From listening to the PR folks at Nissan, you get the impression that the year 2016 really and truly is the year of the truck at the Japanese company. And it’s true that the retooling of the Pathfinder and the complete overhaul of the Armada over its previous incarnation, not to mention the arrival of the second-generation, revamped TITAN, is proof that Nissan is determined to offer a more comprehensive roster of trucks.
The popularity of utility vehicles is far from being news in 2016, and exhibit A from Nissan’s point of view is the Rogue, a compact SUV which is has been nipping at the heels of the category’s heavyweights (Ford’s Escape, the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4) for a few years now. The popular crossover is a cornerstone vehicle for the Japanese carmaker, and sits at the top of the manufacturer’s sales rankings for Canada and the United States.
Nissan Canada recently extended an invitation to members of the automotive press to experience a first contact with the 2017 edition of the Rogue. The mid-life retool carried out on the new version doesn’t represent any overturning of the apple-cart – it’s more of an evolution than a revolution in comparison with the 2016 model. That said, any opportunity to gain the attention of its target market is a winner for Nissan.
A spiffier new Rogue
The new model is just now making its first appearances in dealerships. As expected, its silhouette remains unchanged. The more curious and eagle-eyed among Rogue fans will have to check out the front and rear ends to notice any difference from the 2016 model.
The company’s design team has repeated the recipe applied to other recent models produced by the brand. The front grille’s “V” is more imposing, its greater eminence giving the SUV a more aggressive front end.
The front and rear lights have also been redesigned, as has the front fender, which houses new fog lights. Taking a look at the SUV’s rear end, it’s clear some work has been done on the rear position lights. While remaining angular in shape, their darker shade gives them a distinctive look.
Nissan also took things a step further by adding an SL Platinum Reserve version which infuses some decidedly luxury-car DNA. This edition features exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels that quite nicely fill in the space under the wheel arches. Buyers of this trim should however be prepared to pay a little extra for the oversized tires to match.
Same tones of luxury inside
Our first contact with the 2017 Rogue began with the very top-of-the-line version, an SL Platinum Reserve model equipped to the very hilt. From the outside this version is quite appealing, with its big boots, chrome elements and several colours, richer in tone and exclusive to the higher trims of the new Rogue.
But what really sets the SL Platinum Reserve model apart is its high-end interior finish. The superior-quality tan-leather upholstery, not to mention the leatherette panels on the dashboard, help enhance the refinement level in the dark-hued cabin. And that’s not all, as Nissan’s designers also succeeded in injecting a hint of sportiness into the inside of the Rogue with for example a flattened steering wheel that is quite pleasant to grip.
The soft front-row seats offer enough support to ensure comfort on longer trips. The second row is a little less convincing in that respect, although the option of advancing or receding the bench while choosing the incline level does allow passengers more freedom to maximize personal comfort. The manufacturer once again offers a third row for 2017, at least for the SV model, but as is often the case with this option, it is to be used on a need-to basis only! Please don’t even think about forcing a larger-sized adult to suffer through several hours in one of those seats – you may never be forgiven!
No hybrid for Canada
In the United States there is much excitement about the introduction of a hybrid version of the 2017 Rogue, but don’t be looking for it up here – it won’t be available in Canada. This is surely due largely to our much smaller market, as well as to the relatively lower price of fuel which currently favours sales of utility vehicles.
On the other hand, there’s good news in the fact that Nissan’s current mechanical set-up ensures Canadian consumers won’t suffer too much at the pump. The same 2.5L, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine that powered the 2016 is back; it delivers 170 HP and 175 lb-ft of torque. Also returning in the 2017 Rogue is the CVT transmission, as is the part-time all-wheel drive system. Take note, however, that a front-wheel drive option is available on the entry model of the new Rogue.
At the wheel
Apparent right from the first few kilometres driven is the improvement in the Rogue’s ride quietness, something Nissan had already confirmed it had worked on correcting. In fact, Nissan’s rogue was already a strong performer in this regard, most notably while at cruising speed when the engine is not being taxed by the CVT unit.
Of course, that same CVT brings the noise level up during acceleration, the driver’s foot on the gas pedal being a major contributor to the decibel level in the cabin. Meanwhile, though the vehicle’s mechanics may not win any prizes for dynamism, any complaints drivers may have will likely dissipate when it comes to time to tally up gas costs each month. The Rogue is a highly fuel-efficient crossover.
The new 19-inch alloy wheels do nothing to harm handling and manoeuvrability. But at the risk of repeating myself, the Rogue remains a vehicle in search of a certain spark. To benefit from a more responsive drive, you need to look elsewhere. Steering is light, and the suspension calibrated for comfort above all else.
Overall, the 2017 edition has changed for the better, which if nothing else should to allow it to remain in the lead pack in the segment. And right now, if you’re a carmaker, that small-SUV category is where you want to be!