Over the past decade compact CUVs have become the family car of choice for many Canadians, so while the fourth-best selling Nissan Rogue (based on total 2015 sales) might fall just shy of being a household name, its top-three selling rivals certainly are: think Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V. It’s some pretty stiff competition to be chasing, but Nissan’s stylish contender stacks up nicely.
The current, second-generation Rogue was introduced for 2014, and two years later it remains fresh and modern looking. To my eye it’s the best-looking of the top-four compact CUVs by a solid margin. In terms of utility it perhaps gives up a little compared to the CR-V (mostly because the CR-V has such crafty rear seat folding mechanisms), but it holds its own against the Escape and RAV4, and it boasts the largest overall cargo capacity with the rear seats in place (1,112 L, which is 22 L better than the next-biggest RAV4 and a full 41 L bigger than the Escape). Fold the seats and you get 1,982 L.
Where the Rogue really distinguishes itself is with an interior that somehow transcends its mass-market roots to create a serene, luxurious environment that echoes Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand. The Rogue also trumps the top three by offering optional third-row seating, and it can be had with a wide array of safety technologies that combine with good crash test results across the board to earn an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award. I was given a range-topping SL Premium Rogue for my week-long test drive, but you don’t need to splurge on a top-of-the-line model to get an impressive array of equipment.
The cabin features a soft-surface dash, soft-touch door uppers and soft-touch console top, with good-looking rigid plastics elsewhere. Visual interest is provided by a mix of faux-carbon fibre and painted metallic trim, with a splash of shiny piano black on the centre stack (great if you like it, but difficult to keep clean). There’s nothing earth-shatteringly uncommon about any of the materials but they’re deployed to good effect, with a slightly more generous than average use of soft-surface materials and a pleasing, ergonomically-efficient dashboard layout. There’s a nice big console bin for your essentials, with air conditioning, ambient lighting, three 12V outlets, cruise control, keyless entry, rearview monitor, Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free text messaging and NissanConnect mobile apps integration all standard across the lineup.
Family feud: Comparison Test: 2015 Honda CR-V vs Nissan Rogue
My SL Premium test car added features including dual-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, 18-inch alloys (lower trims get 17-inch steel or alloy wheels), blind-spot information system, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, intelligent key with pushbutton start, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power liftgate, navigation system with 7-inch touchscreen and a powerful, clear-sounding nine-speaker Bose audio system (lower trims get a 5-inch screen with either a four- or six speaker audio system). I found the nav screen a little on the small side (with touch points a little on the small-side too), but the interface is reasonably intuitive and the nav system makes the best of the available screen by automatically zooming in and out as the vehicle slows down and speeds up.