In 2017, Nissan sold 403,465 Rogue crossovers. That makes it the fifth best-selling vehicle in the US, narrowly losing out to the Toyota RAV4 (407,594) and the trio of domestic trucks that always sweeps the podium. It’s easy to see why vehicles like this have displaced the sedan as America’s go-to for driving a family around.
Yet if that sounds like I’m damning the Rogue with faint praise, I am. A week with one of America’s best-selling vehicles once again proves I’m out of the mainstream, or too many people are happy to settle. The Rogue is fine, but it’s not great. The infotainment system needs work. The cabin is fussy. The steering is so light it’s almost disconcerting. And the hybrid version that was available for model year 2017 is missing in action.
The Rogue—known elsewhere as the Nissan X-Trail—has been around since 2013 with a mid-life refresh in 2017. MY2018 Rogues got an added bump in the way of Nissan’s latest infotainment system and more advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) up to and including ProPilot Assist—depending on the trim level—that help the car get top marks from the safety raters IIHS.
The mechanical bits
All Rogues get the same 2.5L engine. It’s not the clever new variable-compression turbo engine from the Infiniti QX50 or new Altima; rather, it’s a naturally aspirated, port-injection four-cylinder unit that provides 170hp (127kW) and 175ft-lbs (237Nm). A hybrid option was available for the previous model year but appears to be discontinued: Nissan doesn’t have any on its press fleet and you can’t configure one at its website.
All Rogues get the same Xtronic automatic gearbox, but there’s a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. The former is cheaper and slightly more economical: 26/33/29mpg versus 25/32/27mpg (city/highway/combined). Adding AWD is a $1,350 extra on the S and SV trims, but it’s only an extra $1,080 on the range-topping SL ($31,060 for FWD, $32,410 for AWD). As is too often the case with manufacturer press fleets, our test vehicle was fully loaded; a Rogue SL AWD that came with a fancier leather interior ($250), the Platinum Package (which adds ProPilot Assist and 19-inch wheels for $790), and a panoramic moonroof and LED headlights ($1,820).
From the Rogue’s driver’s seat, that optional interior feels a little incongruous next to lots of black plastics of varying quality. SV and SL Rogues get a power-adjustable driver’s seat (the passenger’s is always manual) and seat heaters as standard. However, the seats are extremely comfortable regardless of the material they’re trimmed in, and visibility is good out the front and the sides. Ahead of you, the main instrument display is a pair of physical analog gauges (tachometer on the left, speedometer on the right) with a small multifunction display in between.
To your left sits the NissanConnect infotainment system, a 7-inch touchscreen that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Below the infotainment screen on the center stack are the climate controls, with the gear selector on the center console. Interestingly, the console is almost button-free; if you want to lock the Rogue in AWD mode or change into Sport or Eco modes, you’ll find those controls lurking ahead of your left knee.
The steering wheel is identical to the one in the Nissan Leaf, complete with flat bottom (that presumably makes egress a little easier for those with very well-endowed thighs). On our Rogue SL, that meant ProPilot Assist controls on the right spoke (the system is only available as an option in this trim level) with controls for the infotainment system on the left spoke.
In the back, the rear seats are a 40/20/40 split and also recline slightly. Rear legroom is OK at 37.9 inches (0.96m), but you’ll find more room for long-legged passengers in competitors’ vehicles like the Mazda CX-5. With the rear seats in use and in their most upright, there’s 39.3 cubic feet (1,113L) of cargo volume, which grows to a hefty 70 cubic feet (1,982L) with rear seats folded flat. The cargo space is also well equipped with tie-down hooks, plus underfloor storage so you can keep smaller items out of sight.
Sl and SV trim levels come with motion-activation on the rear hatch, where you kick your foot under a spot on the rear bumper to open it. I didn’t make much use of that feature, but I am an addict to trunks and hatches that close at the push of a button, and the Rogue doesn’t disappoint.
Unfortunately, when it’s time to push the start button, cracks in the Rogue start to appear. The steering is extremely light and devoid of much feedback. It is easy to maneuver at low speed, particularly with the 360-degree cameras (standard on the SL, an option on the SV), but it doesn’t offer much connection with the road. In Eco mode, the accelerator and gearbox are remapped. The pedal is less sensitive at the beginning of its arc, and the transmission shifts up sooner to save gas. But it also makes the Rogue feel anemic in city traffic.
Sport has the opposite effect, sharpening pedal response and holding onto gears longer. It also feels a bit of a waste, given the steering and suspension that’s surely been tuned for ride comfort over handling prowess. Best to just leave those modes alone.
A digital safety net
ProPilot Assist—Nissan’s combination of adaptive cruise control and lane keeping—continues to be one of the better systems on sale. It’s very clear about making sure the driver knows it’s just there to help and they’re in charge and very unambiguous when it comes to knowing if the system is active or not. But most of the ADASes are standard equipment across the board: automatic emergency braking, blind spot warning, and rear cross-traffic alert (which can be a life-saver when you’re backing out of a parking space) are fitted to every Rogue. SLs also get pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, intelligent lane intervention, and adaptive cruise control. (Those last two in combination are presumably not quite as good as ProPilot Assist, despite doing the same thing.)
NissanConnect is also less good than it should be. The screen isn’t amazing, the UI is a bit of a mess, and it’s often slow and laggy to respond. I didn’t try out Android Auto, but with Apple CarPlay there was a zone at the top of the screen that wouldn’t register touch inputs. Given the choice of the Rogue’s own navigation or Apple Maps, I opted instead for Google Maps displayed on my phone screen—you’ll notice the presence of a phone holder clipped into one of the air vents in the gallery.
NissanConnect is also gathering data on you while you drive, unless you opt out. However, I should point out that most new cars do this, and at least Nissan is good enough to display a splash screen each time at startup to remind you of the fact.
As with all reviews, it boils down to whether we recommend you buy one. And here, I think my answer is no. Mazda’s CX-5 sells in much smaller numbers, but it’s cheaper, has a better interior, more room in the back, and is much better to drive. If you’re looking for a midsize crossover/SUV, that one remains our pick.