By KBB.com Editors
With the wild roller coaster ride first of gas prices and then the economy, consumers find themselves looking towards more cost-effective transportation. It's no surprise, therefore, that so many automakers have joined the small-crossover party, offering SUV-like vehicles with much more agreeable fuel economy. Last year Nissan decided to throw its hat into the ring, introducing the aggressively-styled and nimble Rogue. The base model is comparatively bare, but the long list of available features, including Bluetooth and all-wheel drive, means that the Rogue can be customized to suit just about any lifestyle. The Rogue stands to compete in a rapidly growing segment, against the likes of the established and successful Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and the redesigned Saturn VUE. With competitors like these and a lack of available V6 or navigation, the Rogue's price and fuel economy may be its best selling points.You'll Like This Car If...
The 2009 Nissan Rogue starts around $21,000 – slightly less than the Honda CR-V but more expensive than the Hyundai Tucson. The Rogue's fuel economy, on the other hand, bests the category-leading CR-V and is neck-and-neck with the Toyota RAV4.You May Not Like This Car If...
If having a V6 powertrain or factory-installed navigation are at the top of your list, you will have to look elsewhere, as the Rogue does not offer either. The Ford Escape, Saturn VUE, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 may be better options.What's New for 2009
New for 2009 are auto speed-sensing locks, a fold-flat passenger seat, new center console tray and mood lighting on SL trims. A drive computer, outside temperature display and dual visor vanity mirror illumination is also added to SL trims.Driving It Driving Impressions
In the SL all-wheel-drive (AWD) version that we tested, acceleration with the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) was smooth and consistent. With this "gearless" transmission, the car maintained an even and very smooth pace down the road, although, during harder acceleration, such as in passing and through some hilly areas, the engine could easily be heard. Winding, curving back-country roads were easy to negotiate, thanks to the electric power-assisted steering, and the suspension kept body roll well under control. The "Intuitive" AWD (as Nissan calls it), distributes the driving torque between the front and rear wheels as needed, and would be particularly helpful in areas of bad weather and slippery conditions. Also beneficial in such conditions is the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with traction control, which helps keep the vehicle headed the direction the driver intends and thus reduces the chances of losing control on slick surfaces.Favorite Features
Sizeable Glove Box
The Rogue's glove compartment is generously sized and can fit up to 34 CDs, a nice feature for those who can't travel without large music collections. Additionally, a removable partition allows you to customize the space to fit a myriad of items.
Nissan's Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)
Nissan is one of the few automakers to still embrace and refine CVT technology, and this second-generation transmission is incredibly smooth and gives the Rogue decent performance as well as good fuel economy.
The interior is simple yet effective, with most of the necessary controls within easy reach of the driver. Cruise control buttons are placed on the steering wheel as an added convenience, although a few control functions are located somewhat awkwardly. Storage space is abundant, with perhaps the most useful interior feature being the oversized glove compartment that can swallow half a cubic foot of just about anything. Fitting into what Nissan calls "stealth ultra-functionality," a hidden cargo compartment in the rear, with plastic lining and mesh dividers, can store wet and dirty items out of sight, great for small things that might otherwise roll around loose.
Built on the same platform as the economical Sentra, the front of the 2009 Nissan Rogue S is graced by a body-colored bumper and grille flanked on either side by halogen headlights and topped with a low-swept hood and windshield. Looking lean and muscular, the sides extend over the wheel wells and the taillights wrap around to the rear liftgate. The overall effect gives the vehicle the look of Nissan's larger Murano SUV in miniature. Opting for the more upscale SL trim will add 17-inch alloy wheels (the base Rogue has 16-inch steel wheels), roof rails, body-colored outside mirrors, stainless steel exhaust and rear privacy glass.
The base 2009 Nissan Rogue S has numerous convenient standard features, including steering wheel-mounted buttons for cruise control, four-way manually-adjustable front seats, an auxiliary input jack and power windows, locks and mirrors. The SL trim adds rear air ducts, two 12-volt power outlets and a six-way manually-adjustable driver's seat. Storage space in both models is abundant, with a cavernous glove compartment and removable partition to help organize random stuff, and a large center console that could swallow a tissue box or small purse. For occupant protection, the Rogue has front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, along with a rollover sensor. Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and electronic traction control are also standard.
To keep the base Rogue around $21,000, many desirable features are sold as packaged options (and mostly on the SL trim), including a leather steering wheel, shift knob and seats, roof-rail crossbars, fog lights, an auto-dimming mirror, Bluetooth, xenon headlights and remote-sensing start and entry. A dealer-installed portable navigation unit is available on all trims. Options to upgrade the audio system include a Bose 7-speaker system and Nd Richbass subwoofer, six-disc CD/MP3 player, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and XM Satellite Radio. Only the SL trim level is available with the comprehensive Premium Package (which includes paddle shifters for the CVT) and the optional power glass moonroof. The all-wheel-drive system is available on both trim levels.Under the Hood
The 2009 Nissan Rogue is offered in S and SL trims and both are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine matched to an Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that is well-suited for everyday driving. A manual mode is offered on the SL trim, along with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. For those who need a vehicle that can tackle a variety of driving conditions and road surfaces, choosing all-wheel drive results in only minimal reductions in fuel economy. Due to more stringent emission rules, California models produce slightly less power, rated at 167 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque.
2.5-liter in-line 4
170 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
167 horsepower @6000 rpm (California)
175 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
170 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/27 (FWD), 21/26 (AWD)
A base two-wheel-drive Rogue S starts around $21,000, while an SL with all-wheel drive, leather, moonroof, premium sound and all the bells and whistles exceeds $30,000. That puts the top-of-the-line Rogue a little above a comparably-equipped Honda CR-V EX and nearly head-to-head against a similar Toyota RAV4 Limited or Ford Escape XLT. A four-cylinder Saturn VUE would cost less than the Rogue, but is not available with all-wheel drive. To get the best price on your Rogue, be sure to check its Fair Purchase Price before heading to the dealership. This will give you an idea of what consumers in your area are currently paying for the Rogue, and will be valuable to know when negotiating. Over time, the Rogue is expected to retain better resale values than the VUE and Escape, but to trail those of the CR-V and RAV4.