The Nissan Rogue is undoubtedly popular. You probably see examples everyday and don’t notice because they blend into the background of suburbia so well. So how does a compact crossover SUV that sells so well end up with a middling rating? The simple answer: While the Rogue is good at one thing and decent in other respects, it’s a master of none.
The Rogue is particularly good at being spacious, an easy feat when you’re the longest and one of the tallest SUVs in the segment. Those exterior dimensions translate into a nicely sized interior with good passenger and cargo space. Buyers like getting a bigger vehicle for their dollar.
In our rating system, though, bigger britches can only do so much to affect a score. In the categories of Design, Performance and Handling, and Tech and Connectivity, the Rogue fails to rack up enough points to stand out in such a crowded class. It comes close, but unless size is your overriding consideration, the Rogue is not your best option.
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This generation of the Nissan Rogue – its second – has been on sale since 2014. Its styling has changed little over those six model years, and it shows. Nissan’s “V-Motion” grille wasn’t attractive then and it hasn’t aged well.
The issue with the Rogue’s design is that it’s neither overtly rugged nor intentionally sleek. These are the two poles that most compact crossovers gravitate towards. The Toyota RAV4, for instance, is all angles, fenders, and cladding, while the Mazda CX-5 is as swoopy and simple as a sports car. The Rogue, though, looks like neither extreme, and so its styling projects neither toughness nor sophistication.
It’s the same story inside the Rogue, where the interior design is as generic as you can imagine. In fact, the most interesting thing about our Rogue tester’s interior was that it wasn’t all black. This particular model featured two-tone Almond-colored seats and trim.
A simple interior design isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as it usually means a vehicle’s controls are easy to learn and use. That’s certainly the case here, but the Rogue’s interior is let down by the cheap-feeling materials that comprise it. Hard plastic is the dominant surface type, even in areas with frequently used touchpoints. My right knee, for instance, rested against the lower dash, which is hard plastic. There was nowhere else for it to rest, and I could feel a bruise forming by the end of my time with the Rogue.
Likewise, this particular Rogue is the highest SL trim that comes with “leather-appointed seats.” We’re not sure what “leather-appointed” means, but can say the material covering the seats feels like thin, cheap leather that may struggle to stand the test of time.
Overall, the Rogue suffers from unemotional styling. No emotion is stirred when you look at it, and no impression is left when you look away.
On the one hand, the Rogue is a big vehicle and therefore offers more interior space for passengers and cargo than most compact crossover SUVs. On the other, despite its class-leading length and height on the outside, it’s not the largest in the segment on the inside. And in some areas, it’s just plain uncomfortable.
We checked the specs, and there’s not another compact crossover SUV that’s taller than the Rogue at 184.5 inches and only one other that stretches farther than its 184.5 inches of length (it’s the Volkswagen Tiguan, which is 185.1 inches long).
Despite being so outwardly large, the Rogue is bested by a number of others when the tape measure is taken inside. The smaller Toyota RAV4, for instance, has more overall interior volume (136.4 cubic feet to 134.0), and the Subaru Forester, which looks so much smaller on the outside, has more cargo space inside (70.9 cubic feet maximum to 70.0). We don’t know why the Rogue’s interior doesn’t benefit from its exterior’s extra inches, but we wish it did.
Nissan’s marketing team has dubbed the automaker’s front seats as having a “Zero Gravity” design, but despite the catchy name, we find them to be merely average. They are flat with not a lot of bolstering, which is acceptable considering this isn’t a performance machine. They don’t have a lot of cushion, though, and as mentioned earlier, my knee hit the dash when I had the seat configured comfortably in all other ways.
The rear seats, though, are more comfortable than your average second-row bench. They slide fore and aft and recline, which gives rear passengers more configurability than they usually get. The second row also splits 60/40 and lays down nearly flat when folded forward.
We do like the Rogue’s configurability for fitting cargo. In addition to the 60/40 split bench, the rear cargo area features a Divide-N-Hide system that changes the trunk space to suit different situations. While nothing fancy, the Divide-N-Hide system is effective. It splits the cargo floor into boards, one large and one small. The boards can be removed to reveal more storage space below, raised higher to create a shelf, or inserted vertically to partition the space. The system makes the 39.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats much more useful in daily life than your typical cargo hold.
As previously mentioned, the Rogue is not a performance machine, but most compact crossover SUVs aren’t and yet still manage to score better in this category than the Nissan. The Rogue’s low score is due almost entirely to its engine and transmission, which by themselves are components that trail the best in the segment, and they don’t become more than the sum of their parts when considered collectively.
The Rogue is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. In the case of our tester, the engine’s power is sent to all four wheels through a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
That amount of power would be fine for a base engine on a lower, lighter trim level with front-wheel drive, but this is the only engine available in all Rogue trim levels. Some competitors offer a second, more powerful engine (usually turbocharged or rarely a larger V6) in more expensive trims that are heavier and usually have all-wheel drive. In other cases where only one engine is available, it’s usually more powerful than what Nissan’s offering in the Rogue. The Toyota RAV4, for instance, only comes with one engine, but it makes 203 horsepower to the Rogue’s 170.
Part of the problem is the engine’s low power, and the CVT is the other. It’s silly that Nissan bothers to use a CVT when it inserts false “shift” points to trick you into thinking your Rogue has a traditional automatic. The automaker does this because people complain about how strange a CVT sounds and feels under acceleration – how it sets the engine at a particular speed and holds it there. CVTs do this because they can find the right engine speed for any situation; adding fake “shift” points to mimic a traditional automatic undercuts that advantage.
The Rogue’s handling doesn’t make up for its powertrain, though neither does it make matters worse. It’s merely average and behaves as you’d expect, with body roll in the corners, understeer at the limit, and a fair amount of squat and dive. The steering is light and accurate, and the brakes are more than adequate for daily driving. The Rogue’s demeanor just doesn’t stand out as being either fun to drive or impressively controlled and isolated.
The Rogue checks so many boxes in this category but still ends up with a low score because its infotainment system is behind the times and it’s missing some features that are becoming common in competitors.
Nissan has never offered a great infotainment system, and with the Rogue being so old, it’s not even using the brand’s latest and greatest version. The Rogue’s system works on a comparatively small 7.0-inch touchscreen and features dated graphics and slower-than-average response times. It feels like a system from four years ago because that’s what it is.
Still, you do get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and our loaded Rogue SL tester comes with other niceties like seating profiles for the driver, a 360-degree parking monitor, an easy ingress/egress function, and an electric parking brake. At the same time, though, only two USB ports are standard (two more are optional for extra $145) and Nissan doesn’t offer wireless smartphone charging in the Rogue.
All three trim levels of the Rogue (S, SV, and our tester’s SL) come standard with a basic set of advanced active safety features like automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and rear-cross traffic alert. Furthermore, the brand’s well-regarded ProPilot Assist suite of driver assistance systems is optional on the SV and standard on the SL. ProPilot Assist includes adaptive cruise control down to zero miles per hour, a strong lane-keep assist system, and rear automatic braking. Altogether, these features should keep you out of trouble in most situations and help make long drives easier.
The Rogue’s fuel efficiency is average for the segment. The Environmental Protection Agency officially rates the Rogue with all-wheel drive at 25 miles per gallon in the city, 32 on the highway, and 27 combined. Any compact crossover SUV that can achieve over 30 mpg on the highway with all-wheel drive is decently efficient, but the Toyota RAV4 easily outdoes the Rogue with a highway rating of 34 mpg while offering 33 more horsepower. Premium fuel isn’t a requirement for the Rogue, but neither is it for the rest of the segment.
The Nissan Rogue starts at $25,200 for a base S with front-wheel drive. The starting price of our top-level SL tester with all-wheel drive is $32,940, while its out-the-door price rises to $36,095 thanks to a Premium package for $1,820 that adds LED headlights and a panoramic sunroof and $290 worth of cargo mats and a cargo area protector.
That’s a nice price for a fully loaded compact crossover SUV, as some can crest $40,000 when optioned to the hilt. The redesigned 2020 Ford Escape, for instance, tops out at $40,715. The Rogue’s price can get up there too if you go crazy with dealer-installed accessories, but it won’t top $40K. If you’re looking only at fully loaded compacted crossover SUVs, the Rogue is one of the least expensive you’ll find.
Gallery: 2020 Nissan Rogue: Review
2020 Nissan Rogue SL AWD