- Smooth ride
- Capable handling
- High-quality cabin
- Comfortable front seats
- Short on cargo room and versatility
- CVT causes engine drone
- Lacks V6 option
- Poor rearward visibility
It's hard to stand out in a crowd, and increasingly so in the competitive class of small crossover utility vehicles. So it's a credit to Nissan designers and engineers who have made the 2012 Nissan Rogue attract attention through a blend of interior refinement, sharp styling and agile road handling.
Based on the pedestrian Sentra sedan, the Nissan Rogue offers utility-style passenger and cargo versatility with the crisper handling dynamics of a compact sedan. Inside its cabin, the high-quality finish of the dash, doors and seats give this economy crossover a fairly upscale feel. And while exterior styling depends on personal taste, we find the Rogue one of the more distinctive designs in a segment where conservative lines rule.
The Rogue isn't faultless, of course. Its buzzy, droning continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the only choice for changing gears, and unlike some other competitors, there's no V6 option. The Rogue does produce decent power from its four-cylinder engine, so this shouldn't be a deal-breaker for most buyers. But those who live in the mountains or who frequently haul their brood and gear should think twice and consider a more robust alternative. The Rogue's rear seat neither slides nor reclines like some of its rivals, and the curvaceous Murano-inspired styling limits rearward visibility and maximum cargo capacity.
Still, the 2012 Nissan Rogue deserves a close look among small crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Although the Honda and Toyota offer more cargo room and versatility, the Rogue is actually a nicer place to sit and a more engaging car to drive. Other rivals worth a look include the Ford Edge, GMC Terrain and Kia Sportage. Buyers shopping this class should spend time with several candidates, as all have specific strengths and quirks. But for a nicely appointed crossover that drives like a quick, small car, the Rogue is a solid pick.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2012
For 2012, the Nissan Rogue adds a new Special Edition trim package, a 360-degree camera view and new wheel designs.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2012 Nissan Rogue is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV available in two trim levels: S and SV.
The base S comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, folding side mirrors, cruise control, a tilt (but non-telescoping) steering wheel, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a trip computer and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The new Special Edition package available for the Rogue S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, rear privacy glass, a 4.3-inch-display audio screen, a rearview camera and an upgraded sound system with a USB/iPod interface, steering wheel audio controls and satellite radio.
Most of those features are standard on the Rouge SV. In addition, it gains 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, upgraded upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (with power lumbar adjustment), a fold-down front passenger seat and Bluetooth connectivity.
There are two packages available for the Rogue SV. The Premium package bundles together a sunroof, automatic headlights, automatic climate control and a navigation system with a 5-inch touchscreen display and real-time traffic updates. The SL package includes Premium package features and adds 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlights, foglights, heated side mirrors, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 360-degree camera view and a premium Bose audio system with a subwoofer.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2012 Nissan Rogue presents one of the nicest interiors of any compact crossover at this price. Comfortable seats, intuitive controls and high-quality materials are just a few of the highlights of this surprisingly pleasant cabin. A substantial center console bin, massive glovebox and clever under-floor organizer make up for a dearth of at-hand storage nooks, however.
The Rogue's rear-seat versatility is somewhat limited. Unlike in competing crossovers, the Rogue's rear seats don't recline or slide fore and aft, nor is there a center armrest. With the seatbacks upright, there are 28.9 cubic feet of storage, average for the class. Folding the seats yields 59.7 feet, still less than in its competitors. But a fold-down front passenger seat (a standard feature on the SV) does open up a length of 8.5 feet front to rear, allowing for items like ladders, lumber, surfboards and snowboards.
The Rogue comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints.
In government frontal crash tests, the Rogue earned four (out of five) stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for overall frontal-impact protection and five stars for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Rogue its highest rating of "Good" for frontal offset and side-impact protection and a second-best "Acceptable" for roof-strength integrity.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Rogue decelerated from 60 to zero mph in a reasonably short 121 feet.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2012 Nissan Rogue is available with either front- or all-wheel drive. It's powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, put to the ground through a CVT. In Edmunds testing, a front-drive Rogue took just 8.6 seconds to reach 60 mph -- quick for a four-cylinder compact crossover.
Fuel economy is similar to most of the competition. The front-wheel-drive Rogue has EPA estimates of 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, while the AWD variant drops slightly to 22/26/24 mpg.
The promise of crossovers lies in SUV versatility with passenger-car manners. The 2012 Nissan Rogue does one better; it drives like a car with capable handling. Road bumps and imperfections are absorbed with ease, highway stability is exemplary and handling is aided by good body control and one of the best-feeling steering systems in the class. Four-cylinder power is adequate enough, but the CVT's constant drone at full throttle can tax ears and nerves.
The 2012 Nissan Rogue is a comfortable crossover with an unusually nice interior. It's also unusually fun to drive. Unless you require maximum cargo space and rear-seat functionality, it's a strong contender.