The Nissan Rogue is based on an economy car platform and those roots show through in more ways than one. While it is among the better handling compact SUVs, it's not sporty. It drives more like a car than an SUV, but it has more body lean in turns than most cars. The brakes feel touchy at first, but it's easy to get used to them. The electric assist steering requires only a light effort, but it feels natural and direct with good road feel. In fact, the Nissan Rogue transmits more road feel to the driver through the steering wheel than most compact SUVs.
The ride is generally comfortable, but it can become busy on bumpy pavement and sharp ruts can give passengers a jolt. Perhaps Rogue's biggest drawback is interior noise. Ruts and bumps cause crashing sounds, rough pavement induces body drumming, and the engine groans under heavy throttle, all characteristics we'd expect in an economy car. Put simply, the Nissan Rogue seems like it could use more body insulation, though we realize that would add weight.
Like the , the Nissan Rogue offers only a four-cylinder engine. Nissan's four-cylinder makes 170 horsepower and is one of the better four-cylinders available today. It has the low-end punch to provide good pickup from a stop. Mid-range power is adequate, but the Rogue needs a head of steam for passing maneuvers.
The continuously variable transmission works well with the engine, quickly switching to an appropriate gear ratio for the driving conditions. The only way to tell that it's not a standard automatic is to floor the accelerator and keep it there. The transmission reacts by picking the gear ratio to put the engine in its optimum rev range and keeping it there. With the available Premium Package, the CVT has steering wheel shift paddles and six preset gear ratios. The shift paddles allow for a sportier driving experience by giving the driver more control.
The Rogue goes fairly easy on gas. With front-wheel drive, it is EPA-rated at 22 mpg City and 27 Highway; AWD models are slightly lower at 21/26 mpg.
While the powertrain works well, it's best suited for around-town duty. The available six-cylinder models from Toyota and Saturn are considerably faster. The Nissan Rogue is also not built for towing, with a maximum capacity of only 1,500 pounds.