2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Test Drive: 2008 Nissan Rogue, by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery:
2008 Nissan Rogue

North Vancouver, British Columbia – The all-new Nissan Rogue received a commendable endorsement soon after it went on sale in Canada last fall: it was voted Best New SUV/CUV under $35,000 in the 2008 Canadian Car of the Year Awards sponsored by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. This award is particularly meaningful when you see the list of competitors that it defeated: the redesigned Mitsubishi Outlander, the all-new Saturn Vue Green Line and Saturn Outlook, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Liberty and Ford Escape Hybrid.

The 2008 Rogue, which replaces the X-Trail (last sold in the 2006 model year), is a more urban-focused SUV: it’s easier to drive, better on gas, quieter and more stylish – that is, if you like it’s Murano-like curves and Altima-like nose – and has a lower MSRP than the X-Trail.

2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue. Click image to enlarge

Though it’s classified as a compact SUV, the Rogue’s cabin is quite roomy for four adults and there’s a reasonable amount of cargo space – 29 cubic feet behind the rear seats. As well, the split rear seatbacks fold down as does the right front passenger seat for long items. The rear hatch is easy to lift up, but the cargo floor is rather high for loading heavy objects, and the side walls are made of a scratchable plastic material. A handy pop-up rear cargo organizer below the cargo floor helps prevent loose items from rolling around the trunk.

My test vehicle had cloth seats with a durable tweed finish, and a manually height adjustable driver’s seat. I found the driver’s seat quite comfortable and the tilt steering wheel useful for finding a position where the gauges are clearly visible. The round tachometer and speedometer have easy-to-read, backlit numbers, but the small orange gauge between them, which includes the fuel gauge, temperature gauge, gear indicator, outside temperature and odometer, is difficult to read. The radio, 6-disc CD player and heater/air conditioner controls are all large and easy to use.

The driver and passengers sit fairly high with a good view to the front and sides, but the rear three-quarter view for lane-changing is obstructed by a thick C-pillar and tiny third side windows; as well, the rear window is rather high, making reversing into a parking spot somewhat of a guessing game. There is a rear wiper with intermittent wipe setting for keeping the rear window clean while driving in rain or snow.

Standard safety features in the Rogue include dual-stage front air bags with a front passenger seat occupant detection system, front side air bags, and side curtain air bags for both rows. There are five three-point safety belts, but only four head restraints – there is no centre rear restraint.

The Rogue has the same 170-hp 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine as the X-Trail, but the automatic transmission is now a continuously variable unit (CVT), and a manual transmission is no longer available. The nature of the CVT, with its gearless operation and sustained engine speed while accelerating, creates a different driving experience when compared to the X-Trail. The positive side of the CVT is that it lowers engine revs while cruising thereby reducing engine noise and improving fuel economy; and in uplevel Rogue SL models, the CVT includes a manual mode with six speeds that can be changed with the floor shifter or paddles behind the steering wheel – the shifts are quick and quite useful if you want better performance. 0 to 100 km/h takes 8.9 seconds, according to acceleration figures from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).

2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue
2008 Nissan Rogue. Click image to enlarge

The downside of the CVT is that steady acceleration produces engine noise caused by the engine revving at a sustained 4,000 r.p.m. or higher until you ease back on the accelerator and resume cruising or coasting. Even after having driven many vehicles equipped with CVTs, I still find this a weird sensation.

Both S and SL trim levels are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. My SL test vehicle had the (full-time) all-wheel drive system which provides a 50/50 front to rear power distribution when starting, but while cruising, directs most of the power through the front wheels. To the driver and passengers, it’s virtually undetectable, but should the vehicle encounter a slippery surface, the extra traction of all-wheel drive greatly enhances stability, traction and steering control. At low speeds, it’s possible to lock the centre diff of the AWD system in a 50/50 front/rear split for better traction in deep snow, gravel, mud or sand. The lock automatically deactivates as you speed up. The Rogue’s performance in deep snow is also helped by its generous 210 mm (8.3 in.) of ground clearance and reasonably short front and rear overhangs.

Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard and the Rogue’s 100 km/h to 0 braking distance of 40.6 metres (133.2 ft.) is better than average in the compact SUV class, according to AJAC. Also standard are traction control and Vehicle Dynamic Control, a stability control system that helps prevent understeer and oversteer (spinouts) by automatically braking the appropriate wheel to resume the driver’s intended direction. A button on the lower dash allows the driver to turn it off if they so desire.

With its fully independent suspension and tight unit body construction, the ride is comfortable and handling is surprisingly flat for a tall vehicle, and the electric power steering requires little effort. I found it a very easy vehicle to drive around town and on the highway.

Ranging in price from $24,998 to $29,598, the Rogue is competitively priced in the compact SUV class and is probably the most “car-like” of all the new small SUVs on the market right now.

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