The Rogue overtook the Altima as Nissan's best-selling vehicle. This is a telling sign that crossovers are dominating the market for a broad range of car buyers. The Rogue offers a cushy interior with lots of cargo space and good fuel economy. But it's got less power and driving stability than other models from competitors. However, it's got an admirable safety rating and optional packages that may make it an attractive option for car buyers, particularly those who enjoy a little sci-fi tie-in.
Wait, is the Nissan rogue related to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? That can't be a coincidence.
Let's say that it was a really lucky turn for the carmaker and one upon which they have capitalized for some really targeted marketing. The new model was launched in conjunction with the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the latest installation of the iconic sci-fi franchise. Nissan released a limited edition Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition with features like black trim, Galactic Empire, and Rebel Alliance logos, and Star Wars branded doorsills. The $2000 upgrade also comes with a Death Trooper helmet, just in case, it wasn't obvious already that you were really, really into the movie.
Is the force strong with this one? I'm looking for a Millennial Falcon if you get my drift.
For all of the caché that the Rogue carries with it, and for all that it's sales figures reflect, the car itself has less power than most of its closest competitors. The standard 170 hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder CVT transmission can be sluggish, and on-road tests it scores almost two seconds behind the Kia Sportage SX. The lack of an uplevel powertrain option doesn't do the Rogue any favors, as it contributes to the slow motion feeling of being in an intergalactic cabin and watching all of the stars travel at light speed while you're ambling in the stratosphere. For a compact, it's overall control feels off and doesn't give the feeling of stability that one would expect from a crossover. However, it's pleasant and comfy inside, which may help the driver at least to do his or her best Han Solo impression.
What about the interior? Is it more Star Wars or Spaceballs?
If there's a high point to the Rogue it's likely the plush interior, which has undergone some substantial upgrades since 2014. The standard is a pleasant experience, but the Platinum Reserve series takes it to the luxury territory. The cabin is constructed from sound absorbent material, and the Nissan Zero Gravity front bucket seats give the kind of interstellar comfort that not even Mel Brooks could parody. Speaking of seating, the optional third-row seating is a great feature for car seats and little ones but might feel cramped for anyone bigger than an Ewok. Infotainment is still a couple of galaxies away from the newest on the market, with a 7-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth enabled console that lacks Apple Car Play or Android Auto, two features that are slowly becoming the new normal in anything above a compact or economy car. The Rogue also offers unparalleled cargo space, which is impressive in a car that also manages to include a third row.
How does the Rogue stack up to comparable crossovers?
The crossover market is the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses tendency that all carmakers have, but on steroids: because car buyers keep switching to crossovers, models must continuously improve to snag their share of the market. In terms of cabin comfort and cargo space, the Rogue still edges out the competition, particularly on the Platinum Reserve model. However, on powertrain, handling and speed, the Rogue falls behind the Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-5, the Ford Escape and the Kia Sportage. Safety tests have scored it higher, and the Rogue received a distinguished crash test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, although the standard model S doesn't have any active safety features. The Rogue also scored high on fuel economy tests, outpacing the Sportage, Ford Escape, and Honda CR-V. The infotainment systems feel antiquated, which does become problematic when they're such a persistent feature of the driver and passenger experience. All told however, this is a popular model for a reason, and if it doesn't win out on every test, it certainly manages to stay a very active part of the crossover market.
How about the hybrid model?
Nissan announced that they'd be working on a hybrid Rogue a few years ago, and it has finally been released to become the only other crossover hybrid on the market apart from the Toyota RAV 4 hybrid. The EPA rates the Rogue among the most fuel efficient in its class with a combined 33 mpg, and the powertrain is a 2.0-liter gas four-cylinder paired with a 30 kW electric motor. The hybrid adds a bit of curb weight but doesn't behave dramatically differently from the all gas version. It's pretty difficult to get the Rogue to switch to an all-electric travel mode apart from a gradual increase on the throttle, though Nissan claims that the car can travel up to 2 miles at 25 mph on a fully charged battery. If that sounds, well, brief, that's because it is. However, for a crossover market that is slowly becoming saturated, having a car that saves this much fuel and fits this much stuff is a rarity. And in a vast universe full of all manner of heroes and villains, sometimes those little details are what knock something out of this world.