Pros: Decent fuel economy; all-wheel drive option

Cons: Cheap interior; unusual acceleration curve

Nissan's entry in the compact-SUV market, the Rogue, first appeared in 2007 as a 2008 model. Based on the same platform as the Nissan Sentra compact sedan, the Rogue is a true crossover.

The Sentra and Rogue even share the same engine: a 2.5-liter inline-4 producing 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque that is mated to a continuously variable transmission The Rogue is available in front- and all-wheel-drive versions.

Although the Rogue is still in its first generation, it received a face lift in 2011. For 2012, a new Special Edition trim package has been added to the lineup. The Rogue is available in two models: S and SV, both of which can be optioned with all-wheel drive. In addition to the Special Edition trim package, customers can choose premium and SL packages that are priced from $1,200 to $3,900.

Comfort and Utility

Seating for front passengers in the Rogue is roomy and comfortable. For a compact SUV, the Rogue offers plentiful front head and leg room. In the back, headroom is just as ample, but legroom suffers because of the Rogue's compact stature. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, yielding 57.9 cubic feet of storage space.

The Rogue's interior refinement is far below that of its competitors. Although the seats are plush, comfortable and can be trimmed with leather, there's a low-rent look and feel to the interior, and the materials feel cheap. Nothing appears to have been designed with care for either sturdiness or aesthetic appeal.

On the other hand, the Rogue's interior offers excellent utility, with numerous large and convenient storage features: an oversize glove compartment, a large center console and a washable, removable tray that fits below the cargo area floor to hold wet or dirty gear and tools. The Rogue also has a variety of cupholders, a coin holder, and a cell phone and sunglasses holder.

Technology

The Rogue's optional information and entertainment screen is only 4.3 inches wide and has rather low resolution. Customers can upgrade to a 5.0-inch satellite navigation display (including real-time traffic information), but it isn't much more visually appealing. Aside from that disappointing feature, the Rogue has some delightful technical options, including automatic air conditioning, rear-view camera, keyless ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, XM satellite radio and steering-wheel-mounted controls.

Standard on the Rogue, Nissan includes a drive computer that displays distance to empty, average fuel consumption, average speed and elapsed time and outside temperature within the center of the instrument cluster.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The Rogue's one and only engine, a 2.5-liter inline-4, produces 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Mated to the Rogue's engine is Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT tailors its shift characteristics based on driver input and operation along with road conditions. For 2012, Nissan has included a new performance-improving Sport button that allows the CVT to hold higher RPM before shifting.

The EPA has rated the front-wheel-drive Rogue at 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel-drive model gets 22/26 mpg.

Safety

Every Rogue is built on Nissan's C platform, which is shared with the Nissan Sentra. This platform provides excellent body stiffness due to extensive use of high-strength steel that helps reduce body weight. The Rogue gets dual front airbags, front-seat-mounted side impact supplemental airbags and roof-mounted curtain side impact supplemental airbags with rollover sensors.

Driving Impressions

Many automakers have been phasing out standard automatic transmissions for CVTs, and some work better than others. In the case of the Rogue's, driving and shifting characteristics are above average. Some CVTs, like that in the new Ford Focus, shift hard and essentially ruin the driving experience, while the Rogue's CVT feels quite smooth. Off the line, the Rogue is a bit slow as the CVT eases in, but once the Rogue accelerates above 20 mph, it's lively.

In spite of the Rogue's subpar, outdated interior, it's comfortable. The seats are nicely cushioned and supportive, outward visibility is adequate and Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones is easily set up and activated.

Other Cars to Consider

Ford Escape - Starting at $21,440, the Escape XLS FWD is about to become obsolete. Later this year, Ford will start selling the all-new 2013 Escape with a new design and new, more fuel-efficient drivetrain options.

Mazda CX-5 - The 2013 CX-5, already on sale, starts at $20,695 for the base front-wheel-drive Sport model. Featuring Mazda's new Kodo design language and the new SKYACTIV engine technology, the CX-5 is the latest and greatest in the CUV market.

Kia Sportage -The Sportage used to be darling of the CUV market-and for good reason. With a peppy 2.7-liter inline-4 and a six-speed manual transmission covered by Kia's 100,000-mile warranty, plus a price range starting at $18,500, there are few reasons to dislike the Sportage.

AutoTrader Recommends

Normally, we recommend customers step up to the information and entertainment and satellite navigation upgrades, but we don't see the value for those extras on the Rogue. For customers interested in the Rogue, we recommend the plainer S AWD model, which starts at $23,090.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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