We like the Nissan Rogue. In our Frugal Five comparison, we deemed the little SUV "comfy, competent, and commodious," a strong choice for young urbanites looking for something different. This crossover is comfortable venturing on soft roads with five gear-laden adventurers aboard and their requisite snowboards/surfboards/luggage on its roof. If any of Nissan's SUVs has a distinct city-dwelling, fashionista, value-oriented character, it is the Rogue.

But if a Rogue turned roguish, what would be the end result? Probably something along the lines of this Venom Red tester.

Krom (pronounced "chrome") is Nissan's "coolest" trim designation, created to attract young, creative buyers. (More specifically, those likely to peruse Scion dealerships.) The trim level was first introduced on the Cube, and resides at the top end of the Rogue's four-model lineup. As such, the Rogue Krom sells for no less than $24,060, translating to a $3600 premium over a base front-wheel drive Rogue S. Young hipsters aren't usually saddled with loads of extra cash, so we're puzzled with Nissan's logic here.

Nonetheless, along with the cool badge affixed to the Rogue S's rear liftgate, designers include 17-inch polished wheels, sporty aerodynamic pieces, tinted rear windows, a centrally affixed exhaust, unique grille, and body-colored mirror housings. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls come standard, too. Nissan says the aesthetic add-ons elevate the Rogue from peppy diminutive SUV to a vehicle with bona fide "attitude." Note to Nissan: Even with the Krom designation, this little SUV has as much attitude as a three-month-old Yorkshire terrier.

Aesthetically, the Krom succeeds in being vastly different. Nissan GT-R DNA oozes from its nose. Deep-set fog lights and stylish, non-functional air inlets flank the catfish-like mouth. The edition-specific grille with twin chrome horizontal bars is an improvement over the standard model's busy honeycomb piece. A rear roof spoiler and central "sport-tuned" exhaust are supposed to add a touch of athleticism, but, like the front bumper, merely are awkward misplacements of farcical performance parts. We prefer the standard Rogue's handsome mix of chiseled edges and curvaceous lines.

The Krom's responsive and relatively confident turn-in proved very enjoyable, as did the high front passenger seating position, which provided impeccable forward visibility. The SUV is a cinch to maneuver in the tightest alleyways or frantic shopping centers, thanks to some compact measurements. Its rough, teeth-jittering ride, though, got us wishing for a softer sprung suspension -- or at least some cushier rubber and squishier seats. And forget about a clear rearward view or capacious cargo room. The thick C-pillars, little rear end, and miniscule back glass hinder both of those.

The standard 170-horsepower (167 horses in California) 2.5-liter four-cylinder remains in the Rogue S Krom. Same goes for the Xtronic CVT. Given its respectable fuel mileage (22 city/27 highway) and power outputs, plus its smooth, peppy demeanor, it is hard to fault this city-loving powertrain.

But building speed for a seamless merge into highway traffic is a sweat-inducing, triple-check-of-the-blind-spot endeavor. We found ourselves leaning heavily into the slim pedal, with the tachometer needle hitting redline, vainly hoping for more juice to arrive at the shiny front-wheels. (All-wheel drive is available.) With the gas mashed, the engine/gearbox doles out a deafening drone that pierces the sparse, roomy interior. Within the confines of urban blocks or slow-going suburban paths, such is hardly the case.

As it is based on the lowest S trim, the Krom gets the bare essentials. A four-speaker FM/AM/CD stereo, cruise control, air conditioning, power locks and windows, and an under-floor rear storage bin stand out on the features list. Surprisingly, vanity mirrors are missing from the sunshade visors. A standard S trim that we later drove didn't have the visor mirrors either, so be sure your date fixes his/her hair before jumping inside.

Luckily, the Rogue's likeable -- and naturally different -- personality filters through the Krom's questionably hipper skin and claimed "attitude." It remains the fun, spacious, and competent entry-level crossover we've enjoyed since late 2007. (A refreshed 2011 Rogue arrives later this month.) Sure, if you really want to "go rogue," pick up a Krom. But if making a bold statement isn't your MO, the cheaper, more attractive, and no less competent standard editions are the better way to go.


2010 Nissan Rogue S Krom
Base price $24,860
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door, SUV
Engine Engines 2.5L/170-hp /175-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve 4-cyl I-4
Transmission cont. variable auto
Curb weight 3300 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 105.9 in
Length x width x height 182.9 x 70.9 x 65.3 in
0-60 mph 8.0 sec (MT est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 22 / 27 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.81 lb/mile
On sale in U.S. Currently

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