It's understandable if the Nissan Rogue gets overlooked in the crowded market for compact crossovers. We'd say that it's even overshadowed by its Nissan stablemates, the larger Murano SUV and the funky-styled Juke. Still, the Rogue deserves recognition.
Appearance: Lyra thinks the Rogue looks like a junior Murano. It's sleek, with simple lines and just enough bling to give it a sporty appearance: chrome grille and trim, optional 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and a huge hatchtop spoiler. Some may find the Rogue boring when compared with the competition, especially its fellow imports, but Peter likes its almost station wagonlike look and appreciates that the design hasn't been overworked.
Performance: The Rogue is agile and fun to drive, and it handles more like a car than an SUV (it's based on the Sentra sedan). The 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower four-cylinder (there is no V-6 option) is matched with Nissan's Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which can be loud on acceleration, and drones. (There is a sport mode that gives you higher revs, but don't expect a real performance gain.) The speed-sensitive electronic power steering gives just the right amount of assist. The ride is stable and comfortable, which is what you want in a crossover.
Interior: Like the exterior, the Rogue's five-passenger interior is simple and attractive, with quality materials (including the plastics) and soft-touch surfaces. Our tester, the SV trim, came with the premium option package that adds appearance and electronic goodies such as xenon headlights, fog lights, leather seats and a Bose audio system. The center console is minimalist, with a navigation screen that's on the too-small side at 4.3 inches. But there's a backup camera, which you'll find handy because the rear visibility isn't great. As part of the option package, there's also an "Around View" monitor (new for '12) that gives you a 360-degree bird's-eye view, a feature we've seen in Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand. There's also USB, Bluetooth and voice command. The perforated leather seats comfortable and can be heated, with good bolstering. But Lyra thought the front seats sat too high, even at the lowest setting. Peter liked the position, saying it made the crossover feel larger. Cargo space isn't class-leading. Lyra couldn't fit all her groceries in the cargo area. Folding the rear seats, which have a release that's easy enough for a child to operate, brings 57.9 cubic feet of space, which is augmented by the folding front passenger seat for long items.
Our 3 favorites
Ride: It's one of the better-handling small crossovers.
Style: It says wagon, not SUV.
Interior: Simple, well laid out, with a nice mix of materials.
Parking view: The Around View provides a bird's-eye view when parking.
Performance: Drives more like a peppy car than a top-heavy SUV.
Tunes: Drown out the CVT buzz with the Bose premium audio system.
The bottom line: We found the Rogue enjoyable to drive. Even with only 4 cylinders, it has adequate pep and personality. The negative is the transmission. If cargo room isn't a priority, this crossover is worth your consideration.