2008 Nissan Rogue Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 29, 2008

With the 2009 Nissan Rogue, the crossover market gets another right-sized entry that’s just a little tighter inside than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.

Editors at TheCarConnection.com read the most respected reviews from around the Web to write this comprehensive review on the 2008 Nissan Rogue. TheCarConnection.com’s editors also drove the new Rogue, to be able to provide more details and their own opinions in cases where other reviews on the Web had conflicting views.

The 2008 Nissan Rogue is the Japanese automaker’s first attempt at a small crossover along the lines of the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, and it’s largely a success. Based on Nissan’s Sentra sedan, the Rogue wears a tall body styled like the company’s larger Murano crossover, and provides seats for five, though four adults will be about the maximum you’ll transport in its compact body.

The Rogue has a sole engine and transmission combination: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and a continuously variable transmission. The unconvetional transmission uses pulleys and a belt to simulate gear ratios--and Nissan outfits some Rogues with paddles for shifting that mimics an automatic’s five or six gears. It works well enough, but CVTs are less familiar than the usual manual or automatic gearboxes.

Review continues below

The 2008 Nissan Rogue offers a flexible cargo area with easy-folding second-row seats and a strong list of features, including a nifty cargo organizer. All-wheel drive is an option, as is satellite radio, but no navigation system can be ordered.

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2008 Nissan Rogue

Styling

The 2008 Nissan Rogue has a pleasantly conventional shape and a well-executed interior.

The 2008 Nissan Rogue bears a strong resemblance to its larger sibling, the Nissan Murano. Most reviews consulted by TheCarConnection.com thought that was a point in the Rogue’s favor. Edmunds called it a “stylish little crossover,” while Car and Driver called it “good-looking.” Others thought its shape was unimaginative. Automobile thinks the Rogue is the “somewhat dorky younger sibling” of the Murano, while Cars.com says it’s a “hackneyed design” and deems its styling “bland.”

Inside the Rogue, Nissan’s talents in styling seem to rise more strongly to the surface.
“The interior is one of the Rogue's highpoints,” Cars.com says. “It's almost up to the level of the Honda CR-V, and that's saying a lot,” notes Cars.com, commenting on the amber interior lighting and easily read gauges. Kelley Blue Book concurs, calling the interior “simple yet effective, with most of the necessary controls within easy reach of the driver.” ConsumerGuide says that the “gauges are clear, large, and well laid out,” and complements the compact crossover for “faux metal plastic trim” that’s “stylish rather than tacky.”

TheCarConnection.com spent a long day in the 2008 Nissan Rogue recently and came away with more admiration for its style. One of the best-looking, best-proportioned vehicles in its class, the Rogue's busy nose is probably the sole target for anyone picking nits. The upright grille is a little fussy. From the rear three-quarters, though, it's a dead ringer for the handsome Murano. The cabin is filled with classy textured plastics that elevate it above its price class; its gauges are clear and its controls logically arranged.

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2008 Nissan Rogue

Performance

The 2008 Nissan Rogue’s drivetrain is unusual and uninspiring, but handling is a little better than the class average.

Car reviewers across the Web differed on the 2008 Nissan Rogue’s performance—and their opinions largely were tied to its unorthodox transmission.

All Rogues come outfitted with a single engine/transmission combination. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 170 horsepower, and Consumer Reports says the engine “gets a bit raspy at high revs.” Edmunds tested the Rogue with the optional all-wheel-drive system and “accelerated to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds, which is on par with other four-cylinder-powered compact crossovers.” Cars.com feels that the Rogue’s four-cylinder “outdoes both the [Honda] CR-V and four-cylinder [Toyota] RAV4 in terms of horsepower, and you'll feel it when you stomp on the accelerator.” There is no V-6 option, though, unlike the Toyota RAV4.

The Rogue gets power to the wheels through a continuously variable transmission, a unique setup that uses a belt and pulleys to create a transmission with no fixed gears and an infinite amount of gear ratios. These CVTs can get better fuel economy, but they can also force an engine to turn at its operating peak—which often can be its noise peak, too. The transmission can feel rubbery and lack quick responses, which Edmunds notes in the Rogue: “Feeling like it's partially constructed of rubber bands, the CVT can get maddening on the freeway, constantly raising and dropping revs like a yo-yo whenever the driver moves on or off the gas.” However, Automobile calls the Rogue’s CVT “one of the best we've driven,” and Cars.com points out that shift paddles allow drivers to choose one of six CVT positions that simulate a six-speed automatic. They found this feature “extremely beneficial.” Car and Driver says the Rogue “keeps the noise to a murmur.”

Fuel economy is rated at 21/26 mpg (city/highway) for the all-wheel-drive Rogue; front-wheel-drive models get 22/27 mpg (city/highway). No hybrid version is planned.

The 2008 Nissan Rogue sports other unconventional technology. Electric power steering replaces the more traditional hydraulic-assisted steering, and Automobile said it’s “commendably conventional-feeling, with just-right efforts.” Edmunds thought it was “vague,” but appreciated the Rogue’s “all-independent long-travel suspension that smoothly gobbles up road imperfections.” Cars.com felt the “suspension provided a soft ride, which many 'sporty' SUVs abandon for a firmer one,” while Kelley Blue Book said, “the suspension kept body roll well under control.” However, Consumer Guide noted that “washboard freeway surfaces can bring about annoying pitching and bobbing.”
TheCarConnection.com’s experience in the 2008 Nissan Rogue found the engine to be willing enough; with the available paddle shifters, though, it lacks the snick-snick pleasure of shifting and no immediate feel. The Rogue's steering is noticeably sharper and more accurate than in the Nissan Sentra, for example, but it's still not as progressive as hydraulic units. The right-sized Rogue does handle better than most small crossovers, with good damping and an easy, comfortable feel no matter the road surface. And despite its tall form and available 17-inch wheels, the Rogue lets in less road noise than might be expected.

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2008 Nissan Rogue

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Nissan Rogue sits at the smaller end of the class, but its useful and tightly built cabin is a pleasure.

TheCarConnection.com researched reviews from around the Web and found that road testers rated the 2008 Nissan Rogue highly for interior space and quality construction.

The 2008 Nissan Rogue has its beginnings in the Nissan Sentra, the four-door sedan on which it’s based. Nissan stretches the Sentra more than 3 inches and raises its roof more than 5 inches, while giving the Rogue a body like the larger Nissan Murano, Car and Driver says. The result is a crossover sized like the Saturn Vue, but “significantly smaller” than the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, Edmunds says.

ConsumerGuide reports that legroom is “acceptable,” and headroom for six-footers is “tight.” But Cars.com finds “plenty of headroom, hip room and legroom, especially in the rear seat.” Car and Driver feels the legroom in back is just “decent,” and recommends against seating three adults back there while it praised the “high roofline.” Edmunds points out that the rear seat doesn’t recline or slide forward, and both Edmunds and Consumer Reports note the styling limits visibility to the rear. But MSN Autos thinks the rear doors open wide for easy access.

Consumer Reports called the cargo area “modest,” and Cars.com concurred, dubbing it “unimpressive” and finding fault with rear seats that fold--but not entirely flat, cutting into its utility. Edmunds liked its large center console and an “enormous” glove box that’s “more useful than some convertibles' trunks,” but ConsumerGuide said the glove box was made of “flimsy plastic.”

Consumer Reports said the “fit and finish is impressive,” while Edmunds added that it is “well-constructed with excellent materials” and praised its logically placed controls. MSN Autos deemed the interior “good-looking,” quiet, and well laid out.

In TheCarConnection.com’s experience with the Rogue, Nissan’s cabin is a little narrow at the knees for large passengers. Five-passenger seating realistically means four-adult seating, but even in the second row, those adults will find enough leg- and headroom to ride for a few hours comfortably. For all, the ride height and seating position are perfect for darting in and out of highway traffic, as well as avoiding motion sickness.

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2008 Nissan Rogue

Safety

The 2008 Nissan Rogue provides excellent passenger protection with plenty of safety equipment.

The 2008 Nissan Rogue earns high marks from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for front and side crash tests and rollover ratings. The NHTSA gives the Rogue five stars in protecting drivers from harm in front crashes, and four stars for protecting passengers in head-on crashes. The Rogue earns five stars for its side-impact protection and a four-star rating for rollover resistance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an insurance industry-funded research group, has given the Rogue its “Top Safety Pick” award, for “Good” crash-test ratings in the front, side and rear tests.

Consumer Reports notes that the Rogue has a long list of standard safety equipment, including stability control, active head restraints, and side curtain airbags. Edmunds adds that the curtain airbags are full-length and that its anti-lock brakes include brake assist, which activates braking to a higher degree in panic stops. MSN Autos likes the brake pedal’s firmness and says the system “assure[s] steady stopping.”

Cars.com adds that tire pressure monitors are also standard, as well as side airbags that protect the torsos of front passengers.

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2008 Nissan Rogue

Features

If you want fancy options, be prepared to pay for the 2008 Nissan Rogue’s upscale SL version.

The 2008 Nissan Rogue comes with plenty of standard equipment in both S and SL versions. All Rogues have standard air conditioning, cruise control, power windows/locks/mirrors, and a CD player with an audio jack, Edmunds reports. The SL adds 17-inch wheels, roof rails, and a driver-side height-adjustable seat.

The major options include paddle shifters for the CVT, a fold-down front passenger seat, a trip computer, and a Bose audio system with an in-dash, six-disc CD player. Satellite radio is also an option.
Some options are only available on the most expensive models, and that irked the tech writers at CNet: “Bluetooth is offered only in the all-wheel-drive version, while navigation isn't available.” They also felt the optional Bose audio system “produces only average audio quality.” But they did approve of the audio system’s controls; the interface is “easy to use,” and they “liked the audio controls on the steering wheel.”
Leather trim is also only available up the pricing scale, as is a sunroof, Kelley Blue Book notes.

Consumer Reports liked the “removable, foldable cargo organizer for the rear storage area,” which comes on the SL version. Cars.com thought it to be “one of the most skilled, simple innovations I've seen in a small SUV,” able to carry “about 10 lightly packed plastic grocery bags.”

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April 18, 2015
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I find the '08 Rogue to be typical Nissan. There may be other brands of vehicles on the market that may be as good a Nissan, but I honestly believe there are none better. For many years now Nissan has produced... + More »
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Styling 8.0
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