Rogue’s on a roll, but a new crossover companion may alter the 2018 model’s market position

2018 Nissan Rogue

2018 Nissan Rogue

What changes will make the 2018 Nissan Rogue different?

Few, if any, following a major refresh for model-year 2017. Those changes included updated styling and addition of a hybrid variant and they’ll sustain this popular compact crossover to its next full redesign, slated for model-year 2020. That leaves the ’18 Rogue pretty much a rerun of the ’17 — no bad thing if you’re interested in a roomy, good-looking compact SUV that’s one of only two in the class available with a third-row seat.

Rogue will again slot into Nissan’s crossover lineup below the midsize Murano and Pathfinder. And it’ll remain larger and more family oriented than the crazy-looking, subcompact-class Juke. Nissan, however, is reportedly preparing to import yet another crossover that would be marginally smaller and less expensive than the Rogue. Such a move would allow the automaker to move Rogue upscale in features and price, capitalizing on the market’s growing appetite for compact crossovers with lots of luxury and amenities.

Last fully redesigned for model-year 2014, Rogue has ridden the wave of crossover popularity to become Nissan’s best-selling U.S. model, overtaking the Altima sedan during 2016. Helped by the ’17 refresh – and by generous factory incentives — its 11-percent sales gain has outpaced the compact-SUV segment’s 6.2-percent increase. It ranks third in class sales, behind the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 and ahead of the Ford Escape.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To see if Nissan does indeed take it upscale by perhaps adding a new sporty version or even a fresh flagship model. If you’re happy with the current lineup, however, there’s little reason to wait for a vehicle that’ll be a virtual duplicate of the 2017, but will likely cost more. The ’18 Rogue will carryover the revamped front-end appearance, cabin enhancements, upgraded autonomous emergency braking capabilities, and added driver aids that were part of the ‘17 revamp. It’ll also return with a choice of a gas-only four-cylinder engine or a gas-electric hybrid that teams a four-cylinder with battery power. Both will again use a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and be available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Nissan offered the movie-tie-in Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition package for ’17 and could expand the ’18 lineup with a similar cosmetic exercise as an option or a new trim level. We’d urge the automaker to expand availability of autonomous emergency braking beyond just the top-line SL model. That would be important enough to wait for. Otherwise, expect the gas-only versions to reprise a three-tier lineup consisting of the entry-level S model (accounting for about 33 percent of gas-model sales), middle-range SV (42 percent of sales), and upscale SL (about 25 percent). Look for the Hybrid to again account for less than 10 percent of Rogue sales overall and to return in SV and SL form.

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Unless you’re hankering for the possibility of a Rogue with more rouge or one a tad rowdier-looking, there’s little reason to bide your time for the more expensive but little-changed 2018 model. With its freshened styling and other updates, the ’17’s looks and features will stay relevant until the 2020 redesign. In the interim, Nissan is not apt to erase this generation’s primary demerit by giving the Rogue more power. But there’s plenty of upside: comfortable ride, good handling, and neat technology like a bird’s-eye-view monitor. An uncommonly roomy cabin is a major plus. And availability of the tiny third-row seat qualifies this and the Mitsubishi Outlander as the only compact crossovers with seven-passenger capacity. That bench has been optional on the S and SV models and is best considered seat-belted transportation for kids in a pinch.

Will the styling be different?

A new trim level could well build on the Star Wars-themed Rogue One’s LED headlights, blackout exterior trim, and darkened alloy wheels to create a cooler-looking “sport” variant. Or Nissan could create a new line-topper by expanding on the impressive Platinum Reserve Interior option introduced for 2017 SL models. It gilds the SL’s standard leather upholstery with premium tan hides and quilted inserts. Barring that, the ’18 Rogue’s styling won’t change beyond perhaps a new color choice or two. It will benefit from the more sharply defined grille, fascia, bumpers and lighting that came on line for 2017 and gave this lozenge-shaped crossover more presence. And it’ll carryover the D-shaped steering wheel, revised center console, and new coverings for doors, dashboard, and cloth seats that improved cabin ambience (but still fell short of increasing the number of padded surfaces that would truly elevate the interior décor). A new sport or luxe model would doubtless get exclusive new wheel designs. Rims for the carryover grades probably won’t change, with 17-inch steel wheels again standard on the S model, 17-inch alloys included with the SV, and 18-inch alloys standard — with 19s optional — for the SL. Other carryover model-level differentiators should include such details as fog lamps optional for the SV and standard for the SL, and rear privacy glass, chrome door handles, and LED integrated turn-signal mirrors optional on S and standard on SL and SV.

Any mechanical changes?

None likely, but you might wish there were. Most 2018 Rogue buyers will again choose the gas-only 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Its 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque are barely midpack for the class. The result is lackluster acceleration, dulled further by the behavior of the continuously variable transmission. CVTs imitate automatic transmissions, but without stepped gear ratios. This one responds lazily to most throttle inputs and – despite added sound insulation for 2017 — allows the engine to drone intrusively as vehicle speed climbs.

Nissan has improved the conduct of CVTs in many of its other vehicles, and the ’18 Rogue would benefit from similar attention. A sport model could conceivably have more power or different CVT calibrations, plus a tauter suspension aimed at elevating handling.

The 2018 Rogue Hybrid will again feature a 2.0-liter four-cylinder assisted by an electric motor. Net output should remain 176 horsepower (the automaker doesn’t specify a torque figure). With 200 additional pounds of lithium-ion battery pack and associated hybrid hardware, and plagued by similar gloomy CVT performance, Hybrid-model acceleration won’t be a notable improvement over the gas-only Rogue.

Road manners are a happier story. The CR-V, Escape, and Mazda CX-5 ought to remain the segment’s handling champs. But Rogue should again deliver a praiseworthy blend of consistency, composure, and comfort in both city and suburban commuting, highway cruising, and open-road driving. About 55 percent of Rogue buyers will again spend some $1,350 for AWD. We recommend it for the added dimension of slippery-surface traction it provides.

Will fuel economy improve?

Highly unlikely. The midcycle update brought no aerodynamic tweaks and the gas-only powertrain got no alterations that changed its EPA fuel-economy ratings. Those ratings should carryover for 2018, as should ratings for the unchanged hybrid powertrain. The status is not troubling, given Rogue’s already laudable EPA ratings.

Gas-only ‘18s should repeat at 26/33/28 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 25/32/28 with AWD. Likewise, the Rogue Hybrid ought to rate 33/35/34 mpg with front-drive and 31/34/33 with AWD. This is not a plug-in hybrid, recharging instead by converting energy otherwise lost during braking and coasting. Gas or hybrid, any ‘18 Rogue should again be among the most fuel efficient vehicles in this class, with the Rogue Hybrid rivaled for efficiency only by the 34/31/33-mpg rating of the RAV4 Hybrid, which comes only with AWD.

Will it have new features?

Maybe, given the likely introduction of a crossover slotted below the Rogue in size and price. The newcomer would be based on a small four-door SUV Nissan already offers in overseas markets. It would expand the automaker’s presence in the burgeoning subcompact-crossover class, giving it a rival for the likes of the Honda HR-V and Mazda CX-3. Nissan in fact helped pioneer the segment with its youth-oriented Juke. The new arrival would be more mainstream than the Juke and could enable Rogue to go upmaket in features, maybe even powertrains. Indeed, compact-crossover shoppers increasingly expect luxury and premium features; in the Rogue line, the top-drawer SL accounts for a quarter of sales and demand for even more opulence triggered the Platinum Reserve Interior option. The SL will return for 2018 with standard features such as leather upholstery, power driver’s seat, heated front seats, and a kick-sensor-responding power liftgate; that last feature is optional on the SV.

Expect all ’18 Rogues to again come with remote keyless entry, second-row heating and air conditioning vents, Bluetooth connectivity, and iPod-compatible USB linking. S and SV should return with a 5-inch dashboard screen for audio and basic vehicle info. A 7-inch display should again be standard on SL and optional on SV as part of a Bose audio upgrade that includes satellite radio. The 7-inch screen will likely also be employed again for two systems that have been optional on SL and standard on SV: imbedded navigation and Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which projects a 360-degree view to aid close-quarters maneuvering. All Rouges will again have a rearview camera and SV and SL should return with remote engine start and dual-zone automatic climate control as standard. A panoramic moonroof has been part of option packages limited to the SV and SL models.

Addition of a new trim level could alter Rogue’s driver-aid availability. Thus far, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts have been standard on SV and SL. Options exclusive to the SL probably will again include LED headlamps, lane departure warning with autonomous steering correction, and adaptive cruise control to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead. Same for autonomous emergency braking that can bring the vehicle to a stop to mitigate a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. That last feature ought to earn SLs so equipped the coveted Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’ll increase, but returning models shouldn’t be drastically more expensive. Among gas-only models, expect the 2018 S to begin around $25,000, the SV around $26,600, and the SL around $30,600. To those prices, add around $1,350 for AWD. (These estimated base prices include Nissan’s destination fee, which was $940 for the 2017 Rogue.) Any new sport-trim version would be priced around the SL. Look for the SV Hybrid to be priced from around $28,700 and the SL Hybrid from around $34,700, with AWD another $1,350 or so.

When will it come out?

Expect a fall 2017 release date for the 2018 Rogue.

Best competitors

Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, Volkswagen Tiguan

What change would make it better?

Improved powertrain performance and refinement. A higher-definition navigation display in place of the current, fuzzy and cartoonish graphics would enrich the Rogue experience significantly. Most important, Nissan should not confine to the SL model the important safety benefits of lane-departure warning and steering correction and especially autonomous emergency braking.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]