Completely redesigned for 2014 and now in its second generation, the Nissan Rogue is the company's compact SUV offering. Positioned below the Murano, the Rogue is designed to combine a spacious and useful interior with soft-touch materials and an affordable starting price that is meant to let it take on longer-serving offerings from other automakers in this segment.

Power in the Rogue comes courtesy of a 2.5-liter inline-four connected to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission sending power to the front or to all four wheels. This engine produces 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque -- a carryover from the outgoing model -- with the latest version of the CVT achieving a 40 percent reduction in friction loss, as well as gaining a wider gear ratio and greater efficiency compared to earlier units. In front wheel drive form, the Rogue returns fuel economy of 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 28 mpg. In all-wheel drive form, the small SUV is rated at 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, for an identical combined rating of 28 mpg.

Model year 2014 also saw a complete exterior redesign that turned the dial to a more adventurous spectrum, with the SUV receiving the new corporate grille and a much more dramatic front fascia. The Rogue also gained more aggressive wheelarches, in addition to plenty of character lines along the sides, with Nissan also trying to make the rear fascia a little more interesting. The company has also reworked the aerodynamics of the SUV, redesigning the A-pillar section to reduce the coefficient of drag by about 10 percent, with redesigned mirrors helping the Rogue become a little sleeker. The rear spoiler has also been redesigned to reduce turbulence behind the body of the SUV. The wheelbase has grown by 0.6 inch, while the front overhang was actually reduced by 1.5 inches, with the SUV also gaining 1.2 inches in height. Overall, Nissan hasn't radically altered the formula when it comes to packaging.

The Rogue is offered in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive form.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY

The redesigned Rogue also received Nissan's latest safety systems including Around View Monitor (AVM), which provides a virtual 360-degree view around the SUV's surroundings, along with Moving Object Detection (MOD). The latter system gives the driver visual and audible warnings if the system detects moving objects when pulling out of parking spaces. In addition, the Rogue offers a forward collision warning system, a lane departure warning system, and a blind spot detection system. Staying with safety features, the 2015 model also offers Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with with dual-stage supplemental air bags for the front seat passengers, side impact supplemental air bags integrated into the front seats, as well as side-curtain air bags that feature a rollover sensor.

As with many other Nissan models, the Rogue is offered in three trim levels: S, SV, and SL for the range-topping version. Each of the three is offered with a choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.  The Rogue starts off with 17-inch wheels on the base S trim level, with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels offered as standard equipment on the SV trim level. The SV trim level also offers a six-way power driver's seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, privacy glass, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, two additional audio speakers, roof rails, push-button ignition, and the NissanConnectTM infotainent system with apps. The range-topping SL model, meanwhile, features leather seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, NissanConnectTM with Navigation, a 7-inch color touchscreen for the infotainment system, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, heated front seats and outside mirrors, and a Bose nine-speaker audio system.

Our example, in SV trim with all-wheel drive, started at $26,780 and was optioned to $28,290.

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The Rogue received a complete redesign last year.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY

What's it like to drive?

We see spy photos of various European cars testing in northern Sweden, near the Arctic Circle, on a pretty regular basis. But every once in a while the Arctic comes to us, and our week with the Rogue SV in AWD form coincided with the ice and hashtag-spewing phenomenon known as the snowpocalypse. Instead of hiding from it, we took it head on, with all-season tires and a pathetically small snow brush with as much effectiveness as a Victorian duster. So we were about as prepared as the average commuter who has seen snow tires advertised in magazines while sitting in a dentist's office on a couple of occasions, and bent a credit card or two, one of the infrequently used ones (is Diner's Club even around anymore?) scraping ice off the windshield while remembering swear words not used since college.

The absence of snow tires did not affect the responsiveness and control of the Rogue at safe city speeds, with the small SUV impressing us with its road manners and ability to brush off potholes. The Rogue's steering system is one of the more forgiving ones we've encountered in this segment, and while it still has a dash of weight dialed in, it is by no means as wooden as some others we've tried. The steering is communicative enough not to feel dull or aloof as in the Lexus RX -- a size and a couple of price categories above of the Rogue -- but not direct to the point of informing you of every little crack in the asphalt.

The Rogue is now one of a handful of small SUVs and crossovers using continuously variable transmissions, and this is one of the better systems. The Xtronic CVT is definitely quieter than some other units in this segment, and more responsive across greater range of speeds. At highway speeds the CVT doesn't emit a drone or whine, and is ultimately quicker in providing power than the CVT in the Honda CR-V, one of its rivals. That means getting from 55 mph to... speeds greater than that does not require waiting several seconds as the CVT collects itself, counts the change in its pocket, and gives you just a tiny bit more power. The CVT in the Rogue does its job without much drama, which is ultimately one of the reasons these things were adopted. There is some floating at high speed, but at the same time the SUV does not feel as top-heavy as the Honda CR-V.

Each of the three trim levels can be had with all-wheel drivePHOTO BY JAY RAMEY

Nissan has spent some time making the Rogue quieter overall, as several cars in the range have come under criticism in recent years for skimping on sound insulation and excessive powertrain noise. Time spent dealing with this issue is evident in the Rogue: It stays relatively quiet at high speeds, with not much tire, road, or wind noise intruding into the cabin.

The Rogue's performance when thrown into the midst of the latest snowpocalypse was surprisingly good. The all-wheel drive system kept everything in check when plowing through nearly a foot of fresh powder, and the CVT and the powertrain weren't flustered by the lack of traction when starting in several inches of very dry snow from a standstill. A number of older competitors have had a tendency to overreact to snow with their traction control systems, lighting up every exclamation point available on the instrument cluster and beeping frantically as if you were taking fire from an enemy ship in a space battle, but fortunately this is not the case with the Rogue.

The ABS brakes were equally drama-free, and about the only miscue in emergency-grade blizzard conditions we noted was the traction control's tendency to cut power for a couple of seconds after a slide, preventing us from staying on the gas through a slide in order to apply countersteer. This is the traction control giving the SUV a time out, and this is indeed how vehicles with traction control enabled are supposed to react.

The attention to interior materials has stayed about the same as in the outgoing model, though it should be noted that in SV trim, the feel of the materials is actually very good. There are still a few miscues like hollow-sounding plastics in the dash and at the center of the steering wheel, but when it comes to the seats and other surfaces you'll come into contact with on a daily basis, this SUV hits the right notes for the price.

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Soft plastics have been used heavily on the inside.PHOTO BY JAY RAMEY

Do I want it?

The Rogue is now in a standing-room-only segment, one that's still seeing newcomers as premium brands try to go downmarket with offerings meant to lure newcomers to their brands. This has forced automakers who have traditionally not positioned their vehicles as premium to raise their game and offer better and better interiors while still stuffing their vehicles with as many features as possible to win the comparison game. The Rogue plays this game for a small SUV, and it does so with a powertrain that is just right -- a little less performance or a less well-sorted CVT would have been very noticeable.

The interior also earns good marks -- a little less in the way of soft plastics or less ergonomic seats would have made it a bit of a chore to drive for long periods of time. The Rogue comes with the optional third-row seats -- a requirement to win in side-by-side comparisons now -- but they still remain less accessible than we would have liked, as with other entries in this segment. If we had to carry a group of passengers who would use those back seats on a regular basis, we'd probably go for something else because is not a large vehicle. So it would not be ideal as a daily shuttle for half of a soccer team.

In all-wheel drive form, the Rogue manages to stay out of trouble when the white stuff starts blowing sideways at double-digit speeds, though for more prolonged glaciation periods we would have fitted it with snow tires.

Overall, the Rogue is a strong player in this field now, certainly better than the model it replaced in 2014

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