Dec 07,2007 00:00
Nissan has broadened its lineup and widened its appeal in the past year with several new four-cylinder offerings, including the compact Versa hatchback and sedan, a new Sentra sedan and Altima coupe. And now comes the five-passenger Rogue crossover.
Competitors include the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Saturn Vue, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and others.
Sold in two trim levels in front- or all-wheel drive, the Rogue has a starting price of just less than $20,000. All-wheel drive adds $1,200. It comes with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission. No manual is offered, or needed, really.
The base model is decently equipped, but it's limited to the available option packages. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power side mirrors, remote locking, cruise control, dual map lights and cargo-area light, four-speaker audio with single CD (but no MP3 capability) and 16-inch tires with wheel covers.
Standard safety features include side-curtain air bags, front side bags and active front headrests. It has large, four-wheel disc brakes (11.8 inches) with ABS, brake assist and brake-force distribution. Electronic stability and traction controls also are standard on all models.
The test vehicle was an uplevel SL model with front-wheel drive, starting at $21,415. As tested, it was $22,520 with the $800 moonroof, $180 floor mats and cargo net (of good quality), and $125 splash guards, which are a pleasing accent but probably don't do much good.
The SL adds useful extras that include a better grade of seat fabric, a height-adjustable driver seat, six-speaker audio system with MP3, seat-back pocket, front console-armrest with storage, driver's visor with covered vanity mirror (but not lighted) and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The SL has a choice of option packages that can add such extras as seven-speaker audio wired for satellite radio, a fold-flat front passenger seat, a tonneau cover, lighted vanity mirrors, a navigation system and nighttime mood lighting.
But Nissan's Intelligent Key for keyless entry and start-up is only available in the Premium package ($2,200) on all-wheel-drive models. Not fair. I like the speedy access of these intelligent keys; it should be offered as a stand-alone option. However, Nissan includes the Intelligent Key among the standard features of its Altima coupe, which is priced about the same as Rogue.
With the height-adjustable driver's seat, there is a good view over the hood for all drivers. Tall front-seat passengers, however, may feel perched, or too high, in the seat. Sightlines are good in most directions, except over the shoulder through the swoopy, upswept rear corners and small windows.
The interior is smartly engineered, including 60/40 split rear seats that flip and fold with ease, a low exhaust/transmission tunnel for improved second-row foot room, and a variety of handy hooks, grab handles and storage areas, including space under the floor in the cargo area. Headroom is generous at 40.4 inches - subtract an inch or so for the moonroof - and rear legroom is good at 35.3 inches. But space is compact for adults.
The Rogue is wide, stable and sprung for comfort, but it seems under-tired; the stock tires seem inadequate when scooting around corners. An upgrade to a more premium tire might improve front-end grip for the more aggressive driver.
The horsepower has no issue motivating Rogue's almost 3,300 pounds of curb weight, or 3,460 pounds with all-wheel drive. Acceleration force is balanced for fuel economy, which the EPA rates as 22 mpg city and 27 highway, and 21/26 AWD, on 87 octane.
The engine is rated 167 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of torque for California and Northeastern states with similar emissions laws. This engine scores very high at in the EPA's green vehicle guide (epa.gov/greenvehicles). It scores nine out 10 for air pollution and seven for greenhouse gases. Elsewhere, the engine is rated for 170 horsepower and 175 foot-pounds of torque, and 6/7 for emissions.
Nissan has aimed Rogue at young families with the hope of luring more males. Marketing and advertising were generated to reach the so-called "stealth dad." He's the career go-getter who remembers his once-active social life but has embraced marriage, diaper changing and sleep deprivation.It is likely the Rogue probably could fit well with this demographic; however, it is so useful and stylish that I expect its buyers will come from all segments, particularly empty-nesters looking to downsize but retain grandkid cartability.