TEST DRIVE: Nissan 2012 Rogue worth a look
There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to compact crossovers, a favourite segment for thrifty Canadian consumers. And Nissan’s latest offering, the 2012 Rogue, is certainly worth a look after two straight years of styling tweaks and technological adjustments.
“There are many ways to look at ‘value’ these days and the Nissan Rogue delivers by every measure – affordability, fuel efficiency, quality and versatility,” said Judy Wheeler, Director, Marketing, Nissan Canada. ”For 2012, Rogue was updated with the same themes in mind as when it was named – aggressive styling, functionality and fun-to drive.”
The Rogue made a splash in Canada, launching after its 2007 debut at the Detroit Auto Show, replacing the X-Trail and winning its SUV/CUV Under $35,000 category at the 2008 AJAC Car of the Year test fest.
For 2011, the Rogue was treated to a mild mid-life makeover, adding a spoiler and other refinements. The lineup was also diversified with an added top-of-the-line SL trim level, complementing the base Rogue S and mid-range Rogue SV models. There are option packages and choices of either front-wheel-drive (FWD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems, except for the SL model that makes AWD standard.
This year, the 2012 Nissan Rogue adds a new “Sport Mode” button on the console. There are new aluminum-alloy wheels, and a new exterior colour - Blue Lightning. And the SL Package adds the innovative Around View Monitor, a multi-camera system that gives a fascinating 360-degree, birds-eye view of the vehicle for close quarter parking situations.
Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back and take a broader look at the Rogue from the base model forward.
All Rogue models harness Nissan’s QR25DE 170hp 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine mated to an Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Traction control (TCS) comes standard, as does Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). A healthy list of other standards on all models includes six airbags, 4-wheel ABS disc braking, air conditioning, halogen headlights, variable wipers, remote keyless entry, power windows, power locks, power heated mirrors, tilt steering, cruise control and four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System and iPod connectivity. Even a rear sonar parking system comes included.
The entry-level Rogue S FWD starts at $23,778 and, with the included CVT automatic and other items listed above, you can see why it is at least worthy of consideration. As of press time, Nissan Canada sweetened the deal further with a $2,500 factory rebate on the S model.
Climbing up the trim ladder adds option packages and conveniences best explored online. My tester came in the new, full-blown SL trim level. With a starting price of $34,278, you’d expect all the bells and whistles. And you’d be right.
The Rogue SL comes complete with fog lights, 18-inch wheels, Nissan Navigation with 127mm (5-inch) touchscreen monitor, RearView monitor, Around View monitor, upgraded 8-speaker digital BOSE audio system, and a whole lot more.
The Rogue offers a firm ride and the nimble handling you’d also expect from a compact. The 2.5-litre engine won’t exactly straighten your hair. It drones on nasally with the Cessna-like constant rpm characteristic of a CVT trying to catch up to the motor’s demands. Nissan makes much of the marriage of Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVVTCS), electronic drive-by-wire throttle and other refinements, boasting lab-derived fuel economy ratings of 9.6/7.7L/100km (city/hwy) for my SL model. My real world mixed average was closer to 11L/100km.
The Rogue’s CVT tranny tends towards the tallest usable gearing, spinning just over 2,000 rpm at highway speed. Around town, the engine barely breaks a sweat, pulsing in the neighbourhood of 1,000 rpm. That kind of low rev lugging can send a low frequency, grinding vibration through the floorboards, steering wheel and seat of your pants. But don’t take it too hard, it’s just the sound of an engine and tranny trying to save you gas money.
An easy fix, based on my experience with paint-shaker Harleys, is to drop a gear or, in this case, stab the Sport button, which bumps the revs up by about 500 rpm to a smoother plateau.
The 2012 Rogue is wrapped in a feral-snouted and athletic bend of metal complemented by an interior that, at this SL trim level, seems a study of simplicity and ergonomic elegance. Yes, I suppose we could cobble up a wish list - a larger Nav screen, maybe a 115V AC outlet, or the telescopic steering that is still not a given in this segment, but the cabin has a kind of calming serenity to it that suggests little in the way of improvement.
I was trying to figure out why I felt so relaxed inside the Rogue and finally pinned it on minimalist interior design. Everything is exactly where it is supposed to be; the gauges, the instruments, and the radio with volume knob on the left, tuning knob on the right, the way God and man intended.
And, take for example, the three-dial HVAC control dial system. Put Granddad, a teenager, a Kalahari bushman or visiting alien in the passenger seat and they would instinctively know how to control the heat, air conditioning, fan speed, whatever. It’s spot on, perfect.
Should some future designer decide to change over to some mouse-driven, screen-scrolling contraption, I will hunt him down and kill him. Which may be a slight exaggeration, but I’ll take a dime for every time I’ve had to dig out the owner’s manual in order to puzzle out a computerized complexity designed to “make my life easier”.
The Rogue SL’s cabin ambiance is completed with dark textures, set as a background to white-lit gauges and orange-illuminated dials. Black leather seating is subtly highlighted with red sport stitching. The second row is roomy and the rear cargo area takes 818 litres (28.9 cu.ft.) of cargo, expanding to 1639 litres (57.9 cu.ft.) with the rear 60/40 seats folded flat.
In the Nissan lineup, the Rogue fits below the bigger, pricier and more powerful Murano with its V6 engine, while slotting in above the new Nissan Juke, that, despite the considerations of its smaller size and styling weirdness, offers not only a lower price and better fuel economy but also, surprisingly, more power than the Rogue from its smaller but turbocharged 1.6-litre engine.
Which is also why we can probably expect a major update to the Rogue within a year or two.
For now, the 2012 Rogue offers a unique take on the compact crossover with room for five, a variety of trim level choices, consistent power output and capable handling abilities, along with price points, style and quality levels worthy of consumer consideration.
Nissan Rogue 2012 At A Glance
BODY STYLE: compact crossover utility vehicle (CUV)
DRIVE METHOD: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 2.5-litre 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder (170 hp, 175 lb/ft)
FUEL ECONOMY: FWD 9.0/7.0L/100km (city/hwy); AWD 9.6/7.7L/100km (city/hwy)
TOW RATING: 454 kg (1000 lb); 680 kg (1500 lb) with trailer braking
PRICES: S FWD $23,778; SV FWD $26,678; S AWD $26,578; SV AWD $28,678; SL AWD $34,278 (as tested)