The Nissan Rogue sort of flies under the radar as one of, in my opinion, the lower-profile models in Nissan's lineup. It's not as funky as the Murano's shadow and I often mistake one for the other at a glance., as sporty as , or as desirable as the . In my eyes, the Rogue lives in the
So you can understand why I was in no rush to hop behind the wheel of the 2013 Nissan Rogue SV that recently found itself parked in the Car Tech garage and why I was totally unprepared to love this little crossover as much as I did.
Power train and performance
Under the Rogue's unassuming hood is an equally unassuming 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that outputs 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. That power flows through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and, ultimately, to the front wheels. At an additional cost, an all-wheel drive (AWD) system is available that still defaults to front-drive under most conditions, but can shift up to 50 percent of the available torque to the rear axle when it detects slippage.
At the end of my testing -- which consisted of a 173-mile freeway loop of the San Francisco Bay Area, a moderately paced cruise of my favorite back roads, and a day of city driving around San Francisco proper -- the trip computer read 23.4 mpg. That falls near the low end of the EPA's estimates of 23 city mpg, 28 highway mpg, and 25 combined mpg, but still within the range.
What most impressed me about my time with the Rogue is just how well Nissan has mastered the CVT. Its engineers seem to have dialed out out almost all of the rubbery rpm-hunting that plagued the earliest generations of the technology. Acceleration is confident and strong, thanks in part to the 2.5-liter engine, but mostly due to the CVT's ability to stay out of the driver's way and give access to economy or power as necessary. The Rogue never felt breathless and never felt unresponsive. Rather than waiting for a gearbox to downshift, I was able to almost directly control the engine rpm with the accelerator pedal. Of course, the sound coming out of the engine gets progressively more grating as the rpm rises, so you won't want to get too lead-footed; and it's not the sort of instant-on torque that will pin you to the seat like you'd get with an electric car. However, the Rogue manages to always be within the meatiest part of its power band, making the most of its engine's abilities.
A Sport mode bumps up the idling and cruising rpm by about 500 revs and causes the CVT to more aggressively seek higher engine speeds, but it's really not necessary or even noticeably sportier than the standard program.
The Rogue's electronic power steering doesn't offer the most feedback in this class, it's nowhere near as communicative as the, but the crossover does go where you point it consistently and offers the reasonable complement of good seat-of-the-pants feel. After a few corners, I began to trust the crossover and enjoy a winding road at moderate, but not breakneck, speeds.
However, the Rogue's natural environment isn't on a back road, but on a potholed city street. Here, it managed to soak up all but the harshest bumps without drama while still delivering a controlled ride. Higher-frequency road imperfections, such as expansion joints, rumble strips, and cracks, still transmitted quite a bit of noise into the cabin.
Cabin tech and safety features
The Nissan Rogue SV comes fairly well equipped, boasting a number of standard features, including USB connectivity for MP3 playback from storage devices and iPods, Bluetooth hands-free calling, intelligent keyless entry, push-button start, and a power driver's seat are also standard for SV models, as is a rearview camera.
That rear camera doesn't last long, as with the addition of the optional SL Package it's almost immediately replaced by the Around View Camera -- a feature that I've previously only seen in Infiniti models that gives the driver a bird's-eye view of the area around the vehicle by stitching together video from four cameras mounted around the vehicle's perimeter. For your $3,900, the SL Package also adds a 5-inch touch screen and an SD card-based navigation system with SiriusXM NavTraffic. A Bose audio system is also added, bumping the number of speakers up to eight, including a front-center fill channel and a powered subwoofer. Climate controls gain an automatic thermostat, the seats and steering wheel gain leather trim, and the front buckets gain two levels of heating. Headlights are upgraded to HID Xenon lamps and gain an automatic on/off function. Finally, a modest power moonroof is added to the feature list. That's not a bad haul for just under $4,000.
However, there are a few small annoyances that must be pointed out. For starters, the 5-inch screen used to display maps and Around View Camera output is located fairly low on dashboard's center stack. This makes it difficult to monitor the map or check the camera without taking your eyes off the road or craning your neck. Additionally, the tiny, low-resolution screen doesn't offer the best detail when in Around View mode, which makes it difficult to spot painted lines on the road or poorly defined curbs. However, even with these trade-offs, the extra visibility afforded by the extra cameras can greatly enhance safety and make tight parallel parking easier.
While navigating with the turn-by-turn directions, I noticed that this system didn't seem to feature a text-to-speech engine, so it wasn't able to speak street names aloud. However, the spoken prompts were clearly stated with enough headway to prevent panicked last-minute scrambles for turns. Finally, the Rogue lacks Bluetooth A2DP audio streaming. Although the auxiliary audio input somewhat fills in this hole in the feature set, this connection lacks Bluetooth's transport controls, so you'll have to interact directly with a paired phone to skip tracks.
The Nissan Rogue starts at $22,310 for the S trim level, where an analog auxiliary input is the best tech you get. Climbing the trim levels you end up at the $28,650 price tag for our loaded-up 2013 Rogue SV with SL Package model in (humorously) Red. You can add $1,300 to any Rogue to add the on-demand AWD system, but this high up the trim-level totem pole, there are no other options to add to the Rogue (aside from your usual array of mud flaps and floor mats). Add a $825 destination charge to reach our as-tested price of $29,475.
Recently, we took a spin in the. Fully loaded, the Mazda is only $10 less than the Nissan, so I think it's interesting to take a moment and compare these two small crossovers. The Rogue has more power, more torque, and a CVT that helps it to better make use of that grunt. It feels more confident on the highway and is more resistant to crosswinds than the Mazda. However, the Mazda is less anonymous-looking and is more rewarding to take through a bendy bit of road thanks to its sportier steering and suspension setup. The CX-5 also boasts arguably better cabin tech with its TomTom-based navigation system, but the Rogue's Around View Camera gives it a serious edge in safety tech.
The driving enthusiast in me wants to give the edge to the friskier CX-5, but I think your average crossover buyer will find more value in the more settled Rogue. Either choice, I think, is a good one.
|Model||2013 Nissan Rogue|
|Trim||SV with SL Package|
|Power train||2.5-L 4-cylinder, CVT, FWD, or optional AWD|
|EPA fuel economy||23 city, 28 highway, 25 combined mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||23.4|
|Navigation||Optional SD-based navigation with SirusXM NavTraffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Yes|
|Disc player||Single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||Standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||SiriusXM Satellite Radio|
|Audio system||Bose premium audio|
|Driver aids||Optional Around View Camera|
|Price as tested||$29,475|