The Nissan Rogue compact sport utility vehicle is spruced up nicely for 2011, with upscale styling and new features including automatic climate control and navigation system.
Nissan retained the best attributes of the five-passenger, five-door Rogue. At just over 15 feet long, it handles nimbly, has high seat positions for good views out the front, is nicely sized for city driving and parking and is comfortable to drive and ride in. There's even generous storage space in the center console and a cavernous glovebox.
The 2011 Rogue is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, where its predicted reliability is above average. All Rogues come with a 170-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that the driver operates like an automatic.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for the 2011 Rogue with front-wheel drive is $22,010. A 2011 Rogue with all-wheel drive starts at $23,260.
Competitors to the Rogue include the 2011 Ford Escape, which starts at $21,995 with 171-horsepower four cylinder, front-wheel drive and manual transmission. A 2011 Escape with automatic starts at $23,745. The 2011 Hyundai Tucson, which starts at $19,960 with manual transmission and 165-horsepower engine and $20,690 with automatic; the Tucson also is available with 176-horsepower, four-cylinder engine at a starting price of $22,790.
Like most popular SUVs these days, the Rogue is a crossover based on a car platform that helps give a more car-like, less truck-like ride than traditional SUVs have.
And while the name Rogue implies a scruffy, rugged vehicle, the 2011 Rogue _ even with its 8.3-inch ground clearance _ really is at home on pavement and drives easily around town.
The Rogue's outer shape is like that of luxury, compact SUVs. And for 2011, some new chrome-looking trim, new grille and new front and rear spoilers help give a richer appearance.
Inside the test Rogue, plastic dashboard and trim looked good. New gauges with bright white numbers and letters had that "look alive" appearance. The fabric mix on the seats _ black on the outer parts of the seats and a gray insert in the middle of the seats _ was attractive and felt good.
Unfortunately, I could feel through the seat every one of the "teeth" on the seat track as I moved the seat forward and aft via the power button. And the seat foam had a bit more "give" or squish than I liked.
The material on the Rogue's ceiling also wasn't the uplevel, textured fabric found on some other small SUVs.
The only engine for the Rogue _ a 2.5-liter, double overhead cam, inline four cylinder _ worked admirably to move the 3,300-pound SUV along. It wasn't rocket performance, but it wasn't sluggish. The Rogue felt sprightly, with torque peaking at 175 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm.
This compares with 146 foot-pounds at 4,600 rpm in the base Tucson and 163 foot-pounds of torque at 4,000 rpm in the upper-level Tucson.
I managed 22.7 miles per gallon without trying to maximize fuel economy (80 percent of the test was city driving). This was pretty much on par with the federal government's rating for this Rogus SV model with front-wheel drive of 22 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
Last year's Rogue had a lower highway rating of 27 mpg. The new Rogue includes a panel underneath to help channel airflow for smoother, less gas-consuming travel through the air; the car uses regular unleaded.
The engine does buzz when pressed to accelerate quickly, which it doesn't really do anyhow, and overall, the Rogue had a good amount of noise inside. I heard road noise from the Rogue SV's standard 17-inch tires on all but the smoothest of asphalt surfaces, and the engine even when the Rogue was sitting and idling.
The Rogue offers a good perch _ I sat up a ways above the pavement and could see over the roof of a Toyota Avalon in traffic in front of me. Rear-seat passengers also sit high on a cushion that allows adults to see above the front head restraints.
But the smallish back window on the Rogue makes it difficult for drivers to see what's behind the vehicle as they back up, and sizable metal pillars around the sides of the back window also limit rearward side views.
There is scarcely any hump in the middle of the Rogue's rear-seat floor, and the rear windows go down almost all the way.
I could extend my legs by tucking my toes under the front seats. Back-seat legroom measures 35.3 inches, which is less than the 38.7 inches in the Tucson but nearly the same as the 35.6 inches in the Escape. At 5 feet 4, I felt comfortable with front- and rear-seat headroom, which measured 39.3 inches and 37.6 inches, respectively, in the test Rogue with glass moonroof. I just had to watch as I exited the rear seats to slip by the rear wheel wells, which intruded close to the rear doorways.
Note that there is no middle head restraint in the back seat, even though there is a seat belt there for a middle passenger.
At 28.9 cubic feet with rear seats in use and 57.9 cubic feet with rear seats folded down, cargo space in the Rogue is better than the Tucson's and less than the Escape's.