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The 2013 Nissan Rogue is a budget-wise crossover that nails the basics without paying too much attention to unnecessary features. It's built for small families with money at front of mind, so in the balance, its middling acceleration and lack of features makes for a fair exchange.
The affordable, versatile Rogue also happens to be one of the better-looking crossovers--because it's mostly hatchback. While the details are starting to look a little dated, the rakish sheetmetal still looks fresh enough. It can look longer and wider than it really is, and from some angles you'd never guess the Rogue is spawned from the same platform as the compact Sentra sedan (there are no significant pieces shared inside or out, but the chassis and powertrains are similar). The Rogue's interior layout is perhaps a bit plain, with odds and ends borrowed from the brand's other models. The slightly larger and more luxurious Murano crossover is surely an influence, and Nissan has likewise added a little polish to the Rogue interior with a few more chrome accents.
On closer look, and with some seat time, the Rogue does feel a bit at odds with its mission, considering its front-seat layout that feels a little more low and laid-back than that of other crossovers. And it helps to remember that this is a model that's pitched toward suburban driveways and city streets, not off-road trails. 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). Even when you have the back seats up, cargo space is adequate for a typical grocery run. The Rogue's one failing in family-friendliness isn't in its packaging, but rather in its refinement; its ride can be a bit pitchy compared to other crossovers, with more road noise as well.
That lack of refinement does extend to the powertrain, where the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) manages to extract quickness from the 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, but with the penalty of a coarse engine drone whenever accelerating even moderately, as well as a rubber-band-like delay when asking for a quick pass. 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. In either case, the big benefit of the CVT is that it returns impressive real-world mileage. And in around-town driving, most will find the Rogue to handle and maneuver well—tuned for comfort, not performance, yet nimble enough.
Overall, the Rogue shapes up as a safe family pick (moms will appreciate the Rogue SL's Around View Monitor), although the one area of concern is a rating of only 'acceptable' in the IIHS roof strength test. In other respects, the Rogue has all that a budget-priced family vehicle typically includes—including air conditioning, cruise control, and a nice-sounding audio system with steering-wheel controls. It remains offered in two trims, S and SV. Last year's Special Edition model continues, again adding steering-wheel audio controls, a USB port, fog lamps, satellite radio, and a 4.3-inch audio display, and for 2013 it adds Bluetooth and a couple of additional sound-system speakers. This year a Premium Edition model replaces the previous Premium Package, and adds Bose audio, a subwoofer, and fog lamps. A nav system, a power moonroof, xenon headlamps, and a rearview monitor are among other options.
This is the last model year for the current Rogue; it will be completely redesigned for the 2014 model year, keeping the same model name but gaining a more flamboyant look and dramatically upgraded interior.