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car review

2011 Nissan Rogue.

Compact SUVs/crossovers have obviously hit a sweet spot in the Canadian marketplace, appealing to buyers who put things like value and flexibility ahead of making a style or performance statement. Nissan's entry, the mildly revamped for 2011 Rogue, remains worthwhile dropping by your local dealership to take a look at.

The Rogue was introduced for 2008 and hasn't changed much for 2011, just the usual minor mid-course alterations to nose and tail plus some interior tweaks. But it has looked pretty good from day one - its interior while rather plain is pleasantly livable for four and useful in terms of cargo space - its safety ratings good, its performance, given that only a four-cylinder engine is available, acceptable, its fuel economy in the top half of the segment and its handling characteristics and ride more than competitive.

For 2011, the Rogue is available in three models: a base S starting at $23,648, the new $26,548 SV and the revised $33,845 SL. The first two can be had in two-wheel or all-wheel-drive form and the latter only with AWD. The SV AWD tested starts at $28,548.

All three variants come with the same 2.5-litre, four-cylinder, double-overhead-camshaft, continuously variable valve control engine that makes 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. And the only transmission available is a continuously variable type.

The AWD system can distribute drive from zero to 100 per cent front to rear if required, is interlinked with the vehicle's electronic stability control system and can also be locked in 50/50 distribution mode for snow or mud. It defaults to driving the front wheels in the name of improved fuel economy.

All the usual caveats about CVTs apply - lack of linearity, droning engine noise - although this one is easier to live with than some. Thanks to the mid-range torque produced by this big-ish four it delivers drivability in traffic few will complain about, although throttle tip in is a tad aggressive, along with "enough" performance to meet the challenges of modern driving.

Best advice regarding the CVT? Before buying drive it, and let any other family members who'll use it do so as well, long enough to decide whether it's an issue or not. It likely won't be for most.

Fuel economy for the AWD SV is rated at 9.3 litres/100 km city and 7.7 highway. After a week of highway and rural/around-town driving the tester had averaged 9.6 litres/100 km and at four-lane highway cruising speeds 8.5 litres/100 km.

The independent front strut/multi-link rear suspension system, and electric power steering that actually delivers a naturally weighted degree of effort, put the Rogue's driving dynamics ahead of some in the class, aided on the SV by optional 18-inch alloy wheels and P225/55R18 tires. Ride characteristics won't draw complaints either. The all-disc braking system has ABS, Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution.

The Rogue's cabin is neatly if somewhat un-inspiringly screwed together from a mixture of plastic and soft-touch materials. It can seat five, but the three in the back won't be happy about their lot, and the seat itself is a bit plank-like. Front seats are comfortably shaped and firmly upholstered. The rotary twin-flap vents allow you to aim airflow where you want it.

Bright analog instruments are bisected by an info display - awkwardly controlled by a button you have to reach either through or around the wheel to reach - and framed by a thick-rimmed wheel. Not a lot of styling studio imagination went into the centre stack but it's functional with easy-to-use audio and climate controls, and the sound and climate control systems work effectively.

The cargo area provides 818 litres of space with the rear seatback upright - a tonneau cover hides your goodies - and 1,639 litres with it folded, accessed by a large enough lift-gate. There are also lots of handy little trays, nooks, bins and other odd spots to stow stuff.

Standard equipment on the SV includes: Air conditioning, power windows, door locks, keyless entry and (heated) side mirrors, cruise control, tilt steering column, 60/40-split rear seatback, trip computer, outside temp gauge, a colour audio display and a rear-view camera.

The test Rogue came with a $2,085 premium package that added 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, power moon roof, fold-down passenger seat and an audio upgrade with steering-wheel controls. This pushed the price (including destination charges) to a getting-kind-of-high $32,193.

After a week with the Rogue, during which it handled highway trips plus family-style chores with equal equanimity, it began to look like it belonged in the driveway. It's easy to see how this type of vehicle has become so popular.

2011 Nissan Rogue SV AWD

Type: Compact crossover

Base Price: $28,548; as tested, $32,193

Engine: 2.5-litre, DOHC, inline-four

Horsepower/torque: 170 hp/175 lb-ft.

Drive: All-wheel-drive.

Transmission: CVT

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.3 city/7.7 highway; regular gas

Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi RVR, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tigaun