Nissan Rogue Adds to Crossover Count

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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.

Nissan Rogue F34.jpg

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.
Nissan Rogue Dominick.jpg

Nissan North America Vice President of Product Planning, Larry Dominique, gives walkaround of new Rogue in San Diego

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.

Nissan Rogue Cockpit.jpg

Nissan Rogue Doors.jpg

Nissan Rogue R34 Open.jpg

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.

This article has 2 comments

  1. David Barrett 08/22/2007, 10:27 am:

    Amazing.
    Nissan must have iron cladding on their ivory tower. Today, relying on a test drive is SO last century. More people than ever do cross-comparisons via the web than ever before, and the level of tech-savvy appears to be greatest within the segments for which this little CUV might appeal.
    Having written that, it’s a lame looking vehicle, without any characteristic beyond the Nissan logo and silver paint. Although AutoPacific did the sales forecast, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that Nissan will not meet their internal projections. They don’t seem to have a good track record in that area recently – although it’s clear that Nissan owners love their vehicles… so, perhaps there is some hope. Note that I’m in the market for a new CUV or SUV and I after ten seconds of review, this Rogue is OFF the list. Rogue? What kind of name is that? It’s akin to calling a pen a dagger. Off the mark.

  2. Darren Hawk 06/15/2008, 9:13 am:

    Nissan has a very competitive small crossover. Smooth and fun to drive. Impressively refined with the CVT. The engine is strong and smooth. Interior quality is very good, although lacking on storage cubby holes. No rear seat tricks, just up or down. Comfortable seats and good driving position. Limited visability on rear sides and out rear windown. The 2wd should be able to be loaded with options that are only limited to 4wd. The excluded options has nothing to do with the drive train. Fuel economy is as posted and better if you keep highway speed at 70 and below. Highly recommend.

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