ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I was surprised with this 2014 Nissan Rogue SV. The previous generation model never did much for me since it had odd bubbly proportions and weird front end treatment. The interior looked rental-car grade and was never comfortable to me. Then there was the four-cylinder bolted to a continuously variable transmission that is probably the least favorite drivetrain combination in existence of the folks here in the Autoweek office. But after spending a night in the new Rogue, I can confidently say that Nissan has a very strong player in the small SUV/crossover market.
For starters, it looks good for a small ute, particularly from the front three-quarters view. It's simple with good proportions. The interior is another surprise with nice, soft-to-the-touch materials making up nearly every major surface. Sure, there are some hard plastics pieces here and there, but they are in areas where you normally don't notice, like the lower portion of the dash. It's a comfortable setting. Climate controls are intuitive with large buttons and knobs, while infotainment functions are handled by a combination of regular buttons and the touchscreen, which is also easy to work through. Nissan seats are getting nicer with foam that's cushy, yet still firm. I can imagine tackling a long road trip in those seats and being rather happy.
Our test car had the optional third-row, too, which I looked at. Kids will be fine back there, but it would be snug for adults. It's nice to have that option to carry an addition two bodies in a pinch, but if you often carry more than five people, then you probably want to be looking at the Pathfinder instead with its more spacious third-row accommodations.
Motivation comes from a 2.5-liter four-cylinder. Being a Nissan that means it's teamed with a continuously variable transmission which two years ago would have brought me to tears. However, things have certainly changed, and CVTs have become more tolerable with more powerful four-cylinders and V6 applications. The year we spent with our long-term 2013 Honda Accord EX-L and recent drives in a CVT-equipped Subaru WRX have helped sway emotions towards the acceptable end of the spectrum. They are still dreaded when they are connected to a low output engine, though. In the 2014 Rogue, it's alright, with steps programmed into the gearbox. Of course, when you plant the throttle pedal it's going to be a noisy affair, but for normal driving, CVTs behave so much better now. Power is serviceable, with enough grunt to safely merge onto expressways and get you off the line.
The chassis is tuned for a more comfortable ride, probably on par with the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape. If you want a tight handler in this segment, you'll have to look at the Mazda CX-5, but be willing to give up some in the comfortable-ride department. Steering is light in effort and on the slower side in response to inputs, ideally suiting the needs of the bulk of the car-buying public. Brakes confidently slow things with a firm pedal feel. On the expressway, the cabin is well isolated from road and wind noise.
Overall, this is a very strong redesign to Nissan's second-best-selling model in the United States. Nice looks, a good interior and respectable fuel economy from a drivetrain that you don't want to take a bat to. This has to be in my top three favorite vehicles in the class now.
The 2014 Nissan Rogue SV is equipped with a 2.5-liter I4.
2014 Nissan Rogue SV
ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I only drove this 2014 Rogue home and back to work, so I didn't get too much of a sense of how it drives. I will say that the new exterior is way better than the old one.
The old front, with the split six-hole grille, looked like it was trying to be futuristic but failed. The new fog lights are featured prominently, and the lower intake portion sports a black mesh, instead of a few horizontal bars. Way better.
This CVT isn't super annoying. It seems to provide power when needed. It also steps down like a regular automatic, which is a bit more settling than pinned-to-redline units of the past. Power was fine from the four-cylinder, I'm sure buyers will be happy with the upgrade in mileage.
The interior is fine, nothing special. There are some cheap-looking plastic bits, but at this price, I have no complaints. The seats seem comfortable for a long drive, even though I only took a short one.
The Rogue competes with the GMC Terrain and Ford Escape to name a couple. Personally, I like the Terrain's looks better, but the Rogue's mileage beats them both.
Base Price: $26,780
As-Tested Price: $29,485
Drivetrain: 2.5-liter I4; AWD, continuously variable transmission
Output: 170 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 175 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Curb Weight: 3,545 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 25/32/28 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 24.2 mpg
Options: SV premium package including NissanConnect Apps with navigation, seven-inch touch screen display, Nissan voice recognition for navigation and audio, Sirius XM NavTraffic, Sirius XM travel link, AroundView monitor, power liftgate, heated exterior mirrors, safety shield technologies, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, moving object detection ($1,420); SV family package including third row seating, run flat tires ($940); roof rail cross bars ($290); front and rear floor mats ($135)
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