Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: What is so roguish about the Nissan Rogue?

Nissan Rogue
I recently drove the Nissan Rogue through Avis and was surprisingly underwhelmed. I was bored by the car's bland exterior styling, bargain basement interior styling, and lawn-mower-sounding engine. This crossover is named "Qashqai" in the rest of the world, which would probably confuse buyers in the US, so it's a good thing Nissan renamed the car "Rogue". However, the name Rogue suggests "maverick", or "different", but instead of seeing a new twist on the small crossover, I saw just another scoop of vanilla. Click through for my review.

Nissan Rogue
I understand where the Rogue fits into Nissan's lineup - it is aimed at people looking for a car-based crossover who cannot afford the Murano. Nissan has long needed an SUV to fit into this important, growing segment. Relatively speaking, the X-Terra, Pathfinder, and Armada, all of which are truck-based SUVs, are heavier, have worse gas mileage, and bumpier rides. Suburbanites, soccer moms, and 3-4 person families are the most likely drivers of the Rogue.

Competitively speaking, the Rogue is up against SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tuscon, Kia Sportage, Chevy Equinox, and Suzuki Grand Vitara. Since I have not driven any of these competitors, I cannot comment on how the Rogue drives on a relative basis, but I can comment on exterior/interior styling and feature functionality. The Kia Sportage is easily the best looking of all, but the CR-V and RAV4 are the 800-pound gorillas in the room; not only are they the sales leaders, but they are also leaders in quality and reliability. The CR-V and RAV4 have storied reputations that go back to the mid-1990s in the US, while the Rogue is a newbie, so lack of brand recognition does not help the Rogue.

Nissan Murano
The Murano's 170hp 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine was grossly underpowered and uninspiring. It felt and sounded quite similar to the Sentra I drove recently.....and that is because it is practically the same engine (Nissan's trusty QR25DE engine), but on a much heavier car! An optional turbocharged engine would be awesome (although I fully understand that Nissan is constrained to certain price points in this highly competitive segment). Like the Sentra, the Rogue sounds like a lawnmower at full acceleration. At low RPMs the Rogue is very sluggish, and as the car accelerates past 30-40mph there is an uncontrollable rush of acceleration; it is not very satisfying as a driver. The handling is good for a crossover, but did not put a grin on my face.

Nissan Rogue

I never liked the Murano's styling (I thought the front end was too futuristic for its own good, and the rear windows between the C and D pillars were awkwardly shaped), but American consumers have spoken, and the Murano has been a huge hit since its introduction in 2002. The Rogue is styled very similarly to the Murano, but I would argue it is slightly more attractive and less avantgarde. In fact, Infiniti would have been better off adapting the Rogue platform instead of the awkward looking EX, which is more of a G station wagon than baby-FX SUV. However, when all is said and done, nothing about the Rogue's exterior styling raises my pulse, and I think some of its competitors have pumped out more innovative designs. One exterior design component I really like about the Rogue is the rear spoiler, which continues the line of the rear window quite seamlessly. The chrome accents are also very well placed; without them, the Rogue would completely blend into the crowd.

Nissan Rogue interior
The interior of the Rogue is a bleaker experience. Talk about reaching into the corporate parts bin! Having recently driven the Sentra and Altima Hybrid through Zipcar, I immediately felt at home driving the Rogue, and I don't mean that as a compliment. The steering wheel controls, A/C, and radio were very familiar to me; all are intuitively designed, but I didn't feel any spark or passion. If I was to spend $20-25k on an SUV, I would expect a little more excitement. On the positive side, I do like the design of the corporate steering wheel, and the red dashboard lighting is attractive and easy to follow. And granted, the Avis model I drove was not fully loaded and did not have the little navigation system shown above.

My overall impression of the Rogue is lukewarm. As a car enthusiast, I would personally never buy this car, but it is a perfectly competent crossover for people who aren't looking for a lot of pizzazz or performance in their vehicle. Nissan had a chance to make a splash in the US crossover market with this relatively new entry, and instead barely made a ripple.

1 comment:

  1. Now I know more about the small SUV than I did before. I agree, this is not an exciting car. Why take a chance on it?