The Rogue trounced the Toyota Camry sedan as the best-selling passenger vehicle earlier this year, which is a monumental achievement that any automaker would covet. The irony is that what's generally an overly soft, vague steering sedan has been unseated by an overly soft, vague steering crossover. We've driven and reviewed the Nissan Rogue ($24,420 base MSRP), and now we're behind the wheel of the new Nissan Rogue Sport, the smaller version of the Rogue that's derived from the global Nissan Qashqai. Both vehicles have a great exterior, a so-so interior, and the driving dynamics of a bar of soap. So, what gives?
An Engine and Tranny Combo for the
We get that not everyone wants a lot of power, but the Rogue should at least have more grunt than the incredibly tepid 2.5-liter (non-turbocharged) 4-cylinder engine. It's the only engine option, and that's unfortunate. To make things worse, it has an awful CVT that feels like its droning on relentlessly to annoy you. Mash the pedal to the floor and not much happens. Acceleration should be measured in terms of tectonic plate speed, getting to 60 mph in about nine seconds. We can tie our shoes faster (both of them). Consider the fact that the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport comes with two engine choices, a regular 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine with 185 horsepower or a 2.0-liter turbo mill with a healthy 260 horses. And there's no awful CVT to have to tolerate.
Steering for the Sleepy
The steering the Rogue is also painfully soft, giving you zero feedback and providing very little in the way of centeredness. It takes way too much work to keep the Rogue in the lane on the highway, making long drives tiresome. Combine this with a mushy suspension, and you have a recipe for frustration. But hundreds of thousands of customers (329,904 of them) bought the damned thing last year, and that's a lot of units. The far superior driving Mazda CX-5 only sold 112,235 vehicles in the same year. The CX-5 has more power, better looks and an interior that's one of the best in the business, something we can't even remotely say about the
Cabin Frustrations Abound
Though the manufacturer photos of the Rogue's interior sure look nice, there's more revealed by driving the thing and operating it on a daily basis. The seats are good, and the materials are decent. Our issues are with the steering wheel controls and the center stack audio and climate controls. The audio buttons that flank the small and almost low-res screen are frustrating. The buttons are incredibly small and too close together, making them hard to view and operate while driving. There's no "media" button but an "AUX" button that has to be pressed twice to get streaming music from your phone. The audio knobs are a decent size, but they're a bit shallow and hard to grip because of the contoured edge. Hell, they don't even look that great.
The climate controls are just okay. The display seems a bit low rent, and there's no "MAX AC" or "OFF" buttons. These seem like little issues, but when it's boiling hot in the car, you want to get to cool as quickly as possible, and if it's temperate outside, it'd be nice to shut off the AC without having to press the fan button six times. The devil's in the details, really.
The Rogue clearly works for numerous customers given the sales figures, but those customers must care more about exterior style and interior space (which is admittedly pretty good). We just wish Nissan would back up the Rogue's rogue looks with a much-improved driving and user experience. Maybe the next-gen car, Nissan?