The Rogue has everything that the typical family is looking for; space, comfort, affordability, and modern style.
Based strictly on what I see out on the roads in the Toronto area, I’d say that Nissan has got a firm hold on the lucrative and competitive crossover market. Over the last few years the numbers of these on the roads has surely been multipling, and fast. Clearly, Nissan is doing something right to attract so many buyers in what is now a super competitive segment. I jumped on the chance to spend a week with a brand new 2016 Nissan Rogue SL to see what Nissan has done to jump right to the top of the list in this category.
While I am just generally not a fan of the crossover look, the Rogue is definitely one of the better looking examples out there. The available high-intensity LED daytime running lamps are well integrated into the aggressive looking front end and succeed in providing a unique presence. With the recent LED lighting trends, so many designers are rushing to throw these onto existing models and it just doesn’t look right – it’s nice to see them well executed here. Front fascia aside, the rest of the styling is pretty standard crossover designs, with some welcome sporty Nissan flare mixed in. My tester came in Arctic Blue Metallic with charcoal colored 18” alloys; these two colors blended perfectly and added to the overall visual appeal.
Another aspect of the Rogue that’s appealing to me, and likely to many consumers, is its size. While still considered a compact crossover, based on factors such as engine size, output and price range; the Rogue’s dimensions are closer to midsize players such as the Dodge Journey or even the Toyota Highlander. This allows it to boast an available third row of seats, the most cargo space behind the second row in its class, and miles of legroom for second row passengers. The second row can not only fold flat, but also recline, slide and tilt forward. The extra space in the cargo area is also really well managed with Nissan’s Divide-n-Hide® Cargo System, which utilizes the space under the flat floor for additional covered storage. Even up front I had no trouble finding plenty of storage for all the stuff we carry with us on a daily basis.
The very functional interior space is also a very pleasant place to be. My tester, with its MSRP of $35,248, is the top of the line SL AWD model, meaning it comes with every comfort the Rogue has to offer; soft heated leather seating, a full length panoramic glass moonroof, dual climate control, navigation and a powerful Bose audio system. As a bonus, the controls for all these gadgets are clear and easy to use. The interior itself, while comfortable does reflect the Rogue’s $24,500 starting price with the use of cheaper looking plastics, but happily everything feels tight and rattle-free.
The navigation system is less than impressive; its map view is not good at labelling streets as you approach them, and the default/auto zoom setting is way too far out for the map to be useful, so I found myself constantly adjusting the zoom while using the map. One other gripe I had with the interior is the lack of an indicator near the gear selector to indicate which gear you’ve just selected – it’s not necessarily clear from looking at it. There is a small indicator in the gauge cluster, but it took me a while to even notice it.
Another feature that really stands out in this segment and at this price point is the 360-view camera system. Four cameras mounted on the outside of the Rogue can provide a full 360-degree view while parking, including a very handy aerial view. The system makes parking in tight spots simple, even for novice drivers or those new to the dimensions of a crossover. The system is well complimented by Nissan’s Safety Shield technology which provides blind spot warning, frontal collision warning, forward emergency braking and moving object detection.
These are features I am typically not too concerned about myself, but if I were looking for a family vehicle these suddenly become a lot more important. To round out the set, the Rogue is available with an intuitive AWD system which although I didn’t make much use of during my week, as the first few flurries of the season began to fall it was nice to know I had AWD capability should the weather really turn.
So, for just a touch over $35,000 you can buy yourself a good looking, roomy, comfortable, well-featured, AWD family hauler. There has to be a catch right? Correct, the only available engine in the Rogue is the 2.5L 4-cylinder Nissan has been toting for many years now. It develops 170 horsepower and is mated to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Now, I consider Nissan a bit of a pioneer when it comes to CVTs, being one of the first mainstream manufacturers to fully embrace the technology. However, CVTs quickly developed a bad name amongst most automotive writers, and I rarely understood why. That is, until driving the Rogue.
The 4-cylinder feels completely overwhelmed by the mass of the Rogue and the CVT’s slow response only serves to exacerbate the feeling. Keeping the CVT in sport mode does speed things up a bit, but it results in significantly worse fuel economy. So I kept the Rogue in ECO mode during most of my time with it and dealt with the dulled acceleration and constant RPM-hunting whenever the engine was under load. While working as hard as it does, the 2.5L is a bit noisy, which is transferred into the cabin in a form of a weak whine.
Once you are up to speed the driving experience of the Rogue improves significantly; it cruises quietly, the ride is compliant in all conditions and the steering does have a nice direct feeling to it. The turn radius is fairly tight, and outward visibility is good making it easy and relaxing to drive. While the powertrain might be gutless, the benefit is that it does return some favorable fuel economy numbers. Through my week of rush hour commuting I averaged 9.4L/100km, considering this is an AWD crossover that isn’t exactly small I’d consider that to be a fairly good number.
So, getting back to my original question; Nissan has built an exceptional crossover, it has everything that the typical family is looking for; space, comfort, affordability, and modern style. However, it has one fault and that is its dated powertrain. A new engine and a revised CVT similar to the one Subaru has been recently toting would do wonders for the 2016 Nissan Rogue. Still though, if you’re not one to pay attention to performance and are looking for a practical family hauler, it is hard to ignore the amount of value presented here.