In the ever-blurring spectrum of small SUVs and tiny crossovers, there now seems to be a car for every possible whim. Don't believe it? Okay, say you're young, kids are a long (long) way off, you rather fancy yourself a square peg in a round-hole world, and, most crucial, you're the sporty type who might spontaneously head to the mountains one weekend and to a rock concert in the desert the next. Which car?

Hmmm...you sound like the Rogue type to us. No, not you personally, but the Nissan Rogue. We might not be analyzing 29 parameters of compatibility here, but we're seasoned people/car matchmakers, so trust us. All right, as Ronald Reagan wisely said, "Trust but verify" -- so here's some substantiation, too.

For starters, the Rogue is a heck of a value, important to young folks saddled with student loans and expensive jeans to pay for. Rogue prices range from $19,995 for the front-drive version in base S trim to $22,735 for an SL-equipped AWD. Both are a steal, with the AWD, in particular, representing a lot of capability for the money. Value argument? Check.

Next, it's sporty. With a 0-to-60-mph sprint in 8.0 seconds flat and handling that can howl-up 0.78 g at the cornering limit, it's the brisk little 'ute that can. In fact, the Rogue's performance numbers border on physics-defying -- or at least expectations-challenging -- given that it's working with no more than a middling 170 hp from its 2.5L, four-cylinder engine against a fairly typical curb weight in this category -- 3359 lb. So why is it a second to a second-and-a-half quicker to 60 mph than virtually all of its competition? We can only point to its transmission, a CVT.

If you're not familiar with Continuously Variable Transmissions, the big idea is that they're stepless -- instead of the familiar first gear, second gear, third gear stuff, any ratio you care to name is available (within limits). The upshot is near ideal matching of the engine's characteristics to your acceleration, cruising, or hill-climbing, needs. It's a better powertrain matchmaker, so to speak.

Strangely, Nissan appears to be the planet's sole car company to have figured out CVTs. Although our Rogue didn't include the cool shifter paddles that are optional on S and SL versions (providing what amounts to "virtual gears" for those suffering from conventional-transmission withdrawals), you can still pop it into "low" for extra poop and all the rest of the time reap all those CVT World-of-Tomorrow wonders. Without the groaning and rubber-banding they typically inflict.

The Rogue's handling is another data point way off the curve. Despite its tall stance, it turns in enthusiastically with little of the listing its competitors exhibit -- just the thing for impatient young drivers threading through traffic trying to get to the Radiohead concert. Ah, but there's a downside to a short-length, tall vehicle possessing lighting reflexes.

It's ride quality. If you're older than about 26, having inelastic portions of your body paint-shakered into a quivering blur is no longer amusing. Worse, your Red Bull gets all frothy. Warning: Any occupant needing either a child seat or reading glasses has no business in this car. The ride is simply brutal.

The Rogue also turns the hooligan trait of trading functionality for sporty looks into a perverse art form. The stern is all angled eye candy from the outside, frustrating packaging from the inside. And how about its peek-a-boo, tapering side-window treatment? Let's agree that it's a good thing you're young enough to have no reason to be backing up in any preschool parking lots any time soon.

And that's just the point: Someone like you wouldn't be caught dead at Twinkle-Time Preschool, or for that matter, hitting Home Depot for appliances any time soon, either. The Rogue's about being seen in, not seeing out of. Showing up with snowboards on the roof, surfboards in the back, and fun in mind. If any of this makes you furiously nod your head in agreement, the Rogue's for you. Pretty good matchmaker, eh?


2008 NISSAN ROGUE
POWERTRAIN/CHASSIS
Drivetrain layout Front engine, FWD
Engine type I-4, alum block/head
Valvetrain DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
Displacement 151.9 cu in/2488 cc
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Power (SAE net) 170 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 175 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Weight to power 19.8 lb/hp
Transmission Cont variable auto
Axle/final-drive ratios 6.12:1/2.63:1
Suspension, front; rear Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Steering ratio 17.0:1
Turns lock-to-lock 3.1
Brakes, f;r 11.8-in vented disc; 11.7-in disc, ABS
Wheels, f;r 7.0 x 17 in, cast aluminum
Tires, f;r P225/60R17 98H M+S, Dunlop Grandtrek ST20
DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase 105.9 in
Track, f/r 60.6/61.0 in
Length x width x height 182.9 x 70.9 x 65.3 in
Ground clearance 8.3 in
Apprch/Depart angle 21.8/21.7 deg
Turning circle 37.4 ft
Curb weight 3359 lb
Weight dist., f/r 59/41%
Towing capacity 1000 lb
Seating capacity 5
Headroom, f/r 40.4/38.3 in
Legroom, f/r 42.5/35.3 in
Shoulder room, f/r 55.9/53.6 in
Cargo volume 57.9/28.9 cu ft
TEST DATA
Acceleration to mph
0-30 2.9 sec
0-40 4.2
0-50 5.9
0-60 8
0-70 10.5
0-80 13.7
Passing, 45-65 mph 4.1 sec
Quarter mile 16.2 sec @ 86.2 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 132 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.78 g (avg)
MT figure eight 28.4 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)
Top-gear revs @ 60 mph 2000 rpm
CONSUMER INFO
Base price $21,535
Price as tested $22,640
Stability/traction control Yes/yes
Airbags Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
Basic warranty 3 yrs/36,000 miles
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/60,000 miles
Roadside assistance 3 yrs/36,000 miles
Fuel capacity 15.9 gal
EPA city/hwy econ 22/27 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.81 lb/mile
MT fuel economy 22.2 mpg
Recommended fuel Unleaded regular

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