the top SL AWD trim, definitely improve the look and stance of the Rogue – giving it more presence on the road.
Entering and exiting this car-based crossover is easy because of it low step-in and large front door openings. Inside, the Rogue seats five. The driver's bucket seat is supportive and adjusts six ways manually; while the front passenger seat moves four ways manually.
Headroom is impressive in all seating positions. The rear seats can fit three adults, but it is tight and short on leg and shoulder room. Two adults in the rear would be more comfortable. The rear bench seat could use more padding, too – it's a little stiff for my comfort. But the cloth seats on my tester are durable and strong.
Cargo space is also impressive – at 818 litres, it's cavernous. You can also drop the 60/40-split rear seats to expand the area to 1,639 litres. Convenient cargo area tie-down hooks keep grocery bags in place when driving.
While the interior is a bit plasticky, it's not distasteful. The dashboard layout is clean, uncluttered and it is easy to find functions fast. Large HVAC dials, for instance, are easy to spot and use, even in the dark, as are cruise control and audio buttons and switches on the steering wheel. The instrument panel is easy to read and sporty with reddish-orange illumination and silver gauge-surround rings.
Although there's no key to insert in the ignition, you still have to turn the ignition, which is a bit redundant. I'd prefer a push button start – it's more modern and convenient.
All Rogues are powered by the same engine – a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine mated to a continuously variable transmission with sport mode. It delivers 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Sure, it's not the fastest CUV on the market, but it feels safe and secure on the road with minimal body lean when cornering. The all-wheel-drive system also worked well on wet, rain-slicked roads.
The Rogue's compact size made it easy to drive and park – even in crowded parking lots. But you have to be careful changing lanes and double checking your blind spots. From the driver's seat, rear visibility is blocked by thick pillars and a tiny rear window.
While the fuel economy for my AWD tester is rated at 9.6 litres/100 km in the city and 7.7 on the highway, my vehicle didn't perform as well in the real world. I averaged 9.8 litres/100 km combined driving. But it takes regular fuel, which your wallet will appreciate every time you fill up. The CVT isn't my favourite transmission. I found it a bit noisy, especially when pushed, passing slower-moving vehicles or merging onto the highway.
When it comes to crossovers, the choices are endless. But the Nissan Rogue is definitely worth being on your shopping list.
2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD
Type: Compact crossover
Base Price: $26,578; as tested, $28,162.20
Engine: 2.5-litre, DOHC, inline-four
Horsepower/torque: 170 hp/175 lb-ft
Transmission: CVT with sport mode
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.6 city/7.7 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Ford Edge, Volkswagen Tiguan, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-7, Mitsubishi Outlander, Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4