Test Drive: Rogue update checks the boxes

Test Drive: Rogue update checks the boxes

December 14th, 2013 by Mark Kennedy in Business Diary

The new 1014 Nissan Rogue has clean, masculine lines and a capable 2.5 liter engine.

Photo by Staff photo by Mark Kennedy

FAST FACTS

Model: 2014 Nissan Rogue SV

Exterior color: Moonlight White

Interior color: Charcoal

Engine: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder

Horsepower: 170

Transmission: continuously variable

Fuel economy: 33 mpg highway, 26 mpg city

Dealer: Hunt Nissan

Price (as tested): $26,110

The small-SUV market is so vast that you can literally make a check-list of your must-haves and pretty much assure yourself that your wishes will come true.

If the top of your wish list looks like this -- clean styling, riding comfort, advanced safety features and great fuel economy -- I'd suggest you head directly to your nearest Nissan dealer and check out the redesigned Nissan Rogue, assembled up the road in Smyrna, Tenn.

We did just that earlier this week, taking a test drive in a new Rogue in mid-tier SV trim. A base S-model starts at $22,490 and the SV bases for $24,230 and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a smart-key system, climate control and a six-way driver's seat to the Rogue's standard features. The top-of-the-line Rogue SL ($28,930) adds, among other things, leather seat surfaces, navigation, Nissan's great Around View monitor, 18-inch alloys and heated front seats.

Danny McVay, sales manager at Hunt Nissan here, said the car-maker is still offering last-year's Rogue design for a limited time to give customers a broader range of price options.

STYLING AND COMFORT

The Rogue's style make-over is striking and marks it as more of a baby Murano, Nissan's popular mid-size SUV. The new Rogue features clean lines and well-tailored creases, resulting in a sharper profile. Our Moonlight White tester featured luminescent paint and gleaming five-spoke alloy wheels shod with Hankook all-season tires. Hawk-eye shaped headlights and a U-shaped chrome accent in the grille add machismo. Attractive roof rails and chrome door handles give the Rogue an upscale vibe.

Inside, the Rogue feels like it has climbed several rungs up the refinement ladder. A beefy, three-spoke steering wheel frames the easy-to-read, black and white instrument cluster -- tachometer, speedometer and fuel gauge. The sound-system console is easy to read, with actual dials and switches that you don't have to study an owners' manual to understand.

The seats, covered in attractive charcoal colored fabric, are Nissan's space-age zero-gravity design. Almost magically, there are no pressure points to induce muscle fatigue on long drives. A six-way power driver's seat is standard on the SV trim.

Because of the Rogue's high roof-line, head and shoulder room in the vehicle are generous. The cabin is open and airy, with good outward visibility, enhanced by large side mirrors.

The cargo area, 70 cubic feet with the second-row seat down, is large and versatile. The Rogue actually includes shelves that slide in and out of tracks and make the rear storage options nearly endless. The mid-trim SV has an optional third-row seat, but as with many small SUVs it is really only suitable for small children.

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

The Rouge is powered by an inline, 4-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower, mated to Nissan's well-reviewed continuously variable transmission. Unlike some CVTs that result in unnatural driving dynamics and over-revving, the Rouge's transmission is smooth and feels much like a traditional tranny.

The engine, at 2.5-liters, is sufficiently large for this vehicle; which is good because it's the only powerplant Nissan offers in the Rogue. Steering is well-weighted and contributes to the Rogue's generally solid feel. Under hard acceleration, the Rogue easily merged onto Highway 153 traffic.

Parking is a breeze in the Rouge if you opt for Nissan's incredible Around View monitor that uses four cameras to help you navigate your surroundings. Nissan explains that the high-tech feature "displays the composite footage on a screen as if there's a single, bird's-eye view camera right above the vehicle."

Shazam!

Also available, are several cutting-edge safety features including blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, and a forward-collision warning system (in case you accidentally edge too close to a vehicle in front of you).

BOTTOM LINE

The Nissan Rogue will appeal to many buyers for its just-right styling and top-shelf safety features. It also benefits from having a more premium feel than many of its competitors, which should ultimately translate to increased market share.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.