Will a mediocre powertrain again tarnish the 2019 Nissan Rogue’s many meritorious attributes?

2019 Nissan Rogue

2019 Nissan Rogue

What changes will make the 2019 Nissan Rogue different?

It’s been making annual upgrades to this compact crossover, but Nissan appears to have little of significance on tap for the 2019 edition. Rogue is the automaker’s most popular vehicle and is in fact No. 1 in compact-crossover sales overall, ahead of such rivals as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape. (That crown comes with a caveat: Nissan combines Rogue sales figures with those of the related but smaller Rogue Sport subcompact crossover. Rogue outsells the Rogue Sport by a large margin, but benefits from the padded numbers nonetheless.)

Rogue was last fully redesigned for model-year 2014 although Nissan has added features each year since. For 2017, it gave it a major refresh that included updated styling and addition of a hybrid variant. For ’18, the automaker dropped Rogue’s available third-row seat, made autonomous emergency braking standard across the line, and introduced its ProPilot Assist semi-self-driving technology. Although we’d lobby for a more powerful engine option, expect only incremental advances for 2019.

The ‘19 Rogue will again slot into Nissan’s crossover lineup between the subcompact Rogue Sport and the midsize, five-passenger Murano. As for arrival of the next all-new Rogue, the crystal ball is foggy. Some sources peg it as soon as model-year 2020. Others say it probably won’t launch before model-year 2022. The latter scenario would stretch this Rogue generation into an unusually long life cycle but would also open the possibility of another major refresh before a complete redesign.

Why should I wait for the 2019?

On the outside chance Nissan addresses this crossover’s most glaring deficiency: an ill-mannered and anemic powertrain. See the “Any mechanical changes?” section below for greater detail. Suffice to say, every top rival offers a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s livelier and more technically up-to-date than Rogue’s coarse, naturally aspirated four. And while Rogue is among the few entries in the segment available as a gas-electric hybrid, the variant is expensive, represents less than 10 percent of sales, and is no more rewarding to drive than the gas-only model.

Obviously, strong sales suggest buyers find Rogue’s primary powertrain perfectly satisfactory. Either that, or they’re happy to overlook its flaws and focus on this crossover’s genuine attributes. These include handsome styling, a roomy and comfortable cabin, a wide range of available amenities, and competitive pricing underpinned by frequent factory incentives. Those assets won’t change for model-year 2019. Baring a major engine upgrade, though, Nissan will likely ask you to pay higher prices for fundamentally the same vehicle as the 2018 Rogue.

Should I buy a 2018 model instead?

If it fits your compact-crossover needs and you’re indifferent to a possible 2019 engine upgrade, there’s little reason to put off a purchase. Rogue offers three gas-engine models: entry-level S, volume-selling SV, and upscale SL. The Hybrid comes in SV and SL trim. Gas-only versions are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). Hybrids are AWD only. All employ a continuously variable transmission (CVT), which performs the duties of a conventional automatic transmission but without discrete gear ratios.

All Rogues now benefit from Nissan’s laudable decision to expand the safety features standard for 2018. These include blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic alerts, which had been unavailable on the S model. Most important, Nissan now equips every Rouge with autonomous emergency braking. It can stop the crossover to mitigate a frontal collision with another vehicle (the SL’s system can also stop for pedestrians). This feature had been an option exclusive to the SL model. Along with the RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, the Rogue was one of only three model-year-2018 compact crossovers with autonomous emergency braking standard on every trim level.

Will the styling be different?

Nissan could introduce a specialty model, such as the Star Wars-themed Rogue One of a couple years ago. It could create a new flagship, perhaps by expanding on the impressive Platinum Reserve Interior option that dresses up the SL’s standard leather upholstery with premium tan hides and quilted inserts. But Rogue’s shape, dimensions, and basic look won’t change for 2019.

All models will continue with LED daytime running lamps, with visual differentiators again running to items like wheels: 17-inch steel rims for on the S, 17-inch alloys for the SV, 18-inch alloys — with 19s optional — for the SL. Expect details like rear privacy glass, chrome door handles, and LED integrated turn-signal mirrors to remain optional on S and standard on SV and SL. Certain to return is the popular Midnight Edition option for the SL that blacks out exterior trim and wheels.

Remaining a 2019 Rogue selling point will be its smartly packaged cabin. Few shoppers are likely to miss the rarely ordered third-row seat option; it was scarcely kid-sized and its discontinuation for 2018 left the Mitsubishi Outlander and its similarly puny third row as the only compact crossover with seating for more than five. The ’19 Rogue will again provide uncommonly comfortable accommodations, with the sliding and reclining rear bench notable for its elevated, theater-seating positioning. The dashboard is attractive and easy to use, although all models are saddled with a 7-inch touchscreen that’s too small to display navigation maps optimally. At 39.3 cubic feet behind the rear seat, and 70 with it folded, cargo volume is at the upper end of the competitive set and versatility is enhanced by Nissan’s nifty Divide-N-Hide panels that compartmentalize the luggage bay; it should remain standard on every ’19 Rogue.

Any mechanical changes?

We can only hope. Most Rogue buyers will again stay with the gas-only engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that should return at 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. That’s barely midpack for the class and while adequate in gentle around-town driving, acceleration is lackluster off the line and there’s little in reserve when you need to merge with or pass fast-moving traffic. Part of the blame goes to the CVT’s sluggish response to throttle inputs, bad behavior made even more annoying by the transmission’s tendency to let the engine to drone intrusively as vehicle speed climbs. Nissan has improved the behavior of CVTs in many of its other vehicles, and the ’19 Rogue would benefit from similar attention.

The 2019 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). Saddled with 200 additional pounds of lithium-ion battery pack and associated hybrid hardware, and beleaguered by listless CVT performance, Hybrid-model acceleration won’t be a notable improvement over the gas-only Rogue. With uninspired acceleration Rogue’s main dynamic fault, we’d urge Nissan to consider a turbocharged engine, perhaps the 1.6-liter four available in its Sentra compact sedan (188 horsepower, 177 pound-feet of torque), or even the 250-plus 2.0-liter four slated for its redesigned 2019 Altima midsize sedan.

Road manners will remain the happier story. The CR-V, Escape, and CX-5 ought to continue among the segment’s handling champs. But Rogue should again deliver a praiseworthy if conservative blend of consistency and composure. Ride comfort will likely remain a hallmark, as well, so long as you stay away from the 19-inch wheels and tires, which transmit too much impact harshness and road noise to the cabin to make them worth any aesthetic gains. 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. With no planned aerodynamic tweaks or powertrain changes, the 2019 Rogue’s EPA ratings should repeat those of 2018. That’s hardly troubling, given Rogue’s already laudable mileage numbers. For 2019, the gas-only Rogue should repeat at 26/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 25/33/27 with AWD.

Likewise, the 2019 Rogue Hybrid ought to repeat at 33/35/34 mpg with front-drive and 31/34/33 with AWD. The Rogue Hybrid 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 34/32/30-mpg rating of the RAV4 Hybrid, which comes only with AWD.

Will it have new features?

Already offering most every comfort and convenience item a compact-crossover buyer might desire, the 2019 Rogue isn’t apt to gain any new features per se. Nissan could, however, capitalize on the push upmarket in this class. It already fields the Rogue Sport and the even smaller Kicks to appeal to entry-level crossover shoppers. And with the top-of-the-line SL and its available Platinum Reserve Interior already accounting for a quarter of Rogue sales, the automaker may well decide an even more opulent trim level could find an audience.

Otherwise, expect all ’19 Rogues to again come with the aforementioned safety features, with adaptive cruise control that can maintain a set distance from traffic ahead optional on the SV and standard on the SL. ProPilot Assist debuted as an exclusive option for the SL and could be extended to the SV for 2019. We recommend a thorough test before deciding if it’s right for you. Nissan bills it as a “hands-on driver assistance system for use on highways.” Sensors calculate the distance between the two lane markings and steer the Rogue automatically to keep it centered in the lane, even around curves. However, the driver must maintain a grip on the steering wheel, diluting ProPilot’s autonomous dimension. And in our experience, the automatic steering performs with a jerky, robotic feel that’s the antithesis of smooth driving.

Again standard across the board will be remote keyless entry, second-row heating and air conditioning vents, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and iPod-compatible USB linking. A 7-inch dashboard screen for audio and basic vehicle info is also included, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with imbedded navigation system, optional for the SV and standard on the SL. Same for Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which projects a 360-degree view to aid close-quarters maneuvering.

Every 2019 Rogue will again have a rearview camera and the SV and SL should return with remote engine start and dual-zone automatic climate control as standard. Expect heated front seats to again be standard on the SV and SL and, in a welcome departure for this class, optional on the bottom-rung S model. On SV and SL models, expect a hands-free power liftgate to again be standard with a panoramic moonroof again included in option packages.

How will 2019 prices be different?

They’ll almost certainly increase, and a new SL-topping flagship could start above $35,000. But returning models should not be drastically more expensive. (Note that estimated base prices here include Nissan’s destination fee, which was $975 for the 2018 Rogue.)

Among gas-only models with front-wheel drive, estimated 2019 base prices are $27,200 for the SV, $32,350 for the SL. To those prices, expect to add around $1,350 for AWD. Look for the 2019 SV Hybrid to be priced from around $28,700 and the SL Hybrid from around $34,700, with AWD another $1,350 or so.

Among prominent options, expect the Midnight Edition for the SV to again cost around $1,095. Figure the SV Sun And Sound Touring Package to return at some $3,220 and include the panoramic roof, upgraded Bose audio with nine speakers, imbedded navigation, around-view monitor, heated steering wheel, and adaptive cruise control. For the 2019 Rogue SL, expect the Platinum Package to again cost around $790 and include 19-inch wheels and ProPilot Assist; the SL Premium Package to list for around $1,820 and include the panoramic roof and LED headlamps; and the Platinum Reserve Interior to again add around $350.

When will it come out?

Expect a fall 2018 release date for the 2019 Rogue.

Best competitors

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

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com 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 HowStuffWorks.com, 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]