Buying Used: 2014-2019 Nissan Rogue
Can a car company have an identity crisis?
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Comfy car-like ride, optional seats for seven, advantageous pricing
- What’s Bad: Sleepy acceleration, poor visibility, CVT transmission woes
When Nissan formed with the merger of DAT Automobile Manufacturing and Jitsuyo Automobile in 1934, the former’s line of 495-cc-powered cars called Datson became the moniker for the new Japanese automaker.
But the nameplate was hastily changed to Datsun when someone pointed out that Datson sounded too much like a Japanese phrase that means “to lose money.” Yikes. To be on the safe side, the Datsun brand adorned all of Nissan’s models bound for export.
Fifty years later, Nissan decided it was time to take the parent brand global and dropped the Datsun name in 1986. Changing the marketing slogan from “Datsun We Are Driven” to “The Name is Nissan” cost an eye-watering $200 million alone.
In its infinite wisdom, Nissan relaunched Datsun in 2013, this time encompassing low-cost models designed for markets in South Asia, South Africa, Indonesia and Russia. Now comes word that the automaker will curtail production of Datsuns in Russia and Indonesia, but will continue to produce and export its small cars from India.
No question, Nissan has had its existential crisis, especially in the wake of the Carlos Ghosn scandal. Let’s take a look at one of the automaker’s bestselling models around these parts.
Designed to compete with the segment-defining Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, the Nissan Rogue crossover SUV held its own when it was introduced (a little late) in 2007, replacing the largely invisible X-Trail. Its claim to fame was its continuously variable (CVT) automatic transmission that can purportedly deliver a 6 to 8 per cent improvement in fuel consumption over a traditional four-speed automatic. Thanks to aggressive sales and financing, the Rogue sold well.
The second-generation Rogue arrived all chiseled and handsome for the 2014 model year. It was 3 centimetres wider, riding on a wheelbase stretched by 1.5 cm to yield more room inside than before, with almost 7 cm of additional legroom for back-seat passengers. The rear cargo hold was enlarged by 10 per cent.
The redesigned compact SUV utilized the all-new Common Module Family platform co-developed with Renault, Nissan’s corporate partner. Engineers specified an aluminum hood and a composite (plastic) rear hatch to help keep weight gain in check. Rogues can be found in front-drive and all-wheel-drive configurations.
The driver is treated to large, easy-to-read instruments and a centre console that logically presents all the expected entertainment and climate switchgear, along with a five- or seven-inch colour display, the latter being the touchscreen variety. Unfortunately, outward visibility is below average. While the windshield pillars are fairly narrow, the other pillars are wide enough to obstruct rear-quarter visibility. Fortunately, Nissan had a solution.
“I love the backup camera with bird-eye view. Very useful while parking, especially parallel parking and in crowded areas such as downtown,” wrote one Rogue owner online about the optional surround-view camera technology. Base models have a standard rearview camera.
Front seat comfort is as good as it gets in this segment. The second-row seats slide fore-and-aft up to 23 cm to accommodate a wide range of cargo- and passenger-hauling combinations. All the seatbacks fold flat, too, except for the pilot’s chair. Plastics are soft to the touch and leather surfaces are richly supple. Tight third-row seating – kids only, please – was available on S and SV models for the first time.
The 2014 Rogue came standard with stability and traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and hill-start assist. All-wheel-drive models added hill descent control. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it a top rating of “Good” in all crash tests, including small and moderate front overlap, side tests, roof strength, and head restraints.
DRIVETRAINS AND UPDATES
The lone engine available in the Rogue is the same one that powered earlier versions: an aluminum 2.5-L DOHC four cylinder rated at 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. All models use an improved version of the aforementioned belt-and-pulley CVT supplied by Jatco, a Nissan subsidiary. Reductions in friction and hydraulic losses in the transmission contribute to better fuel-economy numbers.
The 2016 Rogue added some new, optional tech features including an emergency telematics system, Siri Eyes Free and an enhanced collision mitigation system with automatic braking. The 2017 models benefited from a mid-cycle refresh, though you’d be hard-pressed to spot them. At least the Rogue received more sound insulation to deaden engine drone.
Nissan upped its tech content in 2018 again, this time with optional ProPilot Assist, a semi-autonomous system than can self-accelerate, brake and steer the car in certain conditions, such as heavy highway traffic. Other changes include standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and changes to various trims and option packages. The somewhat impractical third-row bench was unceremoniously dropped. The second-gen Rogue enters its seventh model year unchanged for 2020.
DRIVING THE ROGUE
While it doesn’t look like it, the Rogue is built to a certain price point – an affordable one – and Nissan found savings in recycling an aging four-banger pinched from the Altima sedan. Trouble is that it’s underpowered, making just 170 horses out of 2.5 litres of displacement. As a result, acceleration is languid at best, taking 8.9 seconds to attain 97 km/h – almost a second slower than the segment leaders.
The comfort-biased suspension provides a relaxed ride, but it compromises overall control, causing the crossover to bounce around corners if negotiated a little too quickly. It doesn’t feel quite planted and stable when traveling down the highway in a straight line, either. Despite the cumbersome performance, some buyers like the Rogue’s emphasis on comfort, knowing that they’d never drive too quickly anyway.
“We were seeking a soft quiet ride, not a sports-car feel,” is how one buyer of a 2014 Rogue put it. Mission accomplished.
In terms of fuel economy, the Rogue posts great mileage ratings, but in the real world the numbers can be considerably less. Around town, don’t bet on much better than 11 litres/100 km (26 mpg), while highway mileage can be as high as 6.7 L/100 km (42 mpg) with a light throttle. The CVT transmission works its magic, but it’s hamstrung by Nissan’s aging four-cylinder that dates back to 2001.
OWNERS TALK RELIABILITY
Rogue owners profess the compact SUV’s most endearing qualities include its comfortable and roomy interior, car-like ride, advanced tech and safety gear, cargo versatility and decent fuel economy. It doesn’t hurt that the Rogue is a bit of a looker, something that can’t be said of the previous Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.
In terms of reliability, the Tennessee-built Rogue comes up a little short, principally due to one of its defining features: the belt-driven CVT transmission. First-generation Rogues (and other Nissans) disappointed a lot of owners when their transmission failed early. Nissan was compelled to extend the warranty on the “XTronic” transmission – but only for certain model years. The warranty extension does not apply to newer Rogue models.
“At 53,000 km I was required to replace the CVT transmission under warranty. Today, three years down the road with 174,000 km on it, I’m required to do the same! Not under warranty – costing me $4,200 to replace,” reports an unhappy owner of a 2015 Rogue.
Despite engineering improvements and software updates, Nissan’s CVT continues to have reliability issues, albeit not as frequently as before and usually at high mileage. Apparently, the transmission is susceptible to overheating. The Automobile Protection Association recommends that the required transmission fluid replacement be performed on time by a Nissan dealer, and keep your receipts.
Another common problem with the Rogue, especially 2014-15 models, involves the heating and air conditioning system, which may not supply enough of the required temperature needed to endure seasonal extremes. Owners have reported frozen condensers on the hottest summer days, among other anomalies. The climate control unit may require replacement.
Nissan recalled some 95,000 model-year 2014 Rogues to address fuel pump failures due to nickel plating that can detach and gum up the pump impeller and stall the engine. A clicking noise when turning may be traced to the upper strut bearings in the front suspension. Navigation and infotainment controls may freeze or reboot at random.
The popularity of automated braking in 2017 and newer models added a new wrinkle: the system is sometimes spooked by road conditions and may spontaneously engage the brakes on a clear road, with the potential of causing a rear-end collision. Dealers can update the software, but owners have reported experiencing the same issue after the patch.
As fetching as the Nissan Rogue appears to be, there are too many serious – and expensive – mechanical faults to recommend it as a reliable used-vehicle purchase. There are many other compact crossover SUVs in this crowded segment that can deliver a better ownership experience.