Regardless of what you think about the Nissan Rogue, you have to admit that the Japanese manufacturer’s foray into the compact SUV segment has been successful, especially since 2008 when the first-generation Rogue replaced the X-Trail. Small families across Canada found a great way to fulfill their needs, and the 2014 evolution made it even more compelling. Just look at the sales numbers.
I recently got to spend time with a new 2016 Nissan Rogue SL Premium to see how it compares with rivals, some of which have also received upgrades lately.
Maybe not the most stylish, but…
Let’s settle this right now: The second-generation Rogue looks good. It may not be the most rugged or aggressive in terms of exterior design, but it no longer looks like a poor man’s Murano. Nissan’s new V-Motion front fascia is a blessing, and I think the Rogue has no reason to envy competitors here.
The side glass carries over the shape of the previous generation, with a beltline that raises slightly toward the rear, but at the same time the 2016 Nissan Rogue appears more masculine thanks to flared fenders and a more upright rear liftgate. The taillights are probably the most polarizing design element; I’ll let you decide which side of the fence you stand on.
My top-of-the-line SL Premium tester with Intuitive All-Wheel Drive had an MSRP of $35,248. It’s the only one with those sleek 18” alloy wheels.
Quality on the rise
For that kind of money, you’d be right to expect a certain level of luxury inside. The problem is that the Nissan Rogue is an entry-level compact utility vehicle that starts at $24,648, so the same plastic-everywhere theme is found across all trim levels. To be fair, the competition is no better in this department, and the new Rogue definitely has a higher quality feel than its predecessor.
If you want the latest in dashboard design and refinement, you should probably look somewhere else. The front-seat quarters aren’t spectacular or revolutionary, but at least they’re functional and user-friendly. All the main controls are easy to locate and manipulate, while the infotainment system doesn’t go overboard with complex menus and apps.
The driving position in the 2016 Nissan Rogue is good, and peripheral vision is only obstructed by the large D-pillars. The leather upholstery in SL Premium trim is quite comfortable. I would have liked longer seat cushions up front, but I can excuse the Rogue for not being perfect. Meanwhile, the folding rear bench slides fore and aft to increase either second-row legroom or cargo room.
Driving the Nissan Rogue
So far, I think we can say that the 2016 Nissan Rogue SL Premium has pretty much all the ingredients of a good little SUV, but what about the drive? I’ll never pressure you into buying the most fun and exciting model on the road, but some thrills behind the wheel are kind of a must, wouldn’t you agree?
The new Rogue is certainly more dynamic than the old one by a wide margin. Engineers managed to improve the Xtronic CVT (the only transmission available, by the way), and despite the infamous drone under acceleration, the engine becomes fairly quiet at cruising speeds.
We’re talking about a 2.5L 4-cylinder that focuses more on fuel economy than brute power or velocity, which is fine because that’s typically what customers in this segment look for. My tester had barely logged 500 kilometres and still averaged a reasonable 9.3L/100km. Of course, with the cold settling in and snow starting to cover the roads in many regions of the country, the heavier burden on the engine and the more frequent intervention of the AWD system would likely increase fuel consumption.
Sure, the Rogue is not as sporty as the Mazda CX-5 or Volkswagen Tiguan, but for many of us it matters less than comfort or interior versatility. The soft suspension and slightly vague steering reveal the Nissan Rogue’s true nature.
Unlike a big star that draws attention everywhere it goes, the 2016 Nissan Rogue prefers to keep a lower profile and quietly do what it has to do on the road in an attempt to appeal to mainstream buyers. It’s neither the most agile nor the most fun to drive on a daily basis, and a few rivals offer superior fit and finish. And yet the Rogue keeps winning over small families. You might as well take their word over mine.