The cute ute class originators, Honda’s CRV and Toyota’s RAV4 both seem to have lost a bit of their distinctive style with their latest redesigns. That’s not to say that they aren’t great vehicles, but they seem to have lost a bit of personality as they’ve matured. Even still, any newcomer to this market is fighting a bit of an uphill battle as brand loyalty runs deep with owners of these vehicles.
While the old standbys may be having a bit of an identity crisis happening, Nissan’s first entry into the segment is unquestionably a Nissan. Perhaps you could call it the Rogue child of the Murano, as the 2008 Nissan Rogue shares so many styling cues and tech details with it’s older brother.
Nissan has worked hard than most manufacturers to solidify it’s brand image world wide and that includes far more than just the hood ornament on the cars leaving the factory. On the outside, the whole shape combines Nissan’s corporate shape, from bold wheel arches to front and rear lamps and bumpers. Even the shape of the side windows is similar to the Rogue’s successful sibling. Inside the cabin, the Rogue bears strong resemblance to the sedan side of the family. In fact the dash and door panel materials looks very similar to the Sentra SER Spec-v I drove at Pocono Raceway the day after I drove the Rogue. Comfortable leather seats keep the occupants comfy, while the quality materials and sporty looks make the Rogue feel much more expensive than the little SUV is likely going to retail for. As regular readers of The Garage know, we are big on our SUV’s having bit of actual utility. The Rogue’s cargo area is huge for such a small vehicle, easily larger than the Hummer H3 that we drove earlier the same afternoon.
It’s tough to give an honest road review after only 20 minutes in any vehicle, but if first impressions count, the Rogue is a winner. The 170 horsepower, 2.5 liter 4 cylinder is coupled to a CVT just like big bro and it hauls the Rogue along quite smartly. On the twisty road leading into the Split Rock Resort, the Rogue handled like a decent sports sedan. The ride is comfortably firm, offering the driver good feedback without being obtrusive. True to the family history of offering fun to drive cars, the Rogue just feels fun right out of the gate.
Once the Rogue is finally released here in Canada, we’ll bring you a more in depth look into the newest entrant in the small SUV market.