Nissan Rogue Adds to Crossover Count2
The Nissan Rogue is a small Crossover SUV derived from the Nissan/Renault global C-Class platform – i.e. Nissan Sentra, Nissan Qashqai, Renault Megane. VehicleVoice was given the chance to drive several Rogues in the desert East of San Diego. Here’s the scoop.
Justification for Rogue – It Was Easy to Do
The 4-cylinder-only Rogue begs the question, “Why?” Did Nissan feel they HAD TO add a small Crossover SUV to their lineup to compete with the Honda CR-V? Yes. Is there anything particularly intriguing about Rogue? No. It is another is a plethora of conveniently sized, pleasant to drive, reasonably priced small wagons available with all wheel drive. So, I guess it is OK to call it a “Crossover SUV” because definitions in the segment are very broad.
Rogue’s styling does not turn heads. Its target market is the same one as all the other small wagons – married male in early 30s just starting a family and needing more utility than his previous sporty coupe (or more likely Chevrolet Silverado or Dodge Ram full size pickup) gave him. Not that we are down on the Rogue. It’s just that it doesn’t answer questions much differently from any other small Crossover SUV.
Conclusion: Nissan had a competent, flexible global platform that could be efficiently stretched from a sedan (Sentra) to a small Crossover. It couldn’t carry a V6, but that’s OK because the class leading Honda CR-V doesn’t have a V6 either. So here we have a low cost program, assembled in Kyushu, Japan that can fill a niche in the broad Nissan lineup.
Wide Competitive Set – How Can Rogue be Differentiated?
While Nissan identifies Rogue’s competitive set as primarily Honda CR-V and the 4-cylinder Toyota RAV4 (which also has a V6 version), there are a ton of competitors fighting for the same buyer. Among those are: Mazda CX-7 (w/turbo 4-cylinder), Mitsubishi Outlander (standard V6), Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute (optional V6), Saturn Vue (optional V6), Chevrolet Equiniox/Pontiac Torrent (optional V6), Dodge Caliber/Jeep Compass (4-cylinder only) [OK, I know Jeep Patriot should be here… maybe, but it has more true SUV pretensions], Suzuki Grand Vitara (optional V6). Long list, right? And I may have missed a couple.
When you are talking about a 4-cylinder-only $20-$25,000 small Crossover SUV, Rogue can easily get lost. So, it is the Nissan dealers that Rogue has to depend on to convince the customers that Rogue is something special when it is really something “typical”. You can find Rogue in Nissan dealers mid-September 2007.
Rogue Product Definition On Target for Small Crossover SUV
The Nissan designers and engineers closely followed the accepted equation for a small Crossover SUV. It has a comfortable seating position with a generous butt to floor dimension. It is easy to get into and out of. The visibility forward is good, but to the rear is abysmal because of the obstructed rear quarters and tiny rear quarter windows. The cockpit ergonomics are outstanding. Reach zones have been carefully laid out and visibility of the instruments is good. There is no NAV option at this point and it appears that the I/P has been designed without a navigation system in mind. Larry Dominique says Nissan is working with aftermarket suppliers “like TomTom” to develop an accessory system.
The interior materials are a notch above what you would expect in this class vehicle. Soft touch door trim panels and instrument panel pad give a touch of luxury that many more expensive SUVs have cost-reduced out of their entries. Kudos to Nissan for that one.
Driving Can Sell Rogue – But Be Careful
While the Rogue may be lost in the small Crossover SUV clutter, dealers can close sales by getting prospective customers into the vehicle for a drive. For the Rogue, we predict that the test drive will be critically important because the Rogue is a very nice driving vehicle. Road noise is well-damped and wind noise is low. Only under full acceleration does the 170HP QR25DE 2.5L 4-cylinder sound thrashy. Using the paddle-shifting 2nd-generation Xtronic CVT available in higher end models to down shift results in a “RPM event” with the engine screaming. So, while the test drive is very important, the route and dynamics are very important.
Other than the “RPM event”, driving the Rogue was an uneventful experience. Not in a bad way. Handling is flat and stable. Rogue’s maneuverability is outstanding and it can be pushed hard without any untoward twitches. A guy coming out of a sporty car or even a sports car wouldn’t be embarrassed by the handling of the Rogue.
So, if you want a small Crossover SUV that is fun to drive, quiet, affordable, nicely equipped, and you don’t need a V6, Rogue could be an excellent choice. AutoPacific forecasts sales in the 50,000 to 60,000 a year range.