Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nissan Rogue keeps to the straight and narrow

Nissan Rogue
Nissan Rogue Nissan
Nissan Rogue Gallery: Nissan Rogue keeps to the straight and narrow

Having driven the redesigned 2014 Nissan Rogue for a week, I am tempted to say that I have gone rogue. But that would be wrong, and not just because it's a lousy pun. It's because the Nissan Rogue has always had a name that's the antithesis of its look – there's nothing rogue about it – and that doesn't change with its redesign.

The front is anchored by an aggressive grille and lower air dam, and capped by lighting that has a jewel-like appearance. The lighting out back is also entrancing to look at, while the side window shape is modern in its look. Overall, the Rogue's appearance is vastly improved; it no longer looks like a rolling metal powder puff, but it's not extreme.

Look inside and you'll find that the Rogue has an extra 11.4 cubic feet of cabin space when compared to last year's model. This does more than improve legroom; it also permits the installation of second-row seats that slide back and forth up to 9 inches. Both first and second rows offer plenty of good legroom and headroom. The thrones up front feature aggressive side bolsters, yet seem comfortable for long stretches behind the wheel. Need a third row? Opt for the Family Package. But beware: It reduces cargo capacity from 32 to 9.4 cubic feet when all seats are in use.

Overall ambience is much improved for 2014, with a better grade of trim and a far more modern design. That said, some of the controls are in unexpected places. The fuel filler door release is next to the hood release. The vehicle's sport mode button isn't on the center console where you might expect it; it's to the left of the steering wheel. And the heated seat switches are on the center console, not nestled next to the climate control.

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  • The Rogue's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission are unchanged. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models are offered. Trim levels include base S, mid-level SV and premium SL.

    Start up the Rogue and you'll find its power plant feels sufficiently powerful under light loads, but it's no ball of fire once you load it with people and stuff. The CVT transmission is one of the better units available, although it does feel sluggish when more power is requested. But in return, you'll get remarkable fuel economy for an all-wheel drive compact crossover.

    The ride and handling is better than on last year's model. The steering feels fairly accurate and the handling is secure, although there is some lean in corners. There is a bit of road feel, and you'll find it to be fairly nimble. The ride is civilized and road noise is moderate. But overall, this Rogue is not devilishly fun to drive. It's not bad; it's just not memorable. It's engineered to have a basic no-muss, no-fuss attitude. But then again, the same can be said of any number of its equally capable competitors.

    Rogue SV and SL models offer moving object detection, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and a camera that displays a 360-degree image. Forward collision warning is available only on SL models.

    Despite its name, there is no evil lurking in the heart of this Rogue. It is merely a compact crossover SUV with room for five or seven, an appealing price, good fuel economy and all of the expected options.

    It's so superior to the old model, however, that this is one Rogue worth getting to know. Just don't expect any mischief.

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    2014 NISSAN ROGUE:

    –Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder

    –Horsepower/torque: 170/175

    –Wheelbase: 106.5 inches

    –Length: 182.3 inches

    –Weight: 3,605 pounds

    –Cargo space: 9.4-70 cubic feet

    –Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds

    –EPA rating (city/highway): 25/32 mpg

    –Fuel consumption: 29 mpg

    –Fuel type: Regular

    –NHTSA safety rating: 4 stars

    –Base price, excluding destination charge: $22,790

    –Price as tested: $32,395

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    ABOUT THE WRITER

    Larry Printz is automotive editor at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. He can be reached at larry.printz@pilotonline.com.

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    (c)2014 The Virginian-Pilot

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    Distributed by MCT Information Services

    Larry Printz The Virginian-Pilot (MCT)