The 2019 Nissan Rogue is paddling as fast as it can to keep up in the red-hot compact SUV race. Feature updates and new driver-assistance tech have helped it keep pace, and it remains a leader in roominess and comfort. But time is catching up with the Rogue, which was last redesigned for the 2014 model year, and fresher rivals are showing up with much better driving manners and higher-quality interiors.
Those demerits led the Rogue to finish seventh out of seven top-trim-level SUVs in our 2019 Compact SUV Challenge. That said, it wasn’t far off the pace in the closely matched competition, and while it didn’t lead in any categories, it was runner-up in several, including driver-assistance and safety technology, as well as front-seat comfort. And while it was dinged for its dated interior and lackluster driving experience, a lot of compact SUV shoppers might care more about the space and comfort it offers. The 2019 Rogue is offered in base S, SV and SL trim levels, and a hybrid version is also available in SL and SV trims.
Looks the Part of a Nissan SUV
The Rogue has a more traditional SUV appearance than a lot of new crossovers, and the design still has curb appeal. The tall, squarish shape is also functional, contributing to the Rogue’s ample people and cargo room. An aggressively sculpted face gets a full dose of Nissan design DNA, with a large and deep version of the family V-Motion grille and LED daytime running lights (LED headlights are available). The profile is marked by a low, dipping beltline and big wheel arches, bearing a strong resemblance to other Nissan SUVs. Large, angular taillights sit high on the corners of a busy rear end. The base S gets 17-inch steel wheels (alloys are optional), the SV gets 17-inch alloys (18s available) and the SL has 19-inch rims — the best fit for the Rogue’s big arches.
Roomy and a Little Dated Inside
Your first impression inside is how spacious it feels for a compact SUV. The front seats are broad and well-cushioned. They lack much lateral support, but you won’t be carving canyons in the Rogue anyway. Headroom is excellent even with the panoramic moonroof. Things aren’t economy class in the rear seat, either: It reclines and slides, so you can prioritize seating or cargo — or move a child within reach. And at 6-foot-2, I found my head didn’t brush the ceiling, nor did my knees hit the front seat behind a tall driver. Large, wide-opening doors also ease access (and getting your child into a car seat). The low beltline and big windows add an airy feel, even in versions without the big moonroof.
Compact SUV competition is intense, however, and the Rogue’s interior design and materials, while pleasant enough, look dated next to rivals such as the new Toyota RAV4 and recently freshened Honda CR-V. There’s an uneven mix of materials, with the top-of-the-line SL combining an upscale stitched dashboard wrap, leather seating and piano-black trim with areas of hard plastic. Materials also drop some in the back seat, where there are more hard surfaces on the doors. Fit and finish quality, particularly with the upholstery, is just average. And the leather seating that’s standard on the SL has what Cars.com Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder described as a “low-rent sheen.”
My SL test car had a heated steering wheel and heated front seats, though many competitors offer rear-seat heaters, as well. The layout of the dashboard and operation of the controls was mostly logical and easy with the exception of an odd location for the blind spot warning switch and drive mode controls; they’re down by the driver’s left knee, making them hard not just to use but even to see. The cabin is average for wind and road noise, but it loses the struggle to filter out the noisy powertrain.
Multimedia and Tech
The standard 7-inch center touchscreen seems old-school these days, and so does its cluttered user interface design. It’s also positioned too far below the driver’s line of sight, but the system is easy to use and has welcome shortcut buttons, plus volume and tuning knobs. While Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, even the top SL trim has just two USB ports, one at the front of the center console and one in the console bin. If you haven’t bought a car in a while, that might seem fine, but others are more USB-generous, including charging ports for the backseat.
The Rogue had one of the first 360-degree camera systems in a compact SUV, and it’s standard on the 2019 SL, but rivals also have them now — most with sharper resolution.
Drives Noisy and Slow
The Rogue’s driving manners might be OK for some buyers of compact SUVs, which no one expects to be a sports car, but even by that standard, it’s not fun to drive. Guilty parties include the Rogue’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower; that’s less motivation than most rivals, and it gave the Rogue the lowest power-to-weight ratio among the SUVs in our Challenge. It’s mated to a raucous continuously variable automatic transmission that has rubber-band lag at start-up and in passing, and it howls like it’s being injured when you mash your foot for more power — which is often with this engine. As Cars.com Senior Research Editor Mike Hanley put it, “Droning engine noise is your constant companion when driving the Rogue.”
If there were a stronger powertrain, you still wouldn’t be tempted to push the Rogue. Even moderately hard cornering or evasive maneuvers bring out lots of body lean and tire scrub. In return, however, you get a soft, compliant ride. Despite the body motion, it might be a worthy tradeoff if your commute is on rough city streets. The steering is very light, and the brakes feel soft and are slow to react to more pedal pressure, while the chassis allows considerable nose dive on hard braking.
The Rogue is among the leaders in the compact SUV category when it comes to EPA gas mileage ratings: 26/33/29 mpg city/highway/combined with FWD (27 mpg combined with AWD). That’s close to the 30 mpg combined estimate for front-drive 2019 versions of both the RAV4 and the CR-V (with its more efficient engine). Compare them here. In real-world testing during our Challenge, however, Rogue gas mileage was well behind those two; it tied for last in the Challenge.
For better mileage, the Rogue offers a gas-electric hybrid version of the top two trim levels, which I did not test. The hybrid system uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with an electric motor, making for a net output of 174 hp with front- or all-wheel drive. It’s EPA-rated at 33/35/34 mpg city/highway/combined (33 mpg combined with AWD). That compares well to the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid AWD, but it’s no match for the redesigned 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, which gets an estimated 40 mpg combined with its 219-hp hybrid system and standard AWD. Compare them here.