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Automobiles

[REVIEW] 2014 Nissan Rogue SL Premium AWD

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After 6 years on the market, the Rogue is all-new for the 2014 model year with a fresh new body and a new chassis. It is now also manufactured in the good old USA, at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant where the Nissan Altima, Maxima, Pathfinder, LEAF, and Infiniti QX60 are also produced.

Did you know that the previous generation Rogue was Nissan’s second best seller in their line-up? In this highly competitive segment, that’s saying a lot.

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Combining the car-like ride and handling from the Sentra upon which it was based, the previous Rogue was popular with people who wanted an SUV without graduating to the size of the Pathfinder or the off-road capabilities of the X-Terra.

Let’s see whether Nissan has stayed true to this formula for the latest generation of their small SUV.

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Taking things upscale

This time around Nissan has taken the Rogue upscale. It has been to finishing school and therefore is a lot nicer both inside and out.

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Soft touch materials are everywhere and nicely grained and matching plastics adorn the interior. The panel gaps are tight as a drum and there is an overall feeling of quality here.

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Outside, the newly available LED daytime running lights and LED headlamps bring an upscale edge to the vehicle and the Rogue’s overall premium new look shares some similar lines to its Murano and Pathfinder siblings.

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There is even an available extended length panoramic moonroof and a power tailgate now available.

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Rear visibility has been improved dramatically, and there is a standard rearview camera. Nissan’s excellent surround-view camera is also available, a pleasant surprise at this price point, as are the available blindspot warning and lane-departure warning systems.

While the cameras and screen resolutions aren’t as high as a similar system from BMW, Nissan’s All Around View Monitor is also significantly less expensive. A welcome addition on the active safety front.

In addition to the virtual 360 degree view of objects around the vehicle, the system also includes Moving Object Detection and selectable split-screen close-ups of front, rear and curb views. Needless to say, parking maneuvers were a breeze.

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Supersize me…kinda

Wearing Nissan’s corporate nose, the exterior dimensions have grown. In fact the new Rogue is as large as the mid-sized Nissan Pathfinder and Grand Cherokee were 10 years ago.

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Thankfully, Nissan has managed to keep the weight down using things such as an aluminium hood and plastic hatch. There is only a modest weight gain of 160 lbs over the first generation Rogue despite the larger dimensions.

The actual gains are actually quite modest. This is still a very easy vehicle to pilot around on a day-to-day basis. A 0.6” longer wheelbase, 1.5” extra width, and 1.2” extra height are the critical dimensions to take note of. But the good news is that this translates into a whopping 2.6 inches increase in rear legroom and almost as much rear shoulder room.

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The spacious front and generous second row accommodations will make it easy for everyone to be comfortable whether it’s just a short trip to the grocery store, or a longer haul road trip.

The cargo area is now 10 percent larger at 32 cu-ft, allowing Nissan to squeeze in an optional kid-only third row of seats. In fact, the Rogue is pretty much the only small SUV to offer a 3rd row seating option. Although my test vehicle wasn’t equipped with this feature, it does give parents the ability to haul the little munchins and more of their friends to a school field trip.

The second-row seats slide forwards and back at up to 9” in order to add more legroom for third row passengers. When they’re up, the second-row seatbacks can also be reclined for extra comfort, perfect for longer trips.

When the rear seats are folded down, the flat floor converts into 70 cu-ft of highly usable space. As part of Nissan’s EZ Flex seating system, every seat except the driver’s easily folds down. The front passenger seat even folds rearwards, making it possible to accommodate things such as an 8-foot ladder with the tailgate closed.

Another clever interior feature is Nissan’s innovative Divide-N-Hide two tiered cargo system that can be adjusted into 18 different configurations. The split two piece removable floor can act as a hard shelf, just be stowed as normal, or can be adjusted to create more out-of-sight storage or a lower deck to house taller items.

Ride and Drive

There is only one powertrain configuration available. Nissan’s 2.5L 4-cylinder making 170hp and 175 ft-lbs of torque. It’s mated with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission. While I’m still not a huge fan of CVTs, Nissan’s supplier, JATCO, has implemented pretty major refinements over the outgoing Rogue’s CVT.

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These CVT improvements include a major 40% reduction in friction and hydraulic loses, helping to improve fuel economy by 18 percent. Fuel consumption is now rated at 6.2L/100 kms on the highway, and 8.2L/100 kms in the city for all Rogue AWD models.

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A 10% reduction in drag coefficient, down to 0.33 now, also contributes to those ratings despite the significantly larger frontal area versus the previous generation Rogue. I averaged 8.9L/100 kms in mostly city driving.

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The standard equipment “Sport” button seems to liven up engine and transmission responsiveness a bit and for the most part the acceleration is adequate with decent passing power. It won’t, however, blow your socks off especially with a full load of passengers. It isn’t the smoothest or the quietest 4-cylinder out there either, but it’s mostly unobtrusive enough in normal driving.

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While the Rogue’s acceleration numbers are more than adequate but nothing to boast about, what IS something to boast about is the vehicle’s ride quality and handling.

With standard 4-wheel independent suspension and a whole host of Nissan’s dynamic drive technologies, this small SUV rides and handles very nicely. Once again the word “refined” comes to mind.

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While non-luxury small SUVs as a group have pretty noisy interiors, the Rogue impressed with its quiet demeanour. Wind and road noise were quieter than average for the class and once again I can’t help but compare it to its larger Pathfinder sibling (in a good way).

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New for 2015

My Rogue SL AWD tester was a 2014 model. For 2015, Nissan has added a few new features.

Enhancements for 2015 include:

  • Eco mode added to powertrain package
  • Forward Collision Warning added to SL Premium Package
  • Auto on/off headlights added to SV and SL
  • Addition of one new exterior colour: Artic Blue Metallic (Graphite Blue no longer available)
  • Offered in three well-equipped models: S, SV and SL (S, SV models available in AWD and FWD)
  • Available in September 2014

Final thoughts

Nissan has really brought their A-game here. This Rogue is undeniably more upscale than its predecessor and certainly feels the part when compared to others in it class.

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I’ve driven a number of the latest small SUVs on the market including the Hyundai Tuscon, the Mazda CX-5, and now the Nissan Rogue. Out of all of those vehicles, the CX-5 feels the most sporty but the Rogue feels the most refined out of the crop.

It has notably less wind and road noise than the CX-5, the control weights feel more substantial, and the ride and driving characteristics are more dampened.

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If you’re looking for a sporty and fun to drive small SUV, the Mazda CX-5 still trumps the Rogue with its sprightly handling, eager engine, and proper non-CVT 6 speed automatic transmission.

However if you’re looking for a midsized SUV’s refinement with a compact SUV’s price tag, size and increased fuel economy, be sure to put the Nissan Rogue at the top of your test drive list.

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2014 Nissan Rogue SL window sticker

Andrew Ling
Andrew is a proud car and tech geek who has worked in Surrey for over the last 10 years. He comes from a communications/marketing background and has worked for automotive-related companies such as Edmunds.com, BenzWorld.org since 1999. From track driving, to rally driving to autocross, he has done it all! When he’s not reading about the latest automotive news, he can be found outdoors snapping pictures at various events around town.
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