When it comes to engine performance and driving dynamics, the Nissan Rogue is pretty forgettable business.
And yet, this compact crossover is SUV-rich Nissan’s bestselling vehicle. Even more surprising, last month it was America’s top-selling non-pickup truck, beating out the Toyota RAV4, which was the numero uno non-pickup in 2017.
Why is this happening?
Could it be that those brisk sales derive from its attractive exterior and interior styling, an exceptionally comfortable ride, solid crash ratings, and fuel efficiency, and cargo space at or near the top of the class?
Could it be that the Rogue’s clientele are practical folk who care more about comfort and utility than they do about whipping around a corner or away from a stoplight?
The Rogue underwent a mid-cycle refresh for 2017, including a fresh front end, a revamped interior, and safety assists such as adaptive cruise control and automated emergency braking. Also, a hybrid model — Nissan’s first — was added to the lineup.
The Rogue gets no cosmetic or mechanical tweaks for 2018, although it did lose its third row of seats and gained ProPilot Assist, which helps you navigate stop-and-go traffic on the highway. It is the first Nissan to receive this semiautonomous driving technology.
Prices range from $24,680 for the decently equipped, front-drive base model S to a somewhat less affordable $32,410 for the loaded, all-wheel-drive, top-of-the-line SL model that I tested. (All-wheel-drive adds only $1,350 to the Rogue price tag, which ought to make it rather appealing in the Philadelphia area, where it has been known to snow. A mere $1,000 premium also gets you the hybrid.)
Like its comely skin and handsome 18-inch alloy wheels, the SL’s roomy interior was quite pleasing. I particularly liked the leather seat trim. While leather seating surfaces are standard on the SL, the tester had a unique $250 option: brown leather surfaces that were smooth, perforated and quilted and featured black bands along the edges of the seat backs and bolsters.
The seating proved as comfortable as the ride. The instruments and controls were intuitively placed, and visibility was good, although, as is frequently the case in crossovers, the rear view was limited.
Opening the power liftgate reveals why the Rogue earns a silver medal in luggage capacity. It boasts 70 cubic feet of storage space with the backseats folded down. Only the Honda R-V, at 76, is better.
Speaking of high marks, the Rogue is also in the top echelon when it comes to segment fuel efficiency. The front-drive, gas-engine model has EPA mileage ratings of 26 city and 33 highway, while the AWD is 25 and 32. The front-drive hybrid’s EPAs are 33 city and 35 highway. The AWD hybrid’s are an even niftier 31 and 34.
The 2018 Rogue has not yet received a government safety rating. In 2017, it did get a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for 2017.
Engine performance is a different story. The normally aspirated, 2.5-liter engine puts out 170 horsepower, decidedly less than its competition. As a consequence, while the rest of the compact pack is getting from 0 to 60 in between 7 and 7.5 seconds, the Rogue gets there in a leisurely 9.
While the engine remains fairly civil during normal driving, flogging it to get out of the chute or to pass on the highway is a noisy proposition.
Cornering isn’t a delight, either. The soft suspension that provides that nice ride doesn’t engender crisp fun during ambitious turns. Braking and steering get average marks.
2018 Nissan Rogue SL (AWD)
Base price: $32,410.
As tested: $36,915.
Standard equipment: 2.5-liter engine, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), all-wheel-drive, and a plethora of electronic safety aids and a hedonistic gear gaggle ranging from a heated steering wheel to a motion-activated liftgate.
Options: Range from a panoramic sunroof and LED headlight package ($1,820) to a $395 premium paint job.
Fuel economy: 25 city mpg and 32 highway.
Engine performance: Wake us when we reach 60.
Ride comfort: Top shelf.
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
Three Bens: Good.