Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reworked Rogue packed with pleasing perks

Sacramento, California – Reworked inside and out for 2011, the Nissan Rogue is an agile crossover that gives you things you’d expect from a bigger, and costlier, sport-utility vehicle.

Despite the myriad changes for the current model year, the vehicle still looks like the recently arriving, original Rogue, which is to say sporty and saucy. You’d likely be happy for your grown-up kids to be seen in the Rogue. Young families would be wise to seek it out.

My tester was the SV with front-wheel drive, pretty much the middle of six trim levels and starting at a reasonable $23,220. For that price, you get a lot.

Not only is the list of standard comfort/convenience features lengthy, it’s sprinkled with high-end goodies not normally seen in the $23,000-and-change segment. How about a rearview monitor? Standard. Ditto halogen headlights.

The standard safety and security features are likewise plentiful and top-tier. An electronic brake force distribution system, multiple vehicle-control systems and 360-degree airbags are part of the off-the-line package.

While the Rogue looks small from the outside, backseat space is actually pretty good for three normal-size adults. Likewise, cargo-carrying space is generous enough (a max 58 cubic feet) to handle most urban/suburban hauling outings.

The Rogue handles easily, and the continuously variable transmission on the tester performed with nary a hiccup. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower handles most situations well, but it’s no neck-snapper by any means. You will have to mash the gas significantly to keep up the oomph on steep hill climbs.

The engine at full song does penetrate the cockpit to the point of annoyance, but the suspension – independent strut on the front, independent multi-link on the rear – does a good job of keeping the Rogue balanced and smooth.

Fuel mileage is fair at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.

Overall, I regard the Rogue as the small SUV equivalent of a Honda Civic passenger car. It’s not a horsepower-laden bomb, but it’s so safe, feature-loaded and functional that it’s hard to walk past it and not write a check for the asking price.

For Nissan, a good automaker laboring to stand out among the Hondas and Toyotas of the world, that’s a very good thing.

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