The Nissan Rogue Is the Extra Value Meal of Crossovers

Cheap calories feed your motion, if not your mojo.

Nissan Rogue Review
Nissan

Prolechariot is a series about vehicular value. It's about slapping your needs and wants on a wall, grabbing a fistful of darts, cocking your arm back and trying to strike as many of your targets as possible. In other words, it’s about making the second-largest purchase decision most Americans face, and making it right. Prolechariots are cars for the rest of us, and Jonathan Schultz is driving them. Up this week: the 2016 Nissan Rogue SV.

Check your wallet, America. Is there $33,652 in there? Hey, congrats! That will buy 3,747 bulk boxes of Pringles, 5,030 Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese Value Meals at McDonald’s, a three-bedroom bungalow in Saginaw, Michigan, or a new car at the nationwide average price. It also lands you and six of your nearest-and-dearest in a 2016 Nissan Rogue SV, a crossover that is precision-engineered to meet Americans’ appetite for cheap, fillin’, and none too thrillin’.

The field of three-row compact crossovers in the U.S. looks a bit like this: 2016 Nissan Rogue SV. Therein lies the Rogue’s greatest competitive advantage over rinky-dink trucklets like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and the like, and any edge you can claim in the compact-crossover segment—the entrails-splattered Thunderdome of the car world, circa-2016—is a bona fide win. Cargo room in the Rogue is downright Acadian: 70 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, and 39 even with the second row occupied. Prolecharians get mid-size SUV space in a compact-SUV package, and for some buyers, bigger will always mean better.

It’s tough to argue against the Rogue SV’s strengths, especially as presented in our $28,245 test model, which was equipped with a sunroof, satellite radio, a bird’s-eye backup camera (the likes of whichProlechariot has only experienced, in an unpardonably bourgeois former life, in a BMW X6 M), blind-spot monitoring, that optional third row ($940), and a massive sales tailwind: Nissan moved almost 30,000 units in June, putting the Rogue on pace to surpass the woebegone Altima.

Unlike the Altima, however, you’re likely to notice Rogues on the road. A redesign in 2014 rendered the SUV handsome and square-jawed—the mama’s boy to the Juke’s enfant terrible, the Murano’s semester-abroad snob, and the Pathfinder’s retired linebacker with a 46-inch waist.

A third row and a pert shape only get you so far with Prolecharians, though. Can a Rogue be fun? Does it inspire a bit of mischief? And can 30,000 people be wrong every damn month?

Here are the five things you need to know about the 2016 Nissan Rogue SV.

1. It Has a Posse

Nearly 60 years ago, Mini designer Sir Alec Issigonis proved that small cars can accommodate big Brits. The Rogue would never be mistaken for a small car, a British car (though that point is debatable—more in a bit), or one as singularly clever as the original Mini, but there are spectacular feats of packaging at work here.

With 106.5 inches of wheelbase and an overall length of 182.3 inches, the Rogue’s exterior dimensions are in line with those of its competitive set. But it ekes out the win for cargo room behind its second row, and positively trounces the competition on cargo volume behind its third row because . . . well, the competition doesn’t have a third row.

Granted, grown-ass adults wouldn’t elect to joyride in the back, but for the novelty of feeling like you’re 10 again, it’s pretty transportive. Not that you’d need to clamber over the second row for access; Nissan’s EZ Flex one-touch seat-folding system opens a clear, dignity-preserving path of entry and egress.

Nissan

2. It’s Built to a Price

This is a damning line in the car business, one that evokes mirthless account managers, underutilized engineers, and shackled designers. Yet every department involved in developing a mass-market vehicle works within certain budget parameters, and presumably does the best with what it’s given. The fruits and compromises of those labors are clear to keen-eyed Prolecharians—if not the crossover-buying public at large.

Take the shoulder-belt tensioner on the Rogue’s center seat. With a little determination, an eight-month-old baby will pop it right out of the seat back to reveal yellow cushion foam and ragged upholstery edges. Some carmakers work to ensure that their upholstery’s end cuts are surge-stitched, or at least covered by a plastic boot to obscure the membranous yellow material lurking below. Nissan, however, lets it all hang out, God bless ‘em.

The Rogue has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a distinction that isn’t just doled out on street corners. And yet the Rogue’s doors exhibit the same unsatisfying hollowness that plagues the Altima. There’s no whoomp or thwomp, just crunchclickthomp.

Up front, the shift gate’s scratch-prone shiny plastic housing is scratch-prone and shiny. The steering wheel resembles a pelvic model from health class, the lateral spokes forming gonads. Again, most consumers may not register these things, but Prolecharians will deduce that Nissan took its eye off the, erm, ball.

3. It Crushes on Highways

Give the 2016 Nissan Rogue SV the smooth tarmacs of Atlanta, Phoenix, Houston, Las Vegas, or any number of other non-snowbelt cities on which to run, keep the thing at a steady 65 mph, and shoot a smile at your five precious cherubim in the rearview. You’re in the Rogue’s wheelhouse.

Little road wash or wind noise intrudes in the cabin, the suspension gamely flexes over what few dips the tires encounter, and the CVT settles the engine into a sub-2,000 rpm torpor. You’re living fat, and likely observing something close to, or in excess of, the Rogue SV’s EPA highway fuel-economy rating of 33 mpg.

You’re also feeling secure. The Rogue SV affords excellent sightlines, and orange blind-spot warning lights, embedded aft of the A-pillars, draw just enough attention to feel useful instead of nanny-state cloying.

Nissan

4. Surface Streets Crush It

Point the Rogue SV toward a city in the Northeast—perhaps one whose bridges are in such a shit state that dashboard-mounted Buddha figurines rub their own bellies before crossing—and a less complimentary picture emerges. The chassis, so unflappable on the interstate, is unsettled by each expansion joint and cancerous bulge of tar it traverses. Quiet prevails inside, but outside, balance and poise are lost.

Enter a corner hot—say, 30 mph in a 25 mph zone—and the Rogue lists like the Leviathan. More aggressive spring rates would help, but that is not the Rogue’s way. A Prolecharian’s lead-foot inclinations are humored to a point; the CVT lets the engine rev out on merges. Dig for more power on the highway for quick changes, though, and the torque ripple (we dare not call it a wave) lags well behind the 2.5-liter engine’s aural hysterics.

We note this because other compact crossovers humor Prolecharian impulses. The Mazda CX-5 will. The Kia Sportage SX, too. And Prolechariot just handed back the keys to an all-singing, all-dancing Toyota RAV4 that—surprise—will do some of it (stay tuned).

5. The Compact Nissan SUV We Want Is British

While we must evaluate the Rogue on its own merits, the Prolecharian mind spins off to Britain. There, at Nissan’s Sunderland plant (filled with workers who paradoxically voted “Leave” last month), the Qashquai is built. Admittedly, the Qashqai is just a two-row crossover, but it shares platform pieces with the Rogue and has long been lauded by your Prolecharian brethren across the Pond for its plucky demeanor, versatility, and clever packaging.

Citing unidentified sources, Automotive News reported last year that the Qashqai would soon slot between the Rogue and Juke in the U.S., but that trail has since gone cold. We like the idea of a sub-Rogue SUV that might occupy a non-Jukified niche, with more room, and more go, than a Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V.

Conditioned to believe that bigger is better, most Americans will never grasp why smaller is baller. Bro, why choose a $27,000 Civic Coupe when the same money buys a three-row Rogue? Our reply: Go drive that Civic and tell us it's not worth 27 grand. That said, if you positively need a three-row compact crossover, there's one priced well south of 30 grand called the Nissan Rogue SV that surely fits your needs. If you don't, in fact, need one, then set about shrinkin' your thinkin'.

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2016 Nissan Rogue SV
PRICE AS TESTED:
$28,245
POWERTRAIN: 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, 170 hp, 175 lb-ft torque; continuously variable automatic transmission; front-wheel drive
MPG: 26 city / 33 highway
VALUE MEAL MENU NUMBER: 3