Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Nissan Rogue SL

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

Rogue! She was a high-spirited noble, heir to a vast fortune, yet imprisoned by the bonds of propriety. He was a swashbuckling swashbuckler with an inability to button his shirt properly and a sea-chest filled with a suspiciously large array of hair-care products. Their fiery love would rage across the world, boil the seas, set society alight, and overcook the thanksgiving turkey. Rogue! Coming soon to a theatre near you. A film by Michael Bay. Like The Notebook, except with more pyrotechnics.

It is soft, beguiling, sensuous, seductive, and – oh damn I've gone all Danielle Steele again.

Well, no actually. Despite the rakish name, this four-cylinder compact crossover is no Fabio. It's less I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, and more Oh Yes I Can Really Tell This Is Margarine. It is soft and sensible, and based on its scores in a couple of recent comparison tests, that's something to be admired. Come, Fabio: button that shirt back up, put on a sweater-vest, and help me do the taxes. And for God's sake, man, get a haircut.

This week's tester arrived in the charcoal grey of a pair of sensible slacks. 'Tis a muted colour, though one brightened up by the chrome accents of the grille and roof rails, and this top-line SL comes with 18-inch wheels for a little extra curb appeal.

The old Rogue was essentially a mini-Murano, but while Nissan's new halo crossover has gone a bit nuts in the styling department, the current Rogue looks a little more related to the Pathfinder. It's a rom-com for the whole family, scoring a firm PG rating in style. The only real criticism I have of the exterior is Nissan's LED headlight accents, which make the front end of the Rogue look a bit like a house that never bothers taking its Christmas lights down.

On the inside, the Rogue provides an extremely high level of comfort, and possibly one of the more likeable dashboard layouts in the market. The seats are so good you could unbolt them and stick 'em in your living room, and the overall ergonomics seem much more thought-out than elsewhere. The addition of a gargantuan panoramic sunroof really opens up the interior in terms of brightness, and there's padding anywhere your elbow touches. It is soft, beguiling, sensuous, seductive, and – oh damn I've gone all Danielle Steele again.

With a more critical eye, all this bright shiny black trim is going to be a pain in the caboose to keep clean and unscratched. The central touchscreen is also not huge, although it should be noted that Nissan makes a lot of their tech features available relatively low down the trim range.

Cargo capacity is really quite good, this despite the overstuffed rear seats not having the clever folding properties of a Honda CR-V. Rear seats slide back and forth, there's a handy pass-through, and a multi-layer shelf in the back makes the most of the rear space. This latter is great, with different configurations for all kinds of cargo (groceries, bulky hockey bag, stroller and diaper bag, duelling pistols, etc.), and there's a 12V power outlet back there as well.

Seats in place provides 906 L of space; with them down this more than doubles to 1,982 L. If you'd like, there's even a third row seat available as part of a package for the all-wheel-drive SV model. This last is best reserved for occasional use as the seats are quite small, and the option deletes the clever cargo organizer.

Romance, I am told, often results in children. Why, I have one of the things myself (something to do with storks dropping cabbage-patches down the chimney – I wasn't paying attention), and she requires quite a large rear-facing child seat to be carried safely from place to place. The seat, a device with the dimensions and mass of a La-Z-Boy, proved very difficult to install in the Rogue. The problem was in the quick-release connectors of the car seat, which were blocked by excess fabric covering the rear LATCH attachment points. I was able to get it to work after much cursing and pinched fingers, so please test-fit your car-seat before you buy, as some adjustment may be needed.

“Once they began, there was no looking back,” is a tagline you might well use to describe the Rogue's rear visibility, which is poor at best. Otherwise, sightlines are relatively reasonable, and the Rogue has a trick up its puffy silk-shirt sleeve with which to allay any parking concerns.

It's called AroundView, a 360-degree camera-based system, and it works so well, I actually envy the Nissan salesperson who gets to pull this one out of the hat during a product presentation. Hit the camera button when nosing into a space and you instantly get a little top-down video game where you can get your car absolutely perfectly between the lines. Back into the spot – as we're all told to do for safety's sake, and it's just as easy.

Actually, all of the Rogue's onboard technology is very easy to use; it's perhaps not as complex as some other systems on the market, but doesn't frustrate. And check out some of the other tech you get: lane departure warning, forward collision detection and blind spot detection.

Set it all in motion, and Nissan's crossover instantly shows it is without Roguish intent. The ride is very controlled and well damped, the continuously variable transmission keeps engine noise at bay when driven gently, and the steering effort is light.

Power comes from a 2.5L four-cylinder engine making 170 hp at 6,000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4,000. Taken as a whole, this powertrain has the soul of an accountant – no offense to you accountants out there. Press it hard and the Rogue responds with unexciting but adequate performance. Try to spice things up by slinging it through a couple of curves, and while some decent grip is there, the steering is devoid of feel. Passion? Not really; it's like driving an afternoon nap.

Yet permit me to make the observation that this docility is what might make for a good long-term partner. We all want the fizz and flash on the test drive, the racing pulse and the elevated adrenalin of something new. Next thing you know, you're both sitting in front of the TV watching Game of Thrones in flannel nightwear of the type that only a lumberjack would find sexy.

The Rogue's driving behaviour isn't very exciting, but it is undemanding. It's also quite grippy, so driver confidence is high, and the CVT transmission has some interesting quirks, such as engine-braking when you're descending a long hill. Fuel economy is solid, rated at 9.4 L/100 km in the city and 7.4 L/100 km on the highway. Mixed gentle use produced a figure that dipped into the low 9s at the end of the week.

Furthermore, the Rogue is also rather sensibly priced. This top-spec version comes in a couple of thousand dollars less expensive than an equivalent CR-V, and when you start looking across the range, the Rogue has excellent feature packaging. Mid-range cars can be fitted with gee-whiz stuff like satellite navigation and a power liftgate without having to option leather, and in the sub-30K range, you can get a car with keyless go, all-wheel drive, heated seats and that enormous sunroof. There are other makes that will likely do slightly better on resale, but the Rogue does provide excellent value for features.

Essentially, if you're looking for the romance of the drive, the Rogue will not provide it. Buy an old 240Z instead, before prices go through the roof.

But if your life is filled with hubbub and bustle, if you'd rather save your tender feelings for an actual human being (or a fictional one on screen or in print), if you just want your daily transportation to be a sort of oasis from care, then the Rogue does the trick rather nicely. It doesn't have pecs like beefsteaks. It doesn't have a bosom that heaves, or trembles, or wobbles around like an erotic jelly.

Instead, it's as comfortable as a cuddling up on a sofa together after a long day filled with the mundane demands of life. I like the Rogue quite a lot, but I believe I'd have the temptation to sneak out and see a little turbocharged minx on the side.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/60,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance
Model Tested 2015 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
Base Price $31,298
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,750
Price as Tested $36,083
Optional Equipment
Premium Package (LED Headlights with auto-levelling, power slide/recline front passenger seat, power liftgate, welcome lighting, 4-way power front passenger seat, Bose audio w/nine speakers and two subwoofers, radio data system, speed-sensitive volume control, Nissan Navigation System, Srius XM w/traffic, Around View monitor, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, moving object detection, forward collision warning) – $2,800, Metallic/Pearl paint – $135