Driven: 2009 Nissan Rogue

June 11, 2009

When Nissan introduced its Rogue crossover nearly two years ago, it seemed sized a bit too closely with the brand's existing Murano. Many shoppers surely wondered, if they could have the Murano, with its torquey V-6 and more dressed-up interior, for just a little more money, why not?

That was before gas prices shot upward and the economic conditions put the pinch on most family vehicle budgets. Today the question has probably changed to, if the 2009 Nissan Rogue isn't that much smaller, but it's more affordable and is better on gas, why not?

The 2009 Nissan Rogue comes with just one powertrain combination: a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter in-line four and a continuously variable (CVT) automatic, with power transmitted via front- or all-wheel drive.

As we found in a week's worth of driving, four cylinders, front-wheel drive, and the CVT work just fine for most needs. Some automakers have turned to CVT (continuously variable) automatics to lackluster effect, but Nissan really knows how to tune theirs. The CVT in the Rogue lets revs rise quickly off the line, to give it a perky feel, then adroitly keeps them in the engine's sweet spot, which is between 2,500 and 3,000 rpm typically to take off moderately with the flow of traffic. Punch the gas and the revs go quite quickly to the upper reaches and stay there, the Rogue gathering speed deceptively quickly. Yes, there's a bit of the drone that's common in vehicles with CVTs, but it's not too obtrusive.

Over nearly 250 miles of driving, averaged 26 mpg—about 150 of that being responsible highway cruising. And when the trip computer was zeroed prior to many miles of in-town driving, the 2009 Nissan Rogue easily returned its EPA city rating of 22 mpg. Again, thank the CVT, which in town has the engine lug along well below 2,000 rpm if you're not accelerating.

2008 Nissan Rogue S

2008 Nissan Rogue S

Nissan Rogue

Nissan Rogue

The Rogue's exterior profile is quite different than those of rival crossover utes like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, or even the new 2010 Chevrolet Equinox that my colleague Rex Roy first drove earlier this week. Unlike those vehicles, you can look at the 2009 Rogue and see a sleek five-door hatchback car, jacked up a few inches. It's a good, different look, although we weren't crazy about the bulbous front end. Inside, the Rogue feels much like other recent Nissan products; the design is attractive and well designed with everything in easy reach, but there's a bit more hard plastic than we'd prefer.

The seating position is quite high for this vehicle, but it results in great front and side outward visibility. Rearward, it's a completely different story; you'll find yourself craning your neck over while parallel parking or changing lanes. Unfortunately the combination of a roofline that slopes aggressively downward in back, combined with a rather high cargo floor and inwardly sloping side glass, doesn't yield a whole lot of useful cargo space in the 2009 Nissan Rogue, at least compared to other crossovers. However the cargo organizer, under the rearmost portion of the cargo floor, would be tremendously useful for all the small items associated with traveling with kids, or for those with small, expensive pieces of equipment they want to keep out of sight.

Other issues we noticed were that the back seat doesn't slide, recline, or adjust like those on many other crossovers—although there's still enough room back there for two adults or three kids. Road noise was noticeable; on coarse pavement surfaces the Rogue's wagon body feels a bit like a resonator, thrumming and humming along with the texture of the tarmac.

Overall, the Nissan Rogue is a package that most small families will love. The interior is roomy enough, and the ride quality—road noise aside—is excellent, due to suspension tuning that's on the soft side yet just firm enough to be responsive. You won't find driving fun here, but it has everything big-city commuters want—an economical yet responsive powertrain, decent maneuverability, and most of the expected creature comforts. And a well-optioned Rogue, with heated leather seats, xenon headlamps, and high-end Bose audio, still prices at around $26k.

Here at, you'll find in-depth information on the 2009 Nissan Rogue, including pictures, specifications, related news, and's own Bottom Line assessment.

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