When we took the Rogue through some twisty mountain roads it was surprisingly composed, delivering very neutral handling with traction control on or off. Nissan must have tweaked the suspension over their earlier versions as it remained relatively flat in the corners when brought to the limit. To be successful in this field, Nissan is going to have to leapfrog the competition and one of the areas could be handling.
Comfort and Convenience
Our test vehicle had all of the standard conveniences you would look for in this category, including Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio, audio input jack, dual front and rear cup holders, back up camera, and sunglass compartment. We would rate the Rogue seating as average in this category. The cloth upholstery seems durable and is comfortable in the summer weather we were experiencing. The only shortcoming was the seats themselves. For the driver, the power lumbar support was hard to set in just the right spot, and all other seating lacked adjustability.
This is a first generation small utility vehicle for Nissan, so we won’t comment on the dash material and design; the competition has at least one predecessor, so we think the next gen Rogue will have vast improvements here. Again, don’t just meet the competition, beat the competition, by increasing cargo capacity, adding insulation and providing improved seating.
Recommend to Buy and Conclusion
So how does the Rogue do in this very crowded field of small SUV’s? We took a quick sample of one small sport utility from each country and compared them on a base front wheel drive level.
|Compact Sport Utility Comparison|
|Nissan Rogue||VW Tiguan||Hyundai Tuscon||Honda CRV||Chevrolet Equinox|
|Base Torque lb-ft||175||207||168||161||172|
|Cargo Space (Cu Ft)||28.9||23.8||25.7||35.7||31.4|
|Base Price ($)||$23,220||$23,720||$21,995||24,195||$26,220|
We know there are a number of other excellent competitors from the likes of Kia, Mazda, Ford, Toyota, etc, but we can quickly see that the Rogue falls mid-pack in our random sample. This is actually a pretty good position in this crowded field and Nissan has done well by essentially shrinking the design of their much loved Murano.
What could propel the Rogue towards the head of the class? Keep the price and weight the same while increasing cargo space (station wagon purpose), improve insulation (feel/sound more luxurious), and providing better power though the use of forced induction or other lightweight tricks. Nissan has done this with subsequent Maxima and Z versions, and we expect their next evolution of the sub-$25k cute-ute to be more competitive. Of all the Japanese car makers, Nissan and Infiniti have earned a “most improved” status, aggressively refining design and performance in every category.
by Gary Chan
- Comfortable seats
- Quiet cruising
- Smooth acceleration
- Gas mileage (no where near 27 mpg)
- Brake dive
- Plastic interior not well implemented
Crossovers and their usefulness have always fascinated me so I welcomed the opportunity to drive one for a few days. The online dictionary describes “rogue” as “a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel” (noun) or “unpredictable” (adj). Based on my test drive, I found neither to be true, and enjoyed the highway ride on a trip to Mt Tamalpais. Its futuristic design separates it from the competition, and though smaller inside, still had plenty of space for a weekend trip for two.
Beating the competition’s 4-cylinder horsepower ratings, the Rogue easily climbs steep roads. Curious to see what it could do going up Highway 92 from 101 to 280, I floored it. The engine revs and whines while the CVT smoothly adjust it’s gearing allowing me to easily pass cars. Pretty impressive for a little 4-banger. Cruising on the freeway is where the Rogue seems most at home. Feeling relaxed and composed, I could easily drive this crossover for hours-on-end while perched on its comfortable seats. The sloping hood gives a good view of the road in the front, but looking back, the rearward-tapering windows and thick c-pillar create a wall of darkness over my right shoulder. I more than once had to preen my neck to check the blind spot on the right-side or ask my girlfriend to see if there were any vehicles before changing lanes. The stock headlights illuminate well, but the underpowered fog lights add little supplementary lighting to the immediate area ahead of the Rogue.
For a first crossover offering, Nissan produces a quality vehicle. There were no annoying rattles or loose parts during the test drive, and all of the doors closed with a light touch. The dash is an expanse of plastic with the arc-shaped center console splitting the dash, and seam transitions are tight and gap-free. Rear passenger leg room is tight if you have a tall-person sitting in front, though like the front seats, they’re comfortable for long trips.
The SL-trim includes silver roof rails which are nice to have, but they lack crossbars. There are sets of fore and aft-screws on the inside of each of the rails, and I assume they’re for attaching crossbars. I guess I’d have to order these separately from Nissan (or go aftermarket) before I could install my Thule bike mounts.
The interior is well designed and laid out. The steeply sloped windshield and roofline appear to limit headroom, but found this to not be true. You feel enveloped in the cockpit, but not confined. Buttons and controls are well-labeled and large with everything in easy reach. Loading CD’s into the Bose required a short wait after pressing the “LOAD” button, and seemed a lot longer than most in-dash changers. If you opt for the SL, definitely get the Premium package that includes the upgraded Bose audio system. It plays loudly and accurately reproduced all the music I played through it. The HVAC controls are distributed among three large dials below the Bose radio. The dials are clearly marked with colors or icons, and are easy to modulate to just the right temperature or setting. One of the features of the interior that impressed me was the air vents. Yeah, that’s right, the vents. The circular vents rotate easily with slight detents, and the vanes open/close with a light push of the finger. The design is extremely simple yet amazingly effective in directing air exactly where desired.
For the most of the test drive, I left the car in automatic mode, and let the Rogue figure out the gearing. The manual-mode did a decent job of “holding” a gear till I shifted. Probably the best feature that I enjoyed (from both a usability and performance standpoint) was tapping the shift paddles while in auto mode. The CVT steps down a gear, and holds it while I floored the pedal allowing aggressive passes to happen without waiting. And after the vehicle speed normalizes, the CVT returns to automatic mode … automatically. How cool is that! It’s loud when you floor it, but the Nissan feels fast as the rev’s build. The dynamics are OK, but wish the suspension was a bit firmer for spirited driving. On the roads up to Mt. Tamalpais, the soft suspension did not inspire confidence. Brake dive was also prevalent under extremely hard braking; my initial feeling to the brake dive felt as if I was about to tip forward out of my chair. A firmer suspension or brake proportioning may reduce the unsettling response. Otherwise, the Rogue stopped repeatedly smoothly and quickly.
The Rogue is basically a taller Altima, and the extra weight up high makes it lean a bit more than the Altima. The suspension did a decent job of hugging the curves never breaking loose but the body lean was unsettling as the driver. I never felt confident pushing it past a certain point. I’d opt for an upgraded suspension to ameliorate the lean. The steering had an adequate on-center feel, but I longed for a slightly tighter connection between the steering wheel and the road ahead. Don’t get me wrong, driving on the freeway was fine, but to me, there seemed to be a slight lag between my steering input and a directional change. At speeds just shy of 100 mph, the Rogue is very stable and smooth-riding.
Is this a Nissan? Just look at the front, and you’d know immediately. You can see the family resemblance to the Altima, Maxima, and bigger Murano. Though smooth and well sculpted, the design lacks individuality (compared with its brethren) and character. As Nissan’s first foray into the crossover market, a more unique design would have gone a long way into branding the vehicle. The upswept tapered rear windows limit visibility and light infiltration. The interior is already dark enough with its gray/charcoal interior. Why make it darker? I think the lower window line should have gone straight-back (rather than curving upward at the rear door) extending farther into the C-pillar. The lines would flow better and make the car seem larger than it actually is with an added benefit of better visibility to the sides. With the tapered-window design, the Rogue just looks like it has a fat rear-end.
Nissan’s competition in this field is tough. You have more mature offerings from Honda, Toyota and Ford, as well as newer competition from Mitsubishi and even Saturn. The Rogue offers a lot of standard features, but is slightly smaller than its competition. Price-wise, all of the competition is fairly close to one another and choice would come down to features and engine selection. The rear seats fold down increasing the cargo capacity, and would be perfect for trips to Home Depot or Ikea where large boxes would cause consternation in a sedan. For someone moving up from a small compact car, this would be the perfect transition vehicle. It’s easy to drive and maneuver around town, and gets decent gas mileage (I averaged a little over 23 mpg). I think Nissan did a good job with its first attempt, and will hopefully correct some of the design shortfalls in future versions.
One limitation of the Rogue is its single-engine offering while the competition offers both 4-cylinder and V-6 engines. A true test of the engine would be going up to Lake Tahoe fully loaded with friends and gear. With two people and minimal gear, the 4-cylinder engine was unstressed. Though I didn’t get a chance to use it for a run to the grocery store, the lift-up storage tray with netting separators is a nice feature. Using my Acura Integra, I have to be deliberate about placing the shopping bags to prevent them from sliding all over the place. The Nissan’s design is fresh and unique compared to the competition, and the Rogue performs admirably on the road especially on long stretches of highways. The potholes created by our rainy January were barely felt, and over almost anything I threw at it, the Rogue’s suspension just sucked it up. If you’re looking for a comfortable, reliable, easy-to-drive and smaller crossover utility vehicle, this would be the choice.
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>> See all of the 2008 Nissan Rogue photos in our photo gallery
>> Check out the ’08 Nissan Rogue specs
>> www.nissanusa.com – official website for Nissan cars and SUVs
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