GREENSBORO, Georgia—What do you think is Nissan’s top-selling vehicle in Canada? If you guessed the cheap-‘n’-cheerful Versa or Micra, try again: its consistent best-seller is the Rogue compact SUV.
It’s getting a refresh for 2017, with styling updates, new convenience and electronic safety features, and revised option packages, and will go on sale in November.
Having a larger market in the U.S. allows the company to offer more versions there, including a new-for-2017 Rogue Hybrid, but Nissan Canada has no plans to sell that gas-electric version here, at least not in the foreseeable future. Our choices, all with conventional engines, are the S, SV, and SL Platinum trims.
The main idea of the refresh, Nissan says, is to move the Rogue up a bit to a more premium appearance. The company is also promising to reveal a new crossover next January, which has me wondering if pushing the Rogue up a notch gives Nissan the opportunity to slot a smaller, less-expensive model under it, to compete with the likes of Honda’s HR-V, Mazda’s CX-3, or Subaru’s Crosstrek. All speculation on my part, of course, but we’ll see how that goes.
The design tweaks are subtle but effective. The nose features Nissan’s “V-Motion” front end, with the lower grille now following the shape of the lights and swooping under the chrome accent for a sharper appearance. The new rectangular fog lamps look more integrated than the previous round ones, as does the new bumper.
The top-line SL Platinum now gets 19-inch wheels, up from the 18-inch rims it wears for 2016. At the rear, all trims get a new bumper and LED lamps featuring “boomerang” taillights.
The overall effect is a horizontal focus that makes the vehicle look wider and well-planted. The outgoing Rogue was a good-looking machine, but this really updates it nicely.
Also new for 2017 is a motion-activated power liftgate, optional on the SV trim and standard on the SL Platinum.
The top-line SL Platinum also gets a new-for-2017 motion-activated power liftgate. If the key is in your pocket, the gate will open or close automatically if you kick your foot under the bumper, a very handy feature when your hands are full.
Inside, the Rogue receives a flat-bottomed steering wheel, tweaks to the door and instrument cluster trim, and a leather boot on the shift lever. I find these boots look great when they’re new, but their folds inevitably turn into hard-to-clean dirt magnets.
All trim lines now include heated seats, whether they’re clad in cloth or leather, and a new heated steering wheel is optional on the SV and standard on the SL Platinum.
The SL Platinum comes with leather upholstery, but my tester had the optional Reserve Interior, with unique tan shade and stitching. It’s quite handsome and it should be interesting to see how much extra it adds to the price.
I spent some time in an SV model with cloth seats, which my co-driver and I actually found to be a little more comfortable than the leather chairs, which left us guessing that there must be a difference in the padding.
The rest of the Rogue’s interior remains the same, with straightforward controls and a relatively roomy cabin for the vehicle’s size, especially since the rear seats can be slid forward or back to prioritize legroom or cargo space.
The SV continues to offer an optional third row of seats, although I can’t imagine they’d be too comfortable for anyone whose age is in double digits. The package also deletes the spare tire, so a Rogue so equipped has its rims clad with run-flat tires.
The clever configurable cargo floor also returns, with its two panels that can be removed to accommodate taller items, placed in a lower position to create a hidden cubby, slipped into a top spot to make two tiers, or stood on end to keep items from sliding around.
More automakers should be paying attention to stuff like this, because these vehicles are all about practicality in one’s daily errands.
A remote engine starter is now included on the SV, while the SL Platinum receives the rest of the new-for-2017 tech items: intelligent cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward emergency braking that now recognizes pedestrians as well as vehicles. Blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and moving objection detection are carried over from last year’s model.
The intelligent cruise operates at speeds as low as 32 km/h (and as high as 144 km/h), and includes a stop-and-go function for use in traffic. It’ll come to a complete stop and then, if the car ahead moves within a few seconds, the Rogue will obediently start moving again to follow it. A button on the steering wheel lets you pick one of three pre-set distances from the vehicle in front.
None of the greasy bits change on the non-hybrid Rogue, which means you’re getting a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, mated exclusively to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). Nissan says the CVT has been retuned, and I’d have to drive it back-to-back with the 2016 to really get a feel for it, but the driving experience still isn’t as impressive as with much of the competition.
And despite improvements to the noise levels – as much as a 9 percent upgrade to road noise, according to the company – the Rogue still lets in a lot of interior sound, especially when the engine and transmission wind up on acceleration. A bank vault this is not.
But the ride is very smooth, with bumps and jars from road imperfections dissipating in the suspension instead of intruding into the cabin. Handling isn’t as sharp as some others in the segment, but it’s even and predictable.
The S and SV are available in front-wheel or all-wheel drive, while the SL Platinum is AWD only. The AWD primarily runs the front wheels but can transfer up to 50 percent of power to the rear when needed, and at low speeds can be locked into 50/50 for getting out of snowy or muddy driveways. Get above 40 km/h, and it automatically disengages and returns to its usual function.
Pricing will be announced closer to its November launch. Currently the 2016 models run from $24,948 to $35,548. I’m not expecting a huge price increase on the base model, since it’s a competitive segment and that starting trim only adds heated seats along with the new styling. The bigger boosts will come in the top trim, since it’s the one that gets the bulk of the new features, along with that exclusive optional Reserve Interior add-on.
Competent if not compelling, the Rogue currently checks the right boxes with a lot of buyers for its roomy interior, decent cargo capacity, and numerous features. This mild refresh takes it to a new level with better looks and some nice interior improvements, which should win it even more fans.
Much will depend on how it will be priced, of course, but I expect that to remain competitive. If you’re already a Rogue fan, you’ll like this one even more.
Disclosure—This writer’s travel and accommodations were provided by the automaker for the purposes of this first-drive review.