Reinvented Nissan Rogue adds style, capacity (column)
While it looked a lot like its older sibling, the Murano, the last model of the smaller Nissan Rogue reached a point where it had become sort of the ugly duckling of the compact SUV segment. The competitors have all presented new, angular and futuristic-looking remakes; Rogue needed more than just a good refresh.
And it got it, indeed, with the 2014 model-year Rogue, now on sale as a 2015. It’s a considerably different looking and internally revised machine that’s entirely in keeping with Pathfinder’s own modernization — Nissan’s new signature U-shaped chrome grille, complex head- and taillights and a series of mild but revolutionary aerodynamic tricks around the entire body. The side profile is mostly unchanged until you look at the deeply scalloped lines, but it’s a totally different beast in the front and the rear. There’s also dynamic, boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights and stylized black blades on the sides of the rear glass, designed to help it cut through the wind more gracefully.
And it appears like it has become a much larger vehicle, though it’s only grown by an inch or so in width, height and wheelbase, and has actually gotten a little shorter overall. But the cabin and contents have been considerably rejiggered and the result is an optional third row, pushing capacity to seven.
I did not have the opportunity to play with that model on a couple of recent test drives but instead had an SV-level five-passenger Rogue, with the somewhat unusual Divide-N-Hide system in the back — an adjustable series of shelves and bin covers that can accommodate or completely hide your gear in 18 different ways.
Combine that with the ability to fold all of the seats entirely flat, including the front passenger’s, and Rogue will take on 70 cubic feet of gear from the front seats back.
The whole effect may be a bit of an optical illusion, but the new Rogue certainly looks and feels like a much larger vehicle. Even the one-choice engine, a 2.5-liter four cylinder making 170 horsepower, is not a thrill-a-minute experience. But when combined with the non-optional Xtronic continuously variable transmission — vastly improved, mostly imperceptible as well — the front-wheel drive 2015 Rogue is rated for 28 combined MPG, which it easily achieved during my travels.
They’ve added a few acronym-laden systems to help smooth out the ride, so it’s still a reasonably comfortable driving experience. At only 3,500-plus pounds, it’s got an easier-going demeanor than full-size SUVs, and can even be a little fun to whip around a corner. Power is not blindingly fast, but it will also cruise at 80 MPH on a hilly highway — as I did in Arizona, which also indicated that it was able to cope with altitude, to a healthy degree.
What Nissan has really done is emphasize the stuff you can get with the Rogue, turning it into a relatively affordable variation on Pathfinder and Murano. The around-view monitor system is a pretty cool feature — an above-view image is created by a series of cameras around the body and is helpful in parallel parking. There’s also a whole package of collision avoidance tools, including forward detection, lane departure detection, blind spot detection and even moving object detection, for directions not covered otherwise.
Cabin upgrades are contemporary but somewhat casual — very bright electroluminescent instrument displays and a mid-instrument video screen, piano black highlights around the center console and the shift lever, and a charming but not overly ornate, multi-layer dash — all of it a bit reminiscent of the upgrades seen on the competing RAV-4.
Seating, even the cloth seating on the SV trim level, is supportive and attractive, and also electrically heated.
Alternately, as an odd cost-saving move to appease those who recognize that the new Rogue also jumped about $3,000 in price from the model it replaced, Nissan will still thoughtfully provide you what is called the Rogue Select — a brand-new version of the 2-year-old model, with very basic components, for just $21,000. A little strange, but maybe of some appeal to those on more limited car-buying budgets.
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