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Nissan Rogue, 2012: Confidence, efficiency, keen styling for small cross-over SUV

By Mary Ellen Ash

The 2012 Nissan Rogue is a new candidate in the ever popular small cross-over utility vehicle class, and the automaker hopes to attract buyers with a strong mix of attractive exterior styling, interior refinements and nimble road handling. Even though this is the kid-sister of the Nissan SUV family, the Rogue leaves a lasting impression.

Build and Styling

The new Rogue is an excellent blend of space and functionality with its utility styling and versatility for passengers and cargo, and it incorporates the sharper handling dynamic found in similar sized sedans. Confident and calm looking, the Rogue has its own style without flamboyance.

The Rogue is a great choice for weekend warriors looking for a small SUV with more interior room than a hatchback and the furthest relation to a minivan. The Rogue is the second-smallest SUV model in the Nissan line-up, but it has a spacious aura with distinctive styling and sleek paneling. Upon closer inspection, potential buyers will also see the quality workmanship. It’s a very solid package — well-built with no flimsiness.

2012 Nissan Rogue

Performance and Handling:

Over the years, Nissan has put a lot of effort into the development of its Xtronic CVT® (Continuously Variable Transmission), and it's now the industry benchmark. The Rogue SV drivetrain exemplifies the balance of keeping the 170 horsepower 2.5-liter engine in its power band with seamless gear transitions and optimizing fuel economy.

The Rogue is peppy on city streets, and on highways the acceleration is steady and controlled. Initial acceleration is quick and responsive without the clunkiness of more traditional 5-speed gear boxes. The engine quality and power are surprisingly good for a 4-cylinder engine.

Overall, the CVT is impressive because it keeps the Rogue in its optimal power band meaning acceleration is more responsive than many competitors. Up and down gear changes are instantaneous and smooth. Considering the importance of  fuel economy, the Rogue is efficient. My review car, the front-wheel drive Rogue in SV trim, is EPA estimated at 23 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg overall. During my week, I recorded slightly better mpg over the EPA estimates and got 26 mpg in mixed driving.

2012 Nissan Rogue

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Cablin quality is impressive. My test vehicle was spec’d with the upgraded SL package and the interior was upholstered with a leather steering wheel and black leather seats. The materials are of superior quality, the seats comfortable and styling modern. The driver seat is electronically adjustable in multiple directions, provided additional lumbar support, and optional heating buttons. It's always nice to refine my driving position in small increments.

As a petite woman, I also enjoy a high vantage point when driving to ensure excellent visibility. It's a confidence booster in traffic, although the high vantage view usually means having to climb into tall vehicles. Not so with the Rogue. It’s built on a car-like chassis meaning entering the Rogue is a lot like getting into a car (not a truck). That also equates to a vehicle that drives and handles like a smooth-driving car.

As with all Nissan vehicles, the 2012 Rogue is equipped with the latest safety equipment, including Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with traction control, anti-lock brakes and an advanced airbag system. Nissan emphasizes driver/passenger safety and the since the Rogue has the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) highest rating – 5 stars – for side-impact crash safety and 4-star ratings for front and rollover impacts. It's a huge confidence boost on the road.

Nissan Rogue interior

Nissan has always impressed me with the simplicity and functionality of the driver’s console. All necessary information is easy to find and use. The center console stack is well laid out and easy to navigate with the help of a 5-inch QVGA touch screen interface. It's more than adequate for toggling between radio, CD, iPod & AUX media, GPS and other information.

The Bluetooth hands-free phone system is super easy to set-up with excellent voice quality on both sides. As a music buff, the Bose Premium audio system, with 7-speakers and Richbass subwoofers, didn’t disappoint. It's a definite step above the stock Nissan audio systems. When paired with the well-insulated interior space, there is little road buzz or engine drone.

Probably the slickest new feature found on the Rogue is the Around View Monitor® (available with the SL package). It's essentially a 360-degree camera view around the vehicle. When parked or in reverse, it allows the driver to see around the entire car from the center console screen. The 360-degree camera view is handy when parallel parking, gauging curb-distance or fitting into any tight space. With a little practice, tentative car drivers will put this feature to good use. It's an innovative feature Nissan includes in its affordable vehicle lineup, as well as the more luxurious models.

28.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the 2nd row seats

As mentioned, the cargo space in our Rogue is good but does not measure up to other crossovers in its class such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V or Chevy Equinox. With the rear seats up, the Rogue’s rear cargo area has 28.9 cubic feet. And with the rear seats folded down, that number increased to 57.9 cubic feet. All of the above have more cargo capacity than the Rogue, but you have to spend more to get more. The Hyundai Tucson, which costs less for a comparably equipped model, is slightly smaller with 55.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

Back seat passengers will appreciate the ample legroom inside the Rogue and everyone will appreciate the not-too-high floor height which made loading groceries and camping gear a breeze.

Predictable, comfortable, and reliable

The latest edition of the Nissan Rogue continues to incorporate small improvements on an excellent SUV lineup. From the smooth, angular exterior and throughout the stylish interior, it is easy to see why the Rogue is a top choice for buyers in the small crossover SUV market.

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