Three rows and the truth: 2014 Toyota Highlander vs. 2014 Nissan Rogue vs. 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe.
This week: 2014 Nissan Rogue SV AWD.
Price: $29,285 as tested (including $1,420 for the SV premium package and $940 for the SV Family package). The base for this trim level is $25,840, and the Rogue starts at $22,790.
Marketer’s pitch: “There’s Rogue, and then there’s the rest.”
Conventional wisdom: Edmunds.com liked the “upscale look and feel; great fuel economy; optional third-row seating; advanced safety options; versatile interior storage” but not the “uninspired handling; no optional engine upgrade.”
Reality: A bargain compared to the Highlander, but worth the savings?
Family units? Everyone, it seems, hates the hapless minivan, so automakers have devised countless ways to move people in ostensibly cooler ways than the practical boxes with sliding doors. Last week, I wrote about the new Toyota Highlander; this week comes the revamped Nissan Rogue. It gets a new look for 2014, but also an optional third row. People who liked the old, smaller Rogue can still opt for the Rogue Select.
Hilarity enSues: A Sturgis Family reunion of sorts around Memorial Day gave me the perfect excuse to put the Rogue through its paces. As we moved from restaurant to Grandma’s house to an outing for ice cream, family members switched in an out of their respective riding positions more than once.
The onus of the third row fell upon Sturgis Kid 3.0 and the Sturgis Kids’ Aunt Sue 1.0, the shortest members of the clan. Climbing in and out of the vehicle took quite a while, which gave me time to stop laughing and compose myself for the trip. This is definitely not a replacement for the Highlander.
Rough rider: This Nissan goes a little Rogue over bumpy roads. In fact, some rough roads (which we also call “Pennsylvania”) that normally have no harmful effects in the cars I drive set my CDs skipping in the Rogue.
Up to speed: The acceleration from the 2.5-liter is only OK. A mere 170 horsepower is pretty low for a vehicle in this class and the CVT doesn’t help much. I never got the feel of what I should be doing with the gas pedal as I do in a normal automatic.
Play some tunes: The stereo sports actual buttons outside the touch screen, always a plus. However, the buttons in the Rogue are much too small. Not only did I have to steady my hand against something to hit the map button directly, in AM radio mode I managed to hit one of the preset buttons on the touch screen by accident. These preset buttons only appear on that particular screen, so I spent a few moments puzzled over what I just did and trying to get back to where I was. It’s not good to confuse drivers.
Driver’s Seat: The driving position is nice. Seats are comfortable — Nissan leans to the softer side, which is fine if you like that.
Luxury feel: The steering wheel buttons and other touches are nice, as is typical for Nissan, although the door handles and locks are not up to their usual standard.
Friends and stuff: Like the Highlander and Santa Fe, the Rogue offers three rows of seats. The third row is a tough place to be. It’s further hampered by the middle row appearing to only have two settings — all the way back or all the way forward. Either way, someone loses. It would be so much nicer if there were a middle setting for it.
The seats fold down to make a nice flat floor for loading, say, bikes.
Backing up: The Rogue has the typical Nissan AroundView monitor, which shows the vehicle backing up but also all directions from above. That’s very cool — and very useful.
Fuel economy: About 23 mpg, excellent for four-wheel drive and three rows. This is where the low horsepower and CVT pay off.
Where it’s built: Smyrna, Tenn.
How it’s built: Previous incarnations of the Rogue have rated above average reliability from Consumer Reports.
Next week: Hyundai Santa Fe.
Scott Sturgis, a freelance auto writer, can be reached at email@example.com.