What U.S. roads need is another small SUV designed for Generation X-ers. That's the conclusion Nissan marketers told journalists at the introduction of the new Nissan Rogue SUV at a recent event in Manhattan. What they probably meant was, "Oops, Nissan really missed getting a small SUV on the market five years ago, and we'd better come up with a new way to slice this niche."
To be fair, Nissan has been selling a small SUV--the X-Trail--in other markets but never offered it here.
With the success of Nissan's sporty midsized crossover, it seems natural for the company to model the smaller, less expensive Rogue after the Murano. As regular blog readers know, the Murano is a favorite among many staffers.
Predictably, the Rogue looks something like a smaller Murano. It uses Nissan's 170-hp, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine from the Sentra, and it has a standard continuously variable transmission -- a powertrain combination that impressed us in the Nissan Altima 2.5S in our March road test. Uplevel SL models have optional paddle shifters, and all models will be available with a locking center differential for more difficult off-road terrain.
The Rogue also has more available upscale features than most small SUVs, such as a Bluetooth-compatible Bose stereo with XM satellite radio, Xenon HID headlights, and heated leather seats. We're also happy to see that the Rogue comes standard with a full complement of safety-aids, including VDC stability and traction control and ABS.
Like the Murano, the Rogue favors curvy looks over boxy utility. This limits visibility somewhat (though not as badly as in the Murano). We were relatively impressed, however, with the wide, flat cargo area with no intruding strut towers; this is made possible by the independent rear suspension. The front passenger seat also folds flat for longer cargo.
In the end, Rogue appears less revolutionary than the marketing hype would suggest, but it's nice to see that it actually remains faithful to the definition of "small." We'll have to see for ourselves how it stacks up when we buy a Rogue to test for ourselves.
The Rogue goes on sale in October for a base price of just under $20,000.