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Nissan Rogue: What’s the secret sauce driving Rogue sales?

By any measure, the Rogue is a conventional five-passenger crossover. So what accounts for its boffo box-office success? (Nissan)
By any measure, the Rogue is a conventional five-passenger crossover. So what accounts for its boffo box-office success? (Nissan)

Nissan’s Rogue was one of two compact crossovers to crash the 400,000-unit sales mark last year.

In the process, it and Toyota’s RAV4 became the first CUVs to displace sedans as the country’s  best-selling non-trucks. (Pickups remain the country’s best selling vehicles.)

Rogue’s sales momentum continues into 2018. Its first-quarter sales were up nearly 15 percent over last year’s first-quarter results.

A well equipped small crossover 

By any measure, the Rogue is a conventional five-passenger crossover (an optional third row is deleted this year). So what accounts for this crazy success? Is there a secret cause powering sales? We hoped a test week would clue us in.

You’ll look hard to find a better-equipped small crossover. Rogue’s $24,800 base price fetches keyless entry and ignition, remote start, a 7-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera and a four-speaker CD player with satellite radio.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join the standard-features this year and the addition of a second USB port promises to promote domestic harmony.

Introducing ProPilot Assist

Rogue also debuts Nissan’s new ProPilot Assist driver-assist suite, which it promotes as the first step toward autonomous driving. It includes an adaptive cruise control system that can bring the Pilot to a complete stop and automatically restore speed as traffic allows.

The lane-keeping system does a good job centering the Rogue between the lane markers. Like similar systems, it requires that the driver’s hands remain lightly on the wheel.

Neither function is unique to the segment. But Nissan plans to add an automatic lane-change function before long and that would be a game-changer. 

ProPilot Assist is available only on the top-level SL trim ($32,500) and requires the purchase of the Premium ($1,820) and Platinum ($790) options packages. 

Sans ProPilot, the SL gets standard adaptive cruise control (without the stop-and-go function), lane-departure warning and assist, intelligent lane intervention and automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

Running on the slow side

The base S trim includes automated emergency braking; the midlevel SV ($26,020) adds blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

All Rogues are powered by a 170-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Front-wheel-drive is standard, AWD optional.

The Rogue isn’t quick, needing a full 9.3 seconds for the 0-60 sprint. When acceleration counts, the CVT doesn’t help; flooring the throttle sends the gearbox whirring and the engine racing to catch up. 

Properly prepared, Rogue can tow up to 1000 pounds.

All-wheel-drive models are equipped with a locking center differential, hill descent control and front and rear brake-lock differentials.

Good ride, quiet cabin

Ride comfort is generally quite good, though Rogue’s relatively soft suspension settings allow a  good deal of body lean in corners. Steering feel is nicely weighted but the system offers little road-surface feedback.

Despite being a bit larger than its prime competitors and having a longer wheelbase, Rogue feels less settled at speed than it might.

Its cabin is well insulated from wind and road noise and Nissan’s “zero-gravity” front seats are terrifically supportive. The driver’s seat includes a power lumbar adjustment but in no trim is the passenger seat powered.

A pair of rear-seat adults ride in reasonable comfort, though legroom trails the class leaders.

Iffy infotainment

Cargo-area volume is competitive, though it’s bested by the Honda CR-V’s best-in-class capacity. The front passenger seat folds flat, making room for narrow, 8-foot items.

Rogue’s infotainment system relies on a combination of touchscreen and knob-based inputs. Its menu structure is clumsy but functional, the touchscreen is small and its graphics of the low-resolution variety. 

Problems with our car’s Infotainment system delayed our test week, which is worth mentioning only because other writers have also experienced reliability issues.

And that secret sauce? Clearly, Rogue benefited profile-boosting tie-ins with the 2016 film <em>Star Wars Rogue One</em>. There’s also that appealing base price and healthy standard-features list, which Nissan supports with attractive financing options.

And besides, in a category populated by such earthbound names as RAV, CR-V and CX-5, who wouldn’t want to carve out room in the garage for rig named Rogue?

Contact Don at

2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
Vehicle base price: $24,800
Trim level base price: $32,410
As tested: $36,520 (includes destination and handling)
Options included power panoramic moonroof; LED headlights; 19-inch alloy wheels; electronic parking brake; ProPilot Assist; tan leather-appointed seats with quilted leather inserts; floor mats; cargo area protector; first aid kit.
Tow rating: 1000 pounds
EPA ratings: 27 combined/25 city/32 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified

Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.