Pros: Decent fuel economy; all-wheel drive option.

Cons: Cheap interior; unusual acceleration curve.

What's New: Premium Edition replaces Premium Package; Special Edition gets Bluetooth handsfree and 6-speaker audio.

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.

A styling update in 2011 freshened up the Rogue's exterior design, and the 2013 Nissan Rogue keeps the look, arriving mostly unchanged. Also carrying over from the previous model year are the standard 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and CVT automatic transmission, plus a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. Updates to a pair of options packages are the only changes for the latest model.

The Rogue is available in two trim levels: S or SV. Starting at $22,310, Rogue S models can be optioned with the $1,200 Special Edition package that includes aluminum wheels, a backup camera, display audio, satellite radio and Bluetooth. A pair of options packages is available on the Rogue SV, which starts at $24,750. The $1,700 Premium Edition package includes touches like navigation, a moonroof, automatic climate control and Bose audio. The $3,900 SL package loads the Rogue up with leather, heated front seats, 18-inch aluminum wheels and Nissan's Around View monitor system.

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 legroom. 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 cu-ft of storage space.

The Rogue's interior refinement is far below that of its competitors. Although the seats are plush, comfortable and available with leather trim, there's a low-rent look and feel to the interior materials. The level of sturdiness and aesthetic appeal inside of the Rogue is no match for the well-executed cabins found in competitors like the Ford Escape or Honda CR-V.

On the other hand, the Rogue's interior offers excellent utility, with numerous large and convenient storage features: an oversized 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 offers several 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-in 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 in the center of the instrument cluster.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The Rogue's only available engine, a 2.5-liter inline-4, produces 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. Mated to it is Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). The CVT tailors its shift characteristics based on driver input and operation and on road conditions. Nissan includes a performance-improving Sport button that lets the CVT hold higher engine speeds before shifting.

The EPA rates 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. Thanks to extensive use of high-strength steel, it provides excellent body stiffness and also helps reduce body weight. Safety is bolstered by 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 conventional automatic transmissions, replacing them with CVTs. Some CVTs, like the one in the 2013 Nissan Rogue, work better than others, offering driving and shifting characteristics that are above average. Others, like the CVT in the new Ford Focus, essentially ruin the driving experience. The transmission in the Rogue feels quite smooth, and although it's a bit slow off the line, the Rogue feels lively as it accelerates past 20 mph.

In spite of the Rogue's subpar, outdated interior, it is a comfortable vehicle. 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: The completely redesigned 2013 Escape is priced very closely to the Rogue, and it even uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder just like the Nissan. But the Escape is more economical with the base engine, rated at 31 mpg highway. And for those who want more power, the Escape is available with a choice of optional engines, including a 240-hp turbocharged motor.

Mazda CX-5: Starting at $20,995 for the base front-wheel-drive Sport model, the Mazda CX-5 is also new for 2013. It features the automaker's distinctive Kodo design language, and with its new SKYACTIV engine technology, the CX-5 is rated at up to 35 mpg highway.

Kia Sportage: Where the styling of the Rogue is more crowd-pleasing, the Sportage is more daring and, well, sporty. Both the base 2.4-liter and optional turbocharged 2.0-liter engines offer a balance of performance and fuel economy and are covered by Kia's outstanding, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

AutoTrader Recommends

Normally, we recommend customers step up to the information, entertainment and navigation upgrades, but we don't see the value for those extras on the Rogue. We do like the added safety and capability of all-wheel drive, so the 2013 Rogue S AWD with the Special Edition Package would be our choice. It's equipped with essentials like a backup camera and Bluetooth but still lands under $25,000.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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