The Nissan Rogue was restyled for 2011, with an upgraded look inside and out. Some of the model names have changed, and new features are available that were not before, including a navigation system, rearview monitor, a USB port, and 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
The 2011 Rogue gets fresh styling with a new front fascia and grille, new front and rear spoilers, new trim accents. Rogue's exterior is designed to present an image of modern sophistication. Its dramatic styling includes dynamically arched forms and powerful rear shoulder lines. The extensive redesign for 2011 adds to its sporty feel, while enhancing its upscale appearance.
Interior changes for 2011 include a new instrument panel design and a new center cluster. Rogue's interior is designed to satisfy both the functional needs of the buyers and their emotional needs, including the versatility provided by a large 58 cubic feet of cargo space. Leather-appointed seating surfaces are available along with a six-way power driver's seat and a 60/40 split folding rear bench seat. We found the cabin pleasant, with materials that would look good in higher-priced vehicles. In addition to the navigation system and rearview monitor, the Rogue is available with Nissan Intelligent Key, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio and a powerful Bose-developed audio system with seven speakers with woofer, AUX input and MP3 playback. The controls are easy to use and understand.
The Rogue seats five. There is no third row available for seven-passenger seating. The Nissan Rogue is a compact SUV. Based on a car platform, it's considered a crossover vehicle, like the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, and Chevy Equinox. Utility is enhanced by numerous convenient storage and ultra-functionality features, including an oversized glove compartment, a large center console and a washable, removable tray that fits below the cargo area floor to hold wet or dirty gear and tools. The driver gets a variety of cupholders, a memo/pen holder, coin holder and cell phone/sunglasses holders.
In back, the Rogue offers good cargo utility. The rear seats fold flat and an available folding front passenger seat allows ladders and other long items to be loaded.
All Rogue models have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower mated to a continuously variable transmission. No V6 is available. We found the four-cylinder engine works well with the CVT to provide decent performance and frugal fuel economy.
All-wheel drive is available for snow and rain. The Rogue is meant as a daily commuter and weekend runabout, not an off-road adventure vehicle. Towing capacity is just 1,500 pounds.
Behind the wheel, the Rogue offers carlike ride and handling. We think it's one of the better handling small SUVs, though we would not call it sporty. The ride allows for a lot of road feel and can become harsh on rough and irregular surfaces. Road imperfections and engine sounds intrude into the cabin.
The Rogue was introduced as a 2008 model, and changes since then have been minimal. For 2011, the styling has been updated inside and out, electronics have been advanced, and the packaging of the models has changed.
For 2011, the appearance of the Nissan Rogue has been freshened with a new front fascia and grille, new front and rear spoilers, new trim accents.
The styling is swoopy, with rounded lines and a wedge shape from front to rear. Flared rear shoulders, a contoured hood, large wheel housings and an upswept window line give the Rogue a sporty feel.
Ornamentation is minimal. A black and chrome Nissan badge up front is flanked by a body-color or chrome grille. The lower grille is substantial and framed by a pair of heavily contoured fog light nacelles. The sides, even those with chrome door handles and rub strips, are clean and smooth, with nothing to hide the clean lines.
Side mirrors are black on the Rogue S and body color on the Rogue SV. The standard wheels on the Rogue S are stamped steel with plastic covers that look like five-spoke alloys from a distance. The 17-inch aluminum wheels that come with the Rogue SV add a touch of drama, with five Y spokes that seem to actively cling to the rim; 18-inch wheels are also available. The Krom has a look all its own, still a Rogue but more entertaining.
We think the Rogue looks best from the rear, where the dark rear glass, tapering taillights, rounded panels and license plate recess give it some definition. The rear liftgate lacks a separate opening glass but the hatch is not heavy and liftover not too high.
Among compact SUVs, the Rogue has a sleeker, car-based crossover look, like the CR-V, as opposed to the more-upright box-on-box look Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty.
The Rogue is among the longest vehicles in the class, though it doesn't look it. At 183 inches overall, it is even longer than the seven-passenger Toyota RAV4 and the bulkier-looking Jeep Liberty.
For 2011, Nissan Rogue gets a new instrument panel and center stack and updated technology. We found the new layout for 2011 a bit easier on the eyes, quicker to read at a glance, and a hint more upscale than the cog-like trim of earlier models.
The Rogue has a spacious cabin. The interior uses a simple, rounded design trimmed with quality materials. The dash, for instance, is molded in a soft-touch material that seems as if it might be right at home in an Infiniti. The door tops also have a nice soft-touch material. The remainder of the materials is price-appropriate plastic that fits together well.
The instrument panel features large, white-on-black tachometer and speedometer, with analog temperature and fuel conditions inset. Between the gauges is a digital display for trip computer data, outside temperature, gear selected, door-open warnings and so on. We found the new layout for 2011 a bit easier on the eyes, quicker to read at a glance, and a hint more upscale than the cog-like trim of earlier models.
The center stack features two of four omnidirectional air vents at top, three easily used round climate-control knobs below, and Nissan's unique radio layout in between (or navigation if you order it). It has substantially sized buttons, and the presets are grouped in A, B, and C folders, each of which can mix radio bands; use the 18 presets as a group of six for three different drivers, locales, or attitudes. MP3 and iPod inputs bring your own, and an optional Bose audio system is available for better reproduction.
Storage for small items up front is adequate. The center console has two integral cupholders and a small tray that will work for holding little odds and ends. If that's not enough, the console bin is very deep and is available with a removable tray to give it two levels of storage. The glovebox is exceptionally deep, there's a bag hook on the back of the right-front seat, and Rogue's livability is first-rate.
The driver's seat is comfortable and offers a good driving position, now with six adjustments. The tilt steering wheel helps, and there is enough head for most adults and class-leading legroom. There is good visibility to the front and the side mirrors are large, but over-the shoulder visibility is compromised by a smallish rear window and rear side windows that are pinched at the rear. The ride height makes getting into and out of the Rogue very easy.
The second row is usefully roomy, with head and leg room that can accommodate adults, even with the front seats moved far back. Three adults in the rear will be cramped, but they should be able to deal with short trips. Toe space under the front seats is plentiful.
Cargo space is good but not at the top of the class. The second-row seats are split 60/40, and they fold flat in an easy one-step motion to open up to the maximum 57.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
Cargo utility is improved by a number of features. Rogue SV includes a folding front passenger seat, which folds almost flat to allow loading of longer items. A cargo floor undertray comes on all models and a foldable cargo organizer is available as an accessory to help prevent groceries and other cargo from rolling around; there are also grocery bag hooks and tie-down points. The roof rails are compatible with Yakima racks and accessories, so almost anything within roof cargo weight limits can be carried up there.
Rogue's 2.5-liter engine makes 170 horsepower and is one of the better four-cylinder engines available today. The Honda CR-V has a 5-hp advantage but notably less torque, which is more important in daily driving. The engine has the low-end punch to propel the Rogue from a stop and decent midrange. At higher speeds it falls off, however, so planning and momentum are needed for higher-speed passing maneuvers.
Fuel economy is quite good, with an EPA-estimated 22/28 mpg City/Highway with front-wheel drive; the AWD models are rated 22/26 mpg. The federal government classifies the front-drive models as cars, the rear-drive models as trucks.
The continuously variable transmission works well with the engine, quickly switching to an appropriate ratio for the driving conditions. The only way to tell that it's not a standard automatic is to floor the accelerator and keep it there. The transmission reacts by picking the ratio to put the engine in its optimum rev range and keeping it there. Since the transmission allows the engine to rev only as high as needed, it aids in fuel economy, particularly in the city. The transmission is also a bonus in hilly driving or slowing in snow or ice where you might like to avoid the brake pedal because selecting L will easily bring speed down to 10-15 mph on level ground.
The Rogue is not built for towing, with a maximum capacity of only 1,500 pounds (with the dealer-installed towing package) similar to many four-cylinder crossovers. Nor is it intended for off-road duty.
The Rogue is based on an economy car platform and those roots show through in more ways than one. While it is among the better handling compact SUVs, it is not sporty. It drives more like a car than an SUV, but it has more body lean in turns than most cars. The electric-assist steering requires only a light effort, but it feels natural and direct with good road feel and front bite when you turn the wheel. In our opinion, the Rogue transmits more road feel to the driver through the steering wheel than most compact SUVs.
The ride is generally comfortable, but the same suspension firmness that makes the Rogue handle well makes it busy on bumpy pavement, and sharp ruts can give passengers a jolt. Perhaps the biggest drawback is interior noise. The noise from rough pavement, bumps and potholes sounds like the soundtrack of an economy car. Ditto the sound of the engine. The Rogue seems like it could use more body insulation, though we realize that would add weight, which can reduce fuel economy.
The Nissan Rogue is an appealing compact SUV with carlike road manners, cargo utility and prudent fuel economy. The Rogue is a worthy competitor vs. the Honda CR-V. The Nissan matches the Honda for carlike road manners and fuel economy, though the Rogue is not as quiet on the inside and doesn't ride as smoothly as the CR-V does. The six-cylinder RAV4 is considerably faster than the Rogue but costs more and doesn't deliver the fuel economy. We think the Rogue is a good choice for drivers looking for a daily commuter with lots of cargo space.
Kirk Bell filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Baltimore, with G.R. Whale reporting from Los Angeles.