What's New for 2009
The 2009 Nissan Rogue is largely unchanged from last year.
Inevitably, the march of technology and necessity shrinks the size of everything. Imagine trying to carry around seven days' worth of music before the iPod. In keeping with this theme comes the 2009 Nissan Rogue -- a kind of mini Murano. Though based on the economy-minded Sentra, the Rogue manages to better its parent in terms of drivability, appearance and practicality.
Compared to other compact crossovers, the Rogue stands out thanks to its carlike manners and well-crafted interior. The competent four-cylinder engine produces enough oomph to keep up with the pack, but unfortunately, power is run through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has utilized a CVT with great success in the V6-powered Altima and Maxima, and presumably the thinking here must have been to smooth out an already decent ride with a gearbox that eliminates shifting. The end result, however, is an odd elastic feeling in the driveline. Even stranger, transitioning to and from the gas pedal while on the highway creates a seesaw effect, with rising and falling engine revs.
Even with the transmission annoyances and limited rearward visibility, the 2009 Nissan Rogue is still a stylish, viable alternative to the top small crossovers. While the family-friendly Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have more cargo room and creature comforts, the Rogue is a good choice for those who need less utility and are more prone to city commuting. Taking this into account, the Rogue is more in direct competition with the Ford Escape, Mazda CX-7, Saturn Vue and Volkswagen Tiguan. We suggest comparing all of these models to the Rogue before deciding.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Nissan Rogue is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV available in two trim levels, both available with either front- or all-wheel drive. The S trim level is the base model, and it comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, cruise control, a tilting steering wheel, air-conditioning, full power accessories, keyless entry and a four-speaker audio system with a CD player and an auxiliary jack. No options are available for the S trim level.
The more luxuriously appointed SL trim level includes everything from the S model and gains a few more options and conveniences, including 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, tinted windows, a fold-down front passenger seat, a dual-level tray for the center console and a trip computer.
Options for the SL trim level are consolidated into larger bundles. The Premium Package includes foglights, a foldable cargo organizer, a cargo cover, keyless ignition/entry, Bluetooth and a seven-speaker Bose audio system with a six-CD/MP3 changer, satellite radio and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. All-wheel-drive SL models equipped with this package also receive xenon headlights and manual shift control for the transmission. The SL's Leather Package, as you'd expect, includes leather upholstery plus heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated side mirrors, a six-way power driver seat, a one-touch up/down driver window and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A sunroof is available as a stand-alone option.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2009 Nissan Rogues are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission is a CVT that, depending on the model, drives either all four wheels or just the fronts. In our testing, the AWD Rogue SL took 9.2 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is comparable to other four-cylinder compact crossovers.
Likewise, fuel economy is similar to that of the competition. The front-wheel-drive Rogue has an EPA estimate of 22 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 24 mpg in combined driving. The AWD variant drops slightly to 21/26/23 mpg.
For the entire Rogue lineup, standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. All of this protection earned the Rogue an almost perfect crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In front-impact tests, protection for the driver earned a top five-star rating and front passenger protection earned four stars. Front and rear side-impact tests resulted in a five-star rating. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Rogue received a "Good" rating (the best rating possible) in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the Nissan Rogue is comfortable, intuitive and well-built with top-notch materials. The cabin is thoughtfully laid out with controls that are properly placed and effortlessly operated. Though lacking numerous storage compartments, the Rogue makes up for it with a substantial center console bin, a massive glovebox and a clever under-floor organizer.
Seating comfort, both front and rear, is as good as it gets -- even when stacked up against the venerable Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. But unlike those of competing crossovers, the Rogue's rear seats don't recline or slide forward or backward. There is also no center armrest. However, they do fold flat when more cargo space is needed. With the rear seats upright, storage is limited to 28.9 cubic feet. With the seats stowed, the space jumps to 57.9 cubes, but is still significantly smaller than the competition.
Much of the appeal of small crossovers stems from their carlike driving manners, and the 2009 Nissan Rogue delivers. Road bumps and imperfections are gobbled up with ease thanks to the suspension's long travel. The Rogue is stable at highway speeds, and short stopping distances add to the confidence one feels when driving. Steering is likewise direct and well-tuned, despite being slightly vague in terms of feedback to the driver.
The main detraction from an otherwise successful execution is the aforementioned CVT. The consequent lazy throttle response, yo-yo-like engine revving and moaning engine note gives drivers the impression that they're in a much slower vehicle. The SL trim's manual shift mode with paddle shifters rectifies this situation somewhat by allowing the driver to select among six simulated "gear" ratios.