It’s often not enough for a vehicle to just be practical, it also has to be fun and playful. If the Rogue name is any indication, buyers of Nissan’s newest sport-utility wagon will have more fun than they can possibly stand.
The Rogue, which is scheduled to arrive later this year, represents the economy echelon of the burgeoning crossover-utility class of automobiles, essentially tall square-back wagons that usually include all-wheel-drive on the menu.
Nissan already does a thorough job providing a wide assortment of traditional sport-utes of various shapes and sizes, from the Xterra and Pathfinder to the ground-breaking Murano, a stylish and sophisticated luxury-oriented vehicle introduced in 2003 that set the tone for numerous copycats.
The company’s artisans obviously took an extra-long look at the Murano as they set about creating the Rogue’s sheetmetal. The sloping, rounded shape of the front fascia, the muscular-looking fenders and the sweep of the side glass and rear roof pillar are all unmistakably Murano-influenced, which is a huge advantage for the Rogue since it will start out with a high degree of positive recognition on its side.
Size-wise, based on the new Sentra platform, the Rogue is in the same compact range as the Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Saturn Vue, all of which will provide stiff competition.
On the inside, a set of sporty two-tone cloth bucket seats add a touch of elegance and the silver trim surrounding the gauges, doors and floor console stop short of appearing excessively garish.
There are also plenty of handy interior features including a built-in organizer for the storage area that prevents small items from rolling around while an available tray positioned below the cargo floor is large enough to store a variety of valuables. The oversized glove box and spacious console bin add to the Rogue’s practical nature.
Equally impressive is the standard powerplant, a Sentra/Altima-sedan-based 2.5-liter four-cylinder that pumps out a healthy 170 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s more than the Honda CR-V offers and even comes close to matching the Hyundai Tucson’s optional V6 model that comes with 173 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque.
Completing the powertrain is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with built-in “steps” that can be controlled through available steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Nissan has taken the lead in CVT usage and offers versions in all its passenger cars as well as in the Murano. There’s no power- /fuel-sapping torque converter and because the gearing is basically infinite, the engine is able to stay in the rev range of peak efficiency.
Along with the expected air conditioning, cruise control, basic CD audio package, keyless remote entry and power windows, locks and mirrors, all versions — both the base S and up-level SL — will include a full range of safety equipment such as four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, stability and traction control (to help keep the Rogue heading where the driver intends) and six airbags.
Exact SL content has yet to be determined but will likely include 17-inch alloy wheels (16-inch steel are standard), keyless push-button start, heated front seats with fold-flat passenger seat, trip computer and premium audio system.
The extensive options list includes all-wheel-drive (available on the SL only), leather seats, Xenon headlights with halogen fog lamps, power sunroof and hands-free cell phone connectivity.
Nissan expects that the Rogue will begin at around $20,000, which is less than the Honda CR-V’s base price although a bit more than that of the Hyundai Tucson/Kia Sportage cousins. However, given its crisp styling and strong-performing engine, the Rogue should provide more than enough fun — and practicality — for the money.