It's not as quirky as it used to be, and that's a good thing.

2014 Nissan Rogue

Nissan's Zooey Deschanel is all growed up.

By: Andrew Krok

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: November 1st, 2013

The quirky little hen's-egg that was the first-generation Nissan Rogue was goofy. It looked like an oblong golf ball dropped onto a set of wheels. Despite that, this compact crossover sold extremely well - since its 2008 release, the Rogue has sold 647,000 units in the United States. That's one hell of a pile of money to dive into.

So, when it came time to reinvent the Rogue for the 2014 model year, Nissan took what made it popular, and smoothed over all the weirdness from the previous generation. It's still quirky, yes, but it's decidedly more adult, like Zooey Deschanel when she isn't talking.

As we mentioned in our feature story, the Rogue has chosen to take some upmarket swings, namely in the aesthetics department. 'Twas a bold strategy, but it has paid off in spades. The new Rogue looks great, and the interior feels like you're driving a car that's 10 grand more than what you paid.

This is the first U.S.-based Nissan to use the Common Family Module, a system devised by Nissan and Renault that also serves as the underpinnings for the Rogue's cross-pond brother, the much cooler-named X-TRAIL.

Nissan claims that the engineers behind the 2014 Rogue placed additional focus on handling and materials, two things that weren't necessarily present in its first iteration. After a day in the new Rogue, we have to agree with the automaker's assertions. It simply does everything a compact crossover does, although it acts like a sedan in the process. It actually drives better than some of the small-ish sedans we've tested recently, which should prove just how good this mini-ute actually is.

Wait, this author, lauding a small crossover? Heavens to Murgatroyd, what sort of topsy-turvy bizarro-planet are we on?!

  • Interior

    Wowee-zowee, the interior is pretty damn great. The tops of the dashboards, door cards, and door armrests are swathed in soft-touch materials, and the not-quite-carbon-fiber trim adds a little upscale panache without being overly boy-racer about it. The dash design should be the main example for a book chapter entitled, "How to Design a 21st-Century Dashboard without Being Wholly Ostentatious." Take notes, Toyota and Chevy. Like we said, it feels decidedly more upmarket than the cost suggests, but there are a few corners that needed to be cut to meet that - namely, the tissue-paper-and-cardboard headliner and the scuff-happy plastic that still covers the bottom of the dashboard and door cards. Also, while piano-black trim looks very classy when it's clean, that material attracts fingerprints like the Westboro Baptist Church attracts whack-a-doos. These are also some of the best heated seats we've ever used, and that's counting the Mercedes E63 AMG, which costs more than three times as much. Regarding the third row, unless you need to put children back there, we suggest glossing over that option. Adults will have a bad time in the furthest-back of backseats.

  • Exterior

    Again, Nissan knocked the looks out of the park. It's not as goofily tall-looking as it used to be, and the addition of some lines on the haunches and front end removes any past resemblance to an ovum. It's actually pretty aggressive for a car that doesn't have a whole ton of bite to match the bark, but more on that in the next paragraph. It's much better looking than the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, which are its two closest competitors. Nissan also did a very good job of hiding the numerous cameras required for its Safety Shield technologies, which include blind-spot and lane-departure warnings, as well as Moving Object Detection, which makes sure nothing is moving around your vehicle as you leave a parking space. It's like a baby Pathfinder, with better proportions.

  • On the Road

    We didn't think we'd say this, but the 2014 Rogue out-handles the 2014 Toyota Corolla. Yes, a crossover that's better on the road than a regular car. Weird, right? Maybe not. Nissan put plenty of focus on handling when developing this car and it shows - it's fun while being entirely predictable, which is exactly what the consumer wants in this segment. The pedals have just the right amount of touchiness, and the steering is heavy enough to accept slow, gradual input changes. In the all-wheel-drive model we tested, we couldn't get the vehicle unsettled easily, if at all.

    Despite lacking a turbocharger, the Rogue excels in fuel economy; even while we were beating the hell out of it, we still managed to get 25 miles per gallon. The engine is a little on the loud side, especially in the higher parts of the revband, but the CVT does a great job at eliminating the "rubber-band" feeling you get from other CVTs on the market. Power is a bit lacking, and you don't really feel the torque until you've started gaining some speed, but it's not like you're drag racing the thing. By far the biggest on-road letdown is the brakes, which not only look cartoonishly small behind the Rogue's alloy wheels, but also don't provide a whole ton of stopping power right away. Expect to push into the pedal a little further than you'd like to.

  • Conclusion

    We went in skeptical (as one should do with all crossovers), but we left blown away. The Rogue is leagues ahead of its competition, it drives like an honest-to-god compact sedan, and the mileage is good enough to have Ed Begley, Jr. giving the car a second glance. Even if you opt for the tip-top trim, you're barely scraping the 30-grand ceiling, which makes it great for couples thinking about kids, or for a nuclear family's grocery-and-activity weekend hauler. There are only so many ways we can extol its virtues without sounding like Overly Attached Girlfriend.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.5-liter, naturally-aspirated I-4

    Transmission: Continuously Variable (CVT)

    Power Output: 170 hp / 175 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy: 25 city / 32 highway (AWD); 26 city / 32 highway (FWD)

    Base Price: $22,490 (S, FWD); $24,320 (SV, FWD); $28,070 (SL, FWD); $23,840 (S, AWD); $25,580 (SV, AWD); $29,420 (SL, AWD)

    As Tested: N/A, but destination is $860

    Optional Features: Family Package S or SV (third-row seating, run-flat tires, privacy glass); Moonroof Package (panoramic moonroof); Premium Package SV (seven-inch touchscreen with navigation and apps, Around View Monitor, power liftgate, Safety Shield); Premium Package SL (panoramic moonroof, LED headlights, Forward Collision Warning, Safety Shield); fog lamps; illuminated kick plates; splash guards; blindzone mirrors

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• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Nissan Rogue, click here: 2014 Nissan Rogue.