2012 Nissan Rogue Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 15, 2012

The 2012 Nissan Rogue's comfortable ride and versatile layout make it a good fit for a value-conscious small families--but it's far from exciting to drive.

The 2012 Nissan Rogue provides a little more ground clearance and a lot more cargo versatility than the typical sedan, but it's pitched toward suburban driveways and city streets, not off-road trails. Like most modern crossovers, the Rogue is a good pick for small families, as well as commuters who need a some extra cargo capability in an only vehicle--without sacrificing too much fuel efficiency or maneuverability.

The Rogue's sleek, rakish design still looks fresh; among crossover designs, it's has a somewhat lower stance, and its proportions can appear wider and longer than it actually is from the outside. Although it's based on the Sentra sedan, you wouldn't know it as the two vehicles share absolutely no sheetmetal (and no significant pieces inside or out, really). Inside, the five-passenger Rogue gets a chunky interior design that borrows a bit from all of Nissan's cars and crossovers. , you get some cues from the larger Murano, for a hint of upscale, with chrome accents, and new front and rear spoilers, and new wheels added last year enhancing the look.

If you want a choice of powertrains, a higher-performance option, or want one of the more exciting crossovers to drive, the Rogue isn't the right pick. But the Rogue's 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine moves it quickly enough—just under nine seconds to 60 mph. The continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) keeps the engine in its efficient range, but rubber-band-like responsiveness could leave some drivers uneasy, and hard acceleration is punctuated by a coarse drone from the engine. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is available, and a better choice for snowy climes, though it saps 1-2 mpg year round. Around town and on the commute you'll find the Rogue to maneuver and handle well, with a responsive, nimble feel; but push it to higher speeds and it's clear that the tuning priority was comfort, not performance.

Along with great ride comfort and a reasonably quiet interior, the Rogue has a very well-packaged interior, with a driving position that's not too high, not too low, combined back seats spacious enough for two adults (or three kids). Cargo space, even with the back seats up, is ample, and the cargo floor is quite low. Our only criticism is that some surfaces can bring out pitchiness and road noise.

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The Rogue has performed quite well in crash tests, although it achieves just 'acceptable' in the IIHS roof strength test. Otherwise, the Nissan Rogue comes with all the requisite features for both safety and basic family comfort—including air conditioning, cruise control, and a nice-sounding audio system with steering-wheel controls. It remains offered in two trims, S and SV, but for 2012 there's a new Special Edition that adds steering-wheel audio controls, a USB port, fog lamps, satellite radio, and a 4.3-inch audio display. A nav system, a power moonroof, xenon headlamps, and a rearview monitor are among other options. In addition, the Rogue is the first non-luxury vehicle in the U.S., according to Nissan, to get an Around View Monitor (SL model), which helps with rearward visibility. 

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2012 Nissan Rogue

Styling

The Nissan Rogue is pleasing to the eye, inside and out.

Mildly redesigned for the 2011 model year, the Nissan Rogue continues into 2012 with no changes to its sleek, rakish design. Three years into its current generation, it's still pleasing to the eye, inside and out.

The Rogue looks fresh in the same way as Hyundai's latest Tucson, and the upcoming 2013 Ford Escape. Very few design cues call it out as an SUV: it's all crossover in its lines and language, all soft curves and bright trim, all the way back to its sloping roofline. If you instantly compare it to the bigger Murano, you're on the right track--and like the Murano, the Rogue's grille strikes us as too busy, but the rear end is drawn to a tight conclusion. The Rogue's proportions entirely disguise the fact that it's based on the Sentra sedan.

Inside, the five-passenger Rogue gets a chunky interior design that borrows a bit from all of Nissan's cars and crossovers. With cues like an aggressively hooded gauge cluster, the interior feels sporty and a little more cockpit-like than those of other crossovers. However the materials can still feel a bit drab up close.
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2012 Nissan Rogue

Performance

Friendly handling makes the Nissan Rogue a good choice for small families; the CVT's a weak spot, though it's among the best of that kind.

Based on a car architecture and designed with urban driving in mind, the Nissan Rogue feels maneuverable and smart in those surroundings. On the highway, it's slower and less satisfying.

All Rogues have a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower. Acceleration is mediocre, and Nissan estimates it will take the Rogue about nine seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop. That's acceptable in the crossover segment, but the Rogue also has a somewhat unconventional transmission--a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which uses pulleys and belts instead of fixed gears to transmit power to the front (or all four) wheels. CVTs tend to have a rubber-band effect, and feel slow and imprecise to react. The Rogue's CVT is one of the best we've tried, and has paddle shift controls that move the transmission to set points that simulate automatic-transmission gears--but it's still a less satisfying way to go, and tends to amplify engine noise, too.

The Rogue can be fitted with front- or all-wheel drive. It's not intended for strenuous off-road use--it's configured for traction in deep snow or mud, where it can send more power, quite delicately, to the rear wheels.

The Rogue maneuvers well, with a quick, almost nimble feel at low speed thanks to the responsive electric power steering system, but at higher speeds it becomes abundantly clear this vehicle is tuned more for ride than handling.

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2012 Nissan Rogue

Comfort & Quality

It's roomy, but the Rogue could use more comfortable seats.

With a reasonably quiet cabin and enough space for four adults and their carry-ons, the Nissan Rogue puts a priority on packaging. It could use more comfortable seats, though.

Head and leg room aren't the issue in the Rogue, which also has a fairly spacious cargo area. The seats themselves could use some improvement: they feel thin, and could benefit from thicker padding to make longer trips easier.

The rear seats recline for better comfort, and they fold down to boost cargo space. That space, even with the back seats up, is ample, and the cargo floor is quite low.

The Rogue's ride quality is good too, which will make most sensibly minded buyers happy, though some surfaces can bring out pitchy motion and road noise.

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2012 Nissan Rogue

Safety

Crash-test results are good, but not great, in the 2012 Rogue.

The Nissan Rogue performs well in crash tests at the federal and industry level, though it falls just shy of top honors.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Rogue a grade of "good" for nearly all its critical tests. However, in the insurance-industry group's roof-crush test, the Rogue receives an "acceptable" rating--and that's enough to keep it from earning a Top Safety Pick designation.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awards the Rogue an overall rating of four stars, with a five-star result for side-impact protection.

That said, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist, and side and side-curtain airbags are all on the standard-features list.

You may want to pay for the available rearview monitor, or opt for the Special Edition, which includes it for free. The Rogue's rearward visibility can be a bit challenging, given its sharply styled windows and chunky rear pillar.

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2012 Nissan Rogue

Features

The Rogue has the usual standard features and options, with a new Special Edition bundling a host of tech goodies.

Every Nissan Rogue comes with the features you'd expect in a crossover geared for small families--features like power windows, locks and mirrors; an AM/FM/CD player with steering-wheel controls; air conditioning; and cruise control.

The Rogue adds a few more features in SV trim, including 17-inch wheels, a rearview camera and a USB port. The SL model gets Nissan's Around View monitor, a souped-up set of cameras that generates a 180-degree view for safer reversing and parking.

Major options on the Rogue include a navigation system; satellite radio; a moonroof; and xenon headlights.

For the 2012 model year, a new Special Edition bundles up some of the tech goodies in a package that includes the rearview camera; USB port; satellite radio; steering-wheel audio controls; and fog lights.

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2012 Nissan Rogue

Fuel Economy

It'll use less gas than most mid-size crossovers, but the Nissan Rogue isn't the most efficient compact ute.

Gas mileage is one of the reasons shoppers have turned away from bigger SUVs and toward smaller crossovers. The Nissan Rogue might satisfy them, though its fuel economy isn't as good as the best in its class.

The EPA rates the Rogue at 23/28 mpg, in front-wheel-drive form. For the all-wheel-drive model, the numbers drop slightly, to 22/26 mpg. While that represents a big improvement over mid-size crossovers, it's below the benchmarks set by the likes of the Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, and the upcoming Ford Escape. It's also significantly lower than the ratings for the four-cylinder Chevy Equinox.

No diesel or hybrid drivetrains are offered in the Rogue in the U.S.

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Styling 7.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 8.0
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