Car names are fun to play with. Take the 2009 Nissan Rogue, for example. The Rogue doesn't play by the rules; It colors outside the lines and lives outside the box. I could go on and on. In this case, though, the name doesn't quite fit because the Nissan Rogue doesn't really do any of those things. It's cute, perky and practical. The Nissan Rogue is no rogue. Sorry, naming department.
The Rogue is a super-cute compact SUV/crossover. It's longer than its competitors; it's narrower, too, which means less hip room in the backseat. However, there's plenty of legroom and cargo space. It's actually the perfect size for a family of four. There was enough room for my family and a friend, and it was small enough to fit into parking spots and our garage.
The Rogue is fun to drive, with a spunky four-cylinder engine that handles hills and highway merges with no problem. That engine isn't the quietest thing on the road, but road noise is only moderate and not obnoxious. While the view to the front and sides was fine, I found rear visibility to be somewhat limited. Sadly, there is no optional backup camera to help matters.
The Nissan Rogue doesn't step all that far out of the box with its exterior. The Rogue looks just like the Murano's little sister and has the same sloped profile.
The only sparkle on the Rogue's profile is from the roof rack (of all things); the side mirrors and door handles are body-colored. The Rogue sits on 17-inch alloy wheels that somehow manage to look small. The wheel wells are taller than they are wide, and I think that tricks the eye. The overall impression from the side is one of sporty sleekness with a side of spunk thrown in.
The front view is dominated by the large headlights, which seem to wrap around the car. A small grille focuses the eye on the Nissan logo, which is chrome and surrounded by a chrome frame (just in case you missed it). There's some subtle sculpting on the hood that suggests a large engine, but it's nothing too glaring. Of course, the engine isn't large, but it's a nice suggestion anyhow.
From the rear, the Rogue looks less sporty and more bulbous. It's somewhat reminiscent of the Rogue's other sibling, the Versa. A large body panel forms most of the rear, while a slim window offers some visibility.
Opening and closing the doors is no problem, even for little ones, in the Rogue. The doors open wide enough to allow grown-ups to help kids in the backseat without having to become a contortionist to get back there. The Rogue sits a bit higher on the road than a sedan, but that only means less bending over when buckling in your babies.
Little legs don't struggle much when climbing in, and there's a flat stepping area to make it even easier for them. There's plenty of headroom, even in the back, for little ones to walk around in this compact SUV, which makes life easier in the carpool lane. The rear cargo door opens easily, even without a power option. While it's high enough to walk under, my 9-year-old was able to reach it to shut the liftgate. Yay!
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Good Times
Nissan sticks with their usual minimalist approach to interiors and keeps things clean and sporty in the Rogue. Nearly everything in the cabin is trimmed in matte black with metallic trim.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel houses controls for the audio system, cruise control and the wireless phone connection. The Bluetooth system worked pretty well with only a few bugs answering incoming calls. The audio system sounds great, and after a quick perusal of the owner's manual, I was working the satellite radio and presetting channels like a pro. The only messy part was the cord for my iPod, which plugs into the center stack, gets in the way of the cupholders. I was impressed with the cupholder setup, though. There is room for cups of different sizes, as well as mugs with handles. My morning cup of joe fit beautifully.
The center console has a couple of small cubbies for electronics or loose items. There is a dual level bin under the front armrest that's perfect for extra charger cords or a pack of wipes or whatever you like to stash in there.
On the downside, the "navigation package" is really an ugly lump on the dashboard. It's a covered port for a Garmin Nuvi 750 portable GPS; it isn't an integrated navigation system at all. Nissan saves on the big screen, but you get to buy an expensive accessory and don't get a backup camera. Bummer.
There's room for everyone in this crossover, and the backseat is no exception. Three kids fit easily in the backseat, but only two booster seats or infant-safety seats will work back there. The center seat works great for a small-sized derriere but not for a big bulky car seat. There's no center armrest in the second row, but there are two cupholders located on the back of the front row's center console. While bigger kids can reach them, they're out of reach for anyone in a car seat. There are no bottleholders in the doors either, so that's it for beverage containment. It wasn't much of an issue for my younger son since his booster seat has its own cupholder.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample
The Nissan Rogue gets top safety marks. It was named a 2009 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To receive this award, a car must earn the top rating of Good in frontal, side-impact and rear crash tests. The car also must have stability control. For 2010, the IIHS added a new roof-strength crash test to its Top Safety Pick criteria. The Rogue hasn't undergone this test yet.
Besides stability control, the Rogue also has standard four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist and traction control. It also comes with six airbags, including side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows.
The Latch connectors are buried in the backseat, but a rear-facing car seat will fit in the second row without any problems. The floppy seat belt receptacles were an issue for both of my boys. My first-grader struggled to find it buried beneath his booster seat, and buckling up was definitely a two-handed job for my third-grader.
In Diapers: There's plenty of room for rear-facing car seats.
In School: Floppy seat belt receptors make for frustrated kids.
Teens: It's a Top Safety Pick for 2009, which makes it a top pick for teen drivers.