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Driven: 2014 Nissan Rogue stands out with smart design

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The Nissan Rogue has been one of the top selling compact crossovers in its class for some time, thus the all-new redesigned 2014 Rogue it has been one of our more anticipated test drives this year.

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For 2014 the Nissan Rogue was restyled from the ground up with sharper and crisper lines. A more chiseled appearance and angular proportions define the shape more distinctly than last year’s model. Integrated roof rails look clean while offering the utility buyers come for.

Crisp LED daytime running lamps make for eye catching signature lighting up front now along with a more pronounced chrome grille. At the rear, a sportier C-pillar with integrated roof spoiler gives a taller silhouette than before.

The 2014 Rogue grew in size slightly, the wheelbase increased by 0.6” and the overall height by 1.2”. Rear doors have been designed with a wider 77 degree opening for easier entry and exit to the rear passenger space which now offers an optional third-row seat.

Third-row seat options are rare in this class because there just isn’t much room them. In the Nissan Rogue, the seat is small in terms of legroom, really best for small children and only in a pinch. When the seats are up, they take up most of the available cargo space too.

Consider your option of the third-row as it eliminates the spare tire. It is paired with run-flat tires to make up for the difference, but there’s no substitute for a real spare tire. Additionally, you also lose the innovative Divide and Hide storage which comes on the two-row Nissan Rogue.

While the optional third-row seating does eliminate the handy under-floor Divide and Hide storage system in the Rogue, when all seats are folded you get the same wide open and flat cargo floor to carry large items easily.

Dash design and the interior of our SV was simple in design and down to business. Nissan has been well known for form following function and this interior continues this theme. Controls are well laid out, easy to reach and easy to use.

The optioned touchscreen audio and navigation system in our tester responds well to your touch. Menu intuitiveness is okay but I still wish Nissan would place station information on their radio preset buttons instead of just numbers, making it easier to choose while behind the wheel.

Part of the Premium package on our Rogue is Nissan’s Around-View monitor which takes the back-up camera a step further by offering a true bird’s eye view of your entire surroundings.

Switchgear is of a high quality as are the materials and fit of all the parts. While not leather wrapped in this trim level, the steering wheel has a nice texture and a full spread of redundant audio controls and for the instrument cluster displays.

The most striking part of this interior is how well executed it is for quality and fit. The materials all feel top notch, their mounting solid, and there is a consistent feel throughout. This interior not only feels more expensive than this vehicle is, but seems it will last.

Nissan Rogue’s “zero-gravity” seats were very supportive and comfortable. They offer a good place to sit for long drives, rarely making you feel like you just have to get out of them.

Under the hood is a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower teamed up with Nissan’s latest generation Xtronic CVT constantly variable transmission. This gives the Rogue an EPA rated 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.

While we usually aren't fans of the CVT, Nissan’s Xtronic has impressed me by really taming many of my long held objections to them. They usually have a rubber-band feel and the engine drones on like a leaf blower.

The Xtronic offers simulated shift points at times and has a sport mode which really gives it a feel more akin to a traditional transmission. Even without the sport mode, driving around day to day shows this transmission is tuned well.

In our testing this week we achieved 26 mpg combined which is a bit less than the EPA estimates but it’s summer in Arizona and our air-conditioning often crashes the party for fuel economy. And as you can see, we’re in the mountains too.

The Rogue has a number of dynamic technologies including Active Engine Braking. The CVT helps slow the vehicle as you brake, resulting in less brake effort.

There’s also Active Ride Control which automatically applies the brakes and adjusts engine torque after the vehicle hits a bump which is supposed to reduce pitching on rougher roads.

On our rough paved mountain roads, the Nissan Rogue felt solid and well isolated from the road’s irregularities. Handling is firm and tight to give you confidence on these roads, but not so stiff to be jarring in ride.

Our Rogue SV was front-wheel drive but a an intuitive All-Wheel Drive system with standard Hill Descent Control is an available option for those who need traction for cold weather or occasional off-roading.

Add to the equation that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2014 Nissan Rogue with their highest Top Safety Pick + status. This is in part because it earned a Good rating in all crash testing categories and is available with a crash prevention system.

We are impressed with the 2014 Nissan Rogue, such that we would recommend it for any shopping list in this class. It has the build quality, value, and style that makes it not only competitive but a stand out option.

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