Affordable, stylish, and comfortable. What’s not to like?
In the cluttered compact SUV segment, the Nissan Rogue is often overlooked despite its pleasing ride quality, long list of standard features, and crisp, comfortable interior. What it lacks is the pretense of being sporty or the facade of being some sort of off-roader, which many rivals offer. This “what you see is what you get” attitude may not be ideal for the Rogue’s sales brochure, but it is for the vast majority of people buying compact crossovers.
Nissan’s focus on down-to-earth motoring saw the replacement of the original 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine a couple of years ago with a more fuel-efficient and slightly more powerful turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine. Many considered this to be a gamble since the concept of less is more is often frowned upon in the US. And with a refreshed version of the crossover looming for the new model year, is the 2023 Rogue still worth a look?
We’ve always appreciated the Rogue for being a package aimed at its customers’ needs and not putting on airs and graces, and while we’re sure the update will only add value, the current model still has a lot going for it.
Exterior: Bold And Assured
It’s a fact of life that car design is, more often than not, about being up-to-date and attention-grabbing for a first impression. Unfortunately, that means a lot of car designs we’re seeing in 2023 won’t age well. The Rogue likely won’t buck that trend, but it does catch your eye, and there’s a congruency to the design that’s often lacking in new car designs. This means that if you look at a lot of mass-market cars, you’ll start noticing many look like they were put together by three separate design teams – one for the front, one for the side, and one for the rear. The Rogue doesn’t fall into that category. Here, the crisp lines and gentle slopes work together and reward colors outside the all-black, white, or silver paint people typically choose.
In this case, our Platinum trim tester arrived with two-tone Champagne Silver and Black paint and with 19-inch alloy wheels. Wheel size depends on the trim level, starting with 17-inch units and then 18-inch before reaching the biggest 19s. LED headlights and rear privacy glass are standard, and the grille is active, meaning it opens and closes to control airflow into the engine compartment. A new aerodynamic efficiency feature is the ‘3D’ tire deflectors added to the air curtain system. 2024 models look a little different, but the current range isn’t unattractive.
Interior: Going Upmarket
The Rogue’s interior is more restrained than a lot of competitors, and we do prefer it to the likes of the Honda CR-V. It has style and a plushness not usually associated with Nissan vehicles and looks suitably modern. It’s a pleasant, roomy cabin with solid build quality, logically laid out controls and functions, and a pleasing lack of Piano Black plastic that only gathers fingerprints like a CSI team on a mission.
There’s little to criticize inside the Rogue – until you try and fit a tall adult in the back. It’s clear that the Rogue wants to stay true to its compact segment DNA and is aimed at young professionals and new families. What’s lacking in rear passenger legroom is made up for by a generous cargo area, which is suitable for a week’s groceries for a young family or holding luggage for a long weekend getaway for two.
Infotainment: Ticking Most Of The Boxes
An eight-inch touchscreen is standard with NissanConnect, which is a smooth, unfussy, and intuitive system to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, but you can only get them wirelessly with the Platinum trim, which is not ideal. The same goes for Amazon Alexa built-in, which is a little odd, but it can be added to the SL via package upgrade. 2024 models have upgraded tech, so if that’s important to you, you may prefer the upcoming model.
Siri Eyes Free, voice recognition, and SiriusXM radio (subscription required) are standard, but the sound system is tiered. The S trim gets a four-speaker system, SV and SL get a six-speaker system, while Platinum has a 10-speaker Bose premium sound system.
Powertrain: Three Cylinders Are Enough
Nissan’s turbocharged three-cylinder engine makes 201 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque, which is a little more than the non-turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder unit from a few years ago. It gives the Rogue more than enough pep in the mid-range of the rev counter. That translates to an engine built for economy but never lacking in power when needed for overtaking slow traffic or getting up to speed. Saying that, the Rogue is still not particularly quick, needing around 7.8 seconds to get to 60 mph – that’s a hair quicker than the Toyota RAV4. We don’t mark it down for that overall, though it might be a consideration for some shopping in this segment.
Power from the engine is controlled by an Xtronic continuously variable transmission, which goes about its job with little fuss while keeping the powertrain responsive. Paddle shifters are included, but a CVT doesn’t use gears, so the steps are programmed in and, frankly, feels like a bit of a waste of engineering.
On The Road: Easy Riding
As an everyday driver covering everything from a work commute to grocery-getting and road trips, it’s hard to find fault with the Rogue. The ride is accomplished and smooth, the steering is as light and direct as it should be, and the engine never has to be pushed hard to get up a hill or onto a freeway. It’s a genuine pleasure to cruise around in, highlighted by Nissan’s brilliantly comfortable Zero Gravity seats and the attention given by Nissan to keep the cabin quiet.
There is a Sport mode, but owners will likely try it once and then forget it exists. You also get an off-road mode on all-wheel-drive models for visiting the occasional muddy track, but it’s certainly not for harsh adventures. What’s likely to get the most use by all-wheel-drive buyers is Snow mode.
In Conclusion: The Crossover People Actually Need
The Rogue isn’t aptly named, in our opinion, as it is an honest, well-principled car that’s easy to recommend with a few caveats. It’s a solid, affordable, and stylish car at any trim level other than the top-end Platinum. In the Platinum trim, the affordability trails off, and running costs are increased as tires are wear-and-tear items, and tires to fit 19-inch wheels are significantly more expensive compared to 17- and 18-inch equivalents. The Platinum’s premium Bose system isn’t really premium, which makes it even harder to justify.
There’s also no need to skip the 2023 model in favor of the refreshed model coming next year unless you’re dependent on the latest infotainment tech – mechanically, the Rogue will stay the same. Our recommendation is to go with the highest trim buyers can comfortably afford from 2023 and enjoy the easy, comfortable, and well-featured ride for what it is.