The Nissan Rogue appears to be aimed squarely at the Honda CR-V. The styling is swoopy, with rounded lines and a wedge shape from front to rear. Flared rear shoulders and an upswept window line give the Rogue a sporty feel.
Ornamentation is minimal. A black and chrome Nissan badge up front is flanked by a body-color grille. Only that badge and the headlights lend any contrast to the front end. There is even less character to the sides, even with the chrome door handles which have been added for 2010. Side mirrors are black on the Rogue S and body color on the Rogue SL; and the standard wheels on the S are stamped steel with plastic covers (which look like five-spoke alloys, from a distance).The 17-inch aluminum wheels that come with the SL add a touch of drama, with five bifurcated spokes that seem to actively cling to the rim. In contrast, the 16-inch units that dress up S models with the 360 Degree package are a more restrained and traditional five-spoke design. We're ambivalent about the chrome grille that comes with the package, which brightens the front end but fails to enhance its character.
We think the Rogue looks best from the rear, where the dark rear glass, eye-shaped taillights, rounded panels and license plate recess give it some definition. Unfortunately, the rear liftgate lacks a separate opening glass.
Among compact SUVs, the Rogue has a sleeker, car-based crossover look, like the CR-V, as opposed to the upright mini-SUVs like the Ford Escape or Jeep Liberty.
The Rogue is the longest vehicle in the class, though it doesn't look it. At 182.9 inches overall, it is even longer than the seven-passenger Toyota RAV4 and the seemingly large Jeep Liberty.
At first glance, the interior of the Nissan Rogue seems nice if somewhat plain. Closer inspection reveals quality materials impressive for the price. The dash, for instance, is molded in a soft-touch material that seems as if it might be right at home in an Infiniti. The door tops also have a nice soft-touch material. The remainder of the materials is price-appropriate plastic that fits together well.
The instrument panel features only two gauges, the tachometer and speedometer. There is also a round graphic readout that displays the fuel level and water temperature and, on Rogues so equipped, trip computer information.
The center stack features three easily used round climate-control knobs and Nissan's unique radio layout. It has substantially-sized buttons, but the presets are grouped in A, B and C folders, instead of AM and FM sets. It takes some getting used to but, with 18 total presets, most drivers will be able to program all of their favorite stations. An auxiliary input jack is provided for MP3 player connectivity.
Storage for small items up front is adequate. The center console has two integral cupholders and a small tray that will work for holding little odds and ends. If that's not enough, the console bin is very deep and is available with a removable tray to give it two levels of storage.
The driver's seat is comfortable and offers a good driving position, even though there aren't many seat adjustments. The tilt steering wheel helps, and there is enough head and leg room for all but the tallest drivers. There is good visibility to the front and the side mirrors are large, but over-the shoulder visibility is compromised by a smallish rear window and rear side windows that are pinched at the rear. The ride height makes getting into and out of the Rogue very easy.
The second row is usefully roomy, with head and leg room that can accommodate adults, even with the front seats moved far back. Three adults in the rear will be cramped, but they should be able to deal with short trips. Toe space under the front seats is plentiful.
Cargo space is good but not at the top of the class. The second-row seats are split 60/40, and they fold flat in an easy one-step motion to open up to the maximum 57.9 cubic feet of cargo space.
The SL model includes a folding front passenger seat, which folds almost flat to allow loading of longer items. The Premium Package offers a rear cargo organizer, with a recessed floor and removable nets to act as partitions, that helps prevent groceries from rolling around in the back.
While the low floor makes loading items easy, separate opening rear glass would make the cargo area even easier to access.