By Alex Kramer
- Gutsy 4-cylinder engine
- Confident handling
- Sleek, bold exterior style
- Excellent value
- Yo-yo for a transmission
- Less than spacious interior
- Poor rearward visibility
Small SUVs have become one of the fastest growing segments of the car industry, selling over 300,000 units last year. With gas at over $3 a gallon, it’s no wonder people are looking for cars that offer increased cargo room and all weather capability, yet don’t suffer much when it comes to fuel efficiency. The only surprising thing is that some of the major car companies still don’t offer a model to compete in this lucrative niche. For Nissan, that finally changes this year with the introduction of the all-new Rogue, a crossover SUV that seats 5 and offers optional all-wheel drive. Fortunately, the Rogue lives up to its name and should steal some thunder away from the competition.
The Rogue is based on the same chassis as the compact Sentra and definitely drives more like a small sporty sedan than a large hulking SUV. Equipped with a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 170 hp and 175 ft-lb of torque, the Rogue is underpowered when compared to competitors that offer a V6, but this eager little engine proved to be quite the overachiever, providing healthy doses of torque and revving eagerly to the redline. With a 0-60 time in the low 8 seconds and handling numbers that would make more than a few passenger cars jealous, this is a surprisingly athletic little crossover.
To further maximize power and efficiency, the engine is paired with Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Featuring a manual mode with six preset gear ratios, the transmission allows the driver to shift gears using steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Although the shifters might seem a bit gimmicky at first, looking like they’ve been pulled straight from a video game console, being able to quickly fire off shifts proved quite useful when going for a spirited drive in the hills.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the more conventional automatic mode. Like many CVTs, there is often a brief but annoying delay between pressing the accelerator and actual acceleration, due to the transmission waiting for the engine to rev-up before applying torque to the wheels. This rubber band effect is quite pronounced at certain speeds, which is a shame given the peppy go get ‘em nature of the engine. My advice to Rogue drivers: leave it in manual mode and practice that boy racer smile!
The Rogue’s sure-footed handling is also a pleasant surprise, with the front struts and rear independent multi-link suspension keeping the car firmly planted on the road. Even without the optional all-wheel drive, our test model exhibited excellent composure on uneven and slippery road surfaces. Some body roll is present when cornering, but the responsive steering, fade-free brakes, and more than adequate tire grip inspire confidence when tackling the twisties.
The Rogue is nicely bolted together, especially for an entry-level vehicle that doesn’t break the bank. Materials and workmanship are solid all-around, and interior noise levels, although not whisper quiet, are quite acceptable. Another plus is the Rogue’s comprehensive array of safety features, which include Nissan’s Advanced Airbag System, featuring front and side curtain airbags, as well as vehicle dynamic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes.
Pages: 1 2