By David Colman
For: Bargain Buy-In, Interior Spaciousness
Against: Horrid Xtronic CVT, Dunlop Tires Noisy on Concrete
The Rogue is small enough to handle with agility but big enough to pass the mountain bike test. This car-based SUV crossover weighs just 3,428 lb. which is notably light for an SUV. Yet its generous interior affords up to 58 cubic feet of storage space, with a hatchback door opening just wide enough to slip a mountain bike inside the cargo area.
Based on Nissan’s 4-door Sentra platform, the Rogue shares the sedan’s 105 inch wheelbase as well as its 2.5 liter, 16 valve, 4 cylinder motor. The Rogue inherits the Sentra’s nimble performance characteristics, as well, especially when you ugrade to the optional ($3,900) SL package which replaces standard 17 inch rims with 18 inch alloys. These larger wheels mount 225/55/R18 Dunlop Sport SP 7000 tires which react quickly to input through the Rogue’s fat leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Of course, the SL package includes a host of other upgrades. It improves night vision thanks to the addition of foglights and high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps. The package provides a diminutive 5 inch, touch screen, color monitor for the Nissan Navigation system (reading glasses not included). In addition, you’ll enjoy a 7 speaker Bose Premium audio system with XM satellite radio and NavTraffic reports. Finally, the SL upgrade brings you heated leather front seats, power sliding moonroof, and a bevy of cameras to record external surroundings on the dashboard monitor.
When equipped like our test model, the reasonably inexpensive $29,005 Rogue does a very good job of imitating an expensive luxury station wagon. Although you could add optional all-wheel-drive to the Rogue, there’s really no need for AWD’s extra weight and poorer economy unless you live in the snow belt. The FWD Rogue returns a commendable 23 MPG in city driving and 28 MPG on highway jaunts.
The Achilles Heel of the Rogue is its annoying “Xtronic” CVT transmission. What the Rogue really needs is a simple 6-speed automatic gearbox. Instead, you’re forced to deal with an endless belt loop of gear ratios that are slow to react to your driving needs. When you pull out to pass on a 2 lane road in the CVT Rogue, you can never feel fully confident that you’ll succeed given the time limitation imposed by road and traffic conditions. That’s because the CVT is slow on the uptake, and fails to provide you with any gear ratio between the vastly different settings of “Low” and “Drive.” It’s almost like driving a 50’s Detroit tuna boat with three on the tree. The 2.5 liter engine of the Rogue isn’t entirely blameless either, since its 170 hp rating is 7 less than the same motor in the Sentra, and 30hp less than Sentra’s optional 2.5 liter 4.
All in all, though, the Rogue makes an enticing proposition. For less than thirty thousand dollars, you can bring home a brand new, very luxuriously outfitted family wagon that looks as muscular as an SUV, but really costs no more to operate than an economy sedan. In its mini crossover market niche, the Rogue has bragging rights to the top rung of the ladder.
2012 Nissan Rogue SV FWD
- Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC inline 4, 16 Valves
- Horsepower: 170hp
- Torque: 175 lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/28 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $29,005
- Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars