Growing up is hard to do, but the 2014 Nissan Rogue compact crossover has been lucky: just last year it watched bigger brother Pathfinder blaze a path forward through the family segment with an all-new platform and fresh styling. The redesigned Rogue’s family resemblance to the Pathfinder – and its similarly generous-for-its-class interior proportions – indicate Nissan’s renewed focus on family shoppers, and it’s fair to say that the 2014 model represents the most fully thought-out small people mover that has ever been offered by the brand.
Princess, I’ve Found Your Glass Slipper
Let’s face it – the 2013 Rogue was an appealing package wrapped in less-than-stellar sheet metal. There was nothing ugly about last year’s model, but it just didn’t stand out even in the conservative crossover crowd. The 2014 Nissan Rogue is a completely different story: this is a handsome three-row hauler that apes the front end design of the equally attractive Pathfinder without feeling derivative. The strong forward fascia translates back into equally muscular side panels and a confident trunk. It’s a mixture of truck tough and sedan-svelte, and it works quite well on the Rogue’s smaller canvas.
Inside, things are a little more dialed down. The Rogue’s materials are a mix of the durable plastics that belong in any family vehicle, with a few fabric touches to soften up its environs. Nissan’s excellent touchscreen interface was installed in my test vehicle, while a more straightforward LCD driver information screen sat in the gauge cluster. The Rogue doesn’t come across as a high end ride – rather, a nicer-than-average daily driver, which fits its mission profile perfectly.
Two Plus One Rows Of Seating
The 2014 Nissan Rogue is wider and taller than the model it replaces, and it also features a moderately longer wheelbase. That growth spurt emboldened the automaker’s design team to stuff a third row of seating behind the Rogue’s first five positions. The result is a letdown: there’s absolutely no way anyone other than the youngest of children will be contented riding at the rear of the crossover, as the seats are barely off the floor and provide very little in the way of legroom. It’s not all that easy to get to the third row, either, as you have to tilt-and-tumble the second row to gain the necessary access. Finally, if you opt for the available cargo cover, then you’ll also have to finagle the seats ahead of the bar that crosses the Rogue’s trunk. My advice is to forgo the third row option at ordering time and enjoy the Nissan’s generous cargo space instead.
Carry-Over Engine, Revised Transmission
The 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine that comes standard with each and every version of the 2014 Nissan Rogue will be familiar to anyone who has driven past versions of the crossover, as it soldiers forward with no changes. The crossover’s continuously-variable automatic transmission, however, is the latest and greatest from the Japanese brand, and it matches the improvements in CVT efficiency and smoothness that are being rolled out across the Nissan line-up. A Sport button is available to simulate the stepped gears of a traditional automatic, but I found that the CVT worked best when left to its own devices. The four-cylinder ruckus under the hood can become somewhat grating at full throttle, and although the Rogue is relatively good at getting out of its own way, the drivetrain is squarely mid-pack when compared to other crossovers like the Ford Escape that offer optional four-cylinder engines with considerably more oomph. The Nissan does come through in terms of fuel mileage, however, as the CVT overcomes the older-tech four-banger’s lack of direct injection.
Out on the road, the Nissan Rogue’s suspension does a good job at ignoring broken pavement and maintaining a calm and collected cabin. It’s a comfortable vehicle to drive, and my tester’s optional all-wheel drive kept me from getting stuck despite the relatively unplowed status of my alley. New for the Rogue is Nissan’s Active Trace Control system, which makes use of the vehicle’s brakes to enhance cornering stability. I never noticed it in operation, but then, I didn’t push the Rogue all that hard during our time together. I did feel the car’s also-new engine braking system slow the Nissan down at lower speeds, while its Active Ride Control feature kept handling flat and predictable.
A Mid-Range Contender
There’s no doubt that the 2014 Nissan Rogue has more to offer than the previous generation crossover, especially when it comes to style and interior room. It’s worth noting, too, that Nissan makes a strong list of active safety features – including a lane departure warning system and a top-down camera view – available with the crossover. Priced affordably, the Rogue makes a value play for customers tired of plunking down a premium for leading lights like the Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4. As a three-row, it’s a no-go, and its engine performance is firmly average, but taken as a whole there’s very little to dislike about this dramatically revised family ride.