Going Rogue: Nissan’s compact crossover

It’s one thing to drive in an unfamiliar area; it’s another to do it in rush hour when other drivers are making unexpected turns and stops up ahead and out of your line of sight.

That’s what happened when I was driving my daughter to work.A car up ahead stopped to make a left turn on a two-lane road. Because there was a solid line of traffic coming in the other direction everything going our way had to stop. If you were behind a truck or SUV, traffic seemed to be stopping for no reason.

Fortunately, I’m not a tailgater and was able to make a hard stop, just short of the“screeching tire”variety.

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“Gee, that was kind of a nice car in front of us that you didn’t hit,” said Daughter G to break the tension.

“Sure is,” I replied, looking more closely. “Actually, it’s a twin of the car we’re driving.”As we resumed the commute, my common-sense self was heaving a huge sigh of relief. However, my storytelling side was saying, “Now THAT would have been quite a tale about the day I literally ran into the twin of the car I was driving. I don’t think it would have gone over very well with the good folks at Nissan, though.

The cars were both 2012 Nissan Rogues, a vehicle that several years ago would have been called a compact SUV but now is a compact crossover SUV.

The Rogue is available as either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive and in two trim levels, the base S and SV. The S level, in FWD, starts at $22,665, which includes the $825 destination charge.

Our test car, however, was the decidedly upscale AWD SV with an SL package and several dealer-added items such as carpeted mats ($190) and splash guards ($135) and a final price of $30,580.

The SL trim adds leather heated seats (heated in front), leatherwrapped steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels, Nissan’s user-friendly navigation system (albeit with a smallish 5.0-inch screen), Xenon lights, moon roof, automatic climate control, and fog lights.

This was a nicely equipped vehicle.

Mrs. G felt that way. “Comfortable seats, nice looking car, good ride.”

Daughter G felt the interior was a bit pedestrian, but then her personal ride is an even more upscale Acura MDX. She did praise the adjustments on the air conditioning system on a day when she otherwise was feeling positively miserable with muscle spasms in her shoulder and neck.

All Rogues are powered by a lively 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, one that seems ideally suited to this vehicle, and Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). Power was more than adequate but fortunately (on this day for Daughter G) not in the neck-snapping class. We averaged 23.5 miles per gallon in 500 miles of hot-weather driving in a vehicle rated at 22 mpg in city driving and 26 on the highway.

The CVT is set up to give the Rogue good acceleration off the line and also to perform well as a highway cruiser. Our only complaint was that the powertrain combination tended to be “buzzy” in a vehicle that otherwise was relatively quiet. A Sport Mode switch adds a bit performance- wise; however, it’s nowhere near as noticeable a difference as the one between the Eco and Sport settings in a hybrid.

Style-wise, this vehicle bears a distinct family resemblance to the roguish-looking and larger Nissan Murano. However, the Rogue isn’t all that much smaller than the Murano, being one of the larger entries in the compact segment.

A variety of family members were the Rogue’s back-seat passengers (we resisted the urge to term them back-seat drivers) and were impressed with the seats’ comfort and legroom, though they didn’t have reclining or other adjustments.

An emergency grandson pickup at daycare on “Bike Day” wasn’t a problem. The 60/40 split seat allowed for his not-so-small bicycle to fit several ways.

One of the seeming drawbacks of both the Murano and Rogue is the sloping roofline; however, both the RearViewMonitor on our SV and the new optional AroundView feature make maneuvering in tight spots less stressful. The AroundView system uses four small super wide-angle cameras mounted on the front, rear, and sides of the Rogue. It shares the navigation screen with the Rear- View camera and provides a virtual bird’seye view of the vehicle.

In the “old days”—that is, only several years ago—you’d never expect a feature of this type on a mid-priced vehicle. But the times are a-changing. “It’s another example of our philosophy of ‘Innovation for All,’ ” says Nissan vice president Al Castignetti.

On the road, the Rogue’s handling is stable and car-like, thanks to four-wheel independent suspension, another characteristic that makes this a fine multipurpose vehicle. The flexible cargo area adds to that versatility, providing you don’t have to transport more than five people.

To bring this tale to a sudden finish, the four-wheel ventilated disc brakes stop smoothly and true. If they hadn’t, this story might have had a different ending.