1. What’s new for 2015?
Nissan’s compact crossover SUV gets minor updates on the heels of its model-year 2014 redesign. Heated cloth front seats are now included with the SV Premium Package. Arctic Blue Metallic is added to the exterior color palette. This remains an unexceptional small crossover with decent all-around performance but indistinctive styling. Still, competitive pricing, a roomy cabin, and good fuel economy have helped it ranks fourth in sales – behind the with the sales leaders being the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4 – in what’s become the most competitive segment of the auto business. It’s also Nissan’s second-best-selling vehicle in the U.S., behind the Altima midsize sedan. Some of the latest high-tech safety and infotainment features are available, and unlike most compact crossovers there’s an optional third-row seat that, at least theoretically, expands its passenger capacity to seven.
2. How much does it cost and what sort of deal can I expect?
Rogue ranges in price from an affordable $23,675 for a base front-wheel-drive S model to $30,515 for a top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive SL (including Nissan’s $885 destination charge). That’s about average among compact crossovers, though the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Honda CR-V are priced slightly higher at both ends of the spectrum. According to Kelley Blue Book, supply is keeping pace with demand these days, though astute hagglers can still come up with decent discounts. KBB says a fair purchase price on a midrange front-drive Rogue SV with an MSRP of $25,375 would come in at around $23,819, which is at about the vehicle’s invoice price. Note that Nissan also sells the 2008-2013 version of this crossover as the Rogue Select, to help meet demand and as a price leader. Cost-sensitive buyers, however, might be better served choosing a low-mileage version of that previous-generation Rogue in the used market instead.
3. When will the next big change be?
Having just undergone a full redesign for the 2014 model year, we don’t expect to see another major makeover until perhaps 2019 or 2020. We’ll likely see what’s called a mid-cycle refresh before then, perhaps for 2016. While the Rogue’s size, shape, and powertrain won’t likely change, we could see a few cosmetic tweaks made to the front and rear of the vehicle and a minor interior revision, along with a few new features added and existing ones shuffled among trim levels and/or option packages.
4. What options or trim level is best for me?
As with most vehicles these days, skip the base S model and proceed to the mid-level SV Rogue to get the most bang for the buck. In addition to the necessities, the SV includes push-button entry/start, an audio upgrade with satellite radio, roof rails, automatic headlamps, and the NissanConnect mobile apps smartphone connectivity system. Those looking for many of the latest high-tech features will want to add the $1,590 Premium Package, which includes a power liftgate, navigation system, 360-degree AroundView monitor for easier and safer parking and backing out of driveways and garages, and Blind Spot and Lane Departure Warning systems. Those living in remote and/or the snowiest areas of the country should consider adding all-wheel-drive for enhanced traction, though it’s not a necessity for most motorists. All models include Nissan’s excellent “Divide-N-Hide” adjustable cargo management system.
5. What engine do you recommend?
Unfortunately Rogue owners don’t have a choice with regard to powertrains. The crossover comes equipped with a nicely powered 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower and a lively 175 pound-feet of torque. That’s about average among compact crossovers, though a few competitors–most notably the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, and Jeep Cherokee–offer engine options that up the acceleration ante. This is a 231-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder in Escape, while the Cherokee and Equinox offer smoother V-6 engine choices with 271- and 301-horsepower, respectively. As with most models in this segment, the Rogue come only with an automatic transmission, though in this case it’s Nissan’s “Xtronic” CVT (continuously variable transmission) that eschews traditional gears in favor of a belt and set of pulleys. At least in theory, Nissan uses CVTs in most of its models to help maximize fuel economy and acceleration, but in practice it does the Rogue’s 2.5-liter engine few favors, rendering it more sluggish than it should feel, and introducing an annoying helping of harshness to the mix under moderate-to-full throttle.
6. How does the it handle?
As with other aspects of the Rogue, it performs about mid-pack in this regard. Its suspension is tuned with comfort in mind, which should please many crossover shoppers looking for an amenable way to get from one location to another without much fuss, but is sure to disappoint enthusiastic motorists. It takes bumps and jolts nicely and is steady at highway speeds, but seems not to particularly enjoy careening through sharp corners, and gives little feedback to the driver via the steering wheel. Those looking for a small crossover that delivers more engaging driving dynamics should instead consider the segment leading Mazda CX-5, or to a lesser extent, the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, or Jeep Cherokee.
7. How is the fuel economy?
Again, the Rogue performs well enough in this respect, though it’s not a class leader. It’s EPA-rated at 26/33/28-mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and a similar 25/32/28-mpg with all-wheel drive. The top models (excluding hybrids) in this segment don’t beat it by much, however; these include the Honda CR-V at 27/34/29-mpg, the Mazda CX-5 at 26/35/29-mpg (both with front drive), and the all-wheel-drive Subaru XV Crosstrek at 26/34/29-mpg.
8. Are the controls easy to use?
Nissan tends not to over complicate its dashboard controls, and they’re indeed easy and intuitive to operate here. Most functions utilize conventional buttons and dials, with steering wheel-mounted switches added for the cruise control and audio systems, and for controlling the LCD information screen between the large and legible electroluminescent gauges on the instrument panel.
9. Is it comfortable?
The Rogue features Nissan’s so-called “Zero-Gravity” seats up front, which were designed in conjunction with NASA to afford maximum comfort. There’s plenty of room up front for six-footers to stretch out. As with most small crossovers, second-row legroom can be at a premium, especially when the front seats are adjusted all the way rearward; fortunately the second-row seats can adjust fore and aft and recline to help riders find a suitable position. And while the raised “theatre seating” arrangement helps third-row occupants from feeling claustrophobic, a lack of head and legroom renders it inhospitable to everyone but small children. Cargo space is about average among small crossovers; fortunately all seatbacks but the driver’s can fold flat to help the vehicle carry larger items as needed.
10. What about safety?
The 2015 Nissan Rogue receives a less-than-perfect four out of five stars for overall occupant protection in crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA); this includes four stars for frontal crash protection. Only a handful of compact crossovers fare better in NHTSA’s tests, including the Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV Crosstrek, which receive five stars. On the other hand, the Rogue receives top “good” marks across the board in crash tests conducted by the insurance-industry-supported Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), including its strict “small overlap test,” which is designed to replicate the effects of car’s left-front corner striking a pole or other obstruction. As such, it earns the IIHS’ “Top Safety Pick” designation for 2015.
11. How’s the reliability and resale value?
The Rogue rates above average in terms of long-term reliability, receiving four out of five “power circles” in the latest ownership survey conducted among owners of model-year 2011 cars by the influential market research company J.D. Power. While this was for the previous-generation model, we expect the 2015 vintage will perform as well or better in this regard. It also receives a perfect five-circle rating in performance and design, but just three circles in initial quality, based on J.D. Power surveys of recent Rogue buyers. It should deliver above-average resale value, based on a four-star (out of five) depreciation rating from the valuation experts at ALG. Among competitors, only the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are rated higher for resale value, receiving perfect five-star scores from ALG.
12. Is it better than the competition?
Yes… and no. Rogue is about as average an entry in its class as could be possible. It’s not particularly engaging to drive vigorously, but it delivers a pleasingly smooth ride around town. It accelerates well enough and gets decent fuel economy, but its raucous CVT transmission tends to become obtrusive at a time when any conventional automatic would operate comfortably in the background. Other models, like the Chevy Equinox and Jeep Cherokee offer larger and quicker engines as optional choices. The Rogue’s front seat comfort is second-to-none, though that aspect is diminished somewhat in the second row and is a complete afterthought in the otherwise unnecessary third row. On the plus side, the Rogue offers an array of clever features, from its highly useful cargo management system to its 360-degree around-vehicle backup camera. It offers high-tech accident avoidance systems like blind spot and lane departure warning, but misses the proverbial boat by not offering a forward collision mitigation system that would arguably be of more value. It falls short in NHTSA’s crash tests but aces the exams conducted by the IIHS, and so on. The Mazda CX-5 leads the compact crossover pack in terms of sheer driving pleasure, with segment sales leaders like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 being can’t miss entries for overall excellence. We wouldn’t argue against it to anyone who’s drawn to the Rogue, but wouldn’t necessarily go out of our way to recommend one, either.