In the world of compact crossovers, it can be very hard to stand out. The formula is simple: Use a car-based chassis, add ground clearance and put a 150- to 180-horsepower 4-cylinder under the hood. In fact, the segment is so similar that many compact crossovers are even starting to look the same.
But the newly redesigned 2014 Nissan Rogue manages to stand out from the pack -- an impressive feat, considering it largely sticks to the established formula. We recently got behind the wheel of the latest Rogue to find out exactly how it sets itself apart from its rivals.
Follows the Formula
Before we cover the Rogue's standout qualities, it's important to understand the newly redesigned SUV still includes everything you'd expect from a compact crossover. That means there's a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 170 hp, a fuel-saving CVT automatic transmission, a tall driving position and a long list of features -- both for convenience and safety. There's also a lot of high-tech gadgetry, which is becoming a hallmark in modern Nissan models.
It's also important to understand the latest Rogue has almost nothing in common with the old one, which will live on for the 2014 model year as the budget-priced Rogue Select. To us, the outgoing Rogue was in dire need of some changes, owing to a noisy, cramped interior and low-rent materials. If you crossed off the old Rogue from your shopping list for any of those reasons, we understand. But we think the new one is worth a second look.
Emerging from the Pack
Let's start with the most obvious area: seating. The Rogue offers a third row, which means it can seat seven occupants. Since the RAV4 ditched its third row for 2013, the Rogue is now the only compact crossover with seven seats. That's big news for shoppers who want three rows without the size -- or the cost -- of a midsize SUV. Plus, the Rogue's third row is actually surprisingly comfortable, though cargo room is minimal when it's in place.
Interior accolades don't stop there. We're not sure how much owners will use it, but the Rogue has a unique Divide-N-Hide cargo system that lets drivers separate items in the cargo area. It's more substantial and practical than the nets and plastic dividers in rival models.
Materials are also excellent. While the Rogue is no high-end luxury car, we think its cabin is an improvement over nearly all its rivals. There's an abundance of padded surfaces and nicely textured plastics, and panel gaps in the Rogue are noticeably smaller than gaps in rival models. That's a departure for Nissan, which often cuts costs in material quality in order to pack its vehicles full of must-have features.
But Nissan hasn't cut any features from the Rogue. On the contrary, we're impressed by the crossover's equipment.
Among our favorite gadgets is Nissan's available Around View Monitor. This system stitches together images from four exterior cameras to provide top-down footage showing all angles outside the car -- great for parking and backing up. Better yet, it's now available with a feature called Moving Object Detection, which sounds a chime if there's movement outside the car when reversing. Working together, the two systems effectively eliminate the danger of a tragic back-over accident.
Of course, the Rogue has lots of other high-tech features, as well -- just like many modern cars and SUVs. Think blind spot warning, lane departure warning and forward collision alert, among others. There's also an LCD screen in the gauge cluster and the NissanConnect infotainment system, which offers app integration and hands-free text messaging. We found the system slightly clunky and the screen a little small, though we concede drivers who spend more time with it may have better results.
Not Quite Perfect
It's easy to say the latest Nissan Rogue is in the running for our favorite compact crossover, but that doesn't mean it's perfect. In an effort to achieve class-leading gas mileage, Nissan has dulled its performance a little too much for our tastes. We think the Rogue would be well-served with a more muscular engine option, similarly to the Ford Escape and Kia Sportage.
We also think the Rogue is still a little noisy -- especially at high rpms -- thanks to the droning coming from its CVT. And we think the styling is a little on the bland side.
Still, the 2014 Nissan Rogue makes a compelling case in a segment where few vehicles manage to stand out from the pack. It may not be as well-known as the RAV4, CR-V or Escape, but the latest Rogue merits a spot on your compact-crossover shopping list.