2017 Nissan Rogue
Besides freshened styling, the 2017 Nissan Rogue adds a host of new features along with first-ever Hybrid versions. Prices will be announced closer to the on-sale dates, which should be in November for gas models, late December for the Hybrids.

Nissan Rogue

We covered updates to the 2017 Nissan Rogue in a previous post based on information from its early September reveal at the Miami Auto Show, but we didn’t have a chance to drive it then. Now we have.

One way Rogue makes its mark in the popular compact-SUV class is by being one of only two to offer a 3rd-row seat for 7-passenger capacity. (The other being the Mitsubishi Outlander.) Yet Nissan says only about 7 percent of Rogues are ordered that way, the rest being conventional 5-seaters. Note that Rogues with the 3rd-row seat get run-flat tires, as the seat takes up the space that holds a spare tire in other models.

Test Drive: 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT

2017 Nissan Rogue
The Hybrids use a smaller engine (2.0-liters vs. 2.5), but add an electric motor to produce slightly more total horsepower (176 vs. 170) that offsets their 200 lbs. of added weight. Nissan says the Hybrids will provide a 5-8-mpg improvement in EPA fuel-economy ratings.

Another way it’s now unusual is that 2017 brings a hybrid version, making Rogue one of only three compact SUVs to offer one (others being the Subaru Crosstrek and Toyota RAV4). Although the company isn’t making firm predictions as to what percentage of Rogues will be ordered in that form, it estimates it will be somewhere around the same 15 percent the RAV4 Hybrid is attracting.

Test Drive: 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE

Test Drive: 2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid XLE

So two of the ways the Rogue stands out in its class aren’t going to be netting it big sales numbers. But something is – or at least, has been: Rogue consistently runs third in sales volume behind the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, and there’s every reason to believe it’s going to sell even better this year. Clearly, Nissan is doing something right.

Actually, It’s more than just “something”; it’s several things.

First, Rogue offers a lot of really flexible cargo space. Standard on conventional gas 5-seat models is the company’s Divide-N-Hide Cargo System. (It’s not on 7-seat versions because the 3rd-row seat fills much of that space, as does the added battery pack on the new Hybrid, which only comes in a 5-passenger version.) What it allows you to do is to use the floor panels to make several different storage configurations. In their primary position, the two floor panels sit level with the folded rear seat backs (which makes loading long items a breeze), with a lot of storage underneath. The panels can also be lowered to the floor of the storage area to accommodate taller items. The forward one can be raised to make a high shelf, and they can be set to segment the compartment front to back so that things won’t roll around. There’s also a compartment meant to store wet items like swim suits.

2017 Nissan Rogue
Among several of Rogue’s new upscale features is a foot-activated power liftgate.

Although Rogue already offered a number of high-tech features, it gets more for 2017. Added this year are adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and mitigation, automatic high beams, and rear cross-traffic alert, while the already-offered forward collision warning adds pedestrian detection. On the less high-tech side, newly available features include heated steering wheel and memory driver seat and mirrors, while the existing power tailgate adds motion detection (you swipe your foot under the rear bumper to open or close it). These added features make Rogue competitive with the best in its class in this regard, another of its strong selling points.

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While the “gas” Rogue continues with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine producing 170 horsepower, the new Hybrid carries a 2.0-liter engine and an electric motor that combine to produce 176 horsepower. Both versions can be had with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Nissan says the Hybrid can run in electric-only mode for about two miles at 25 mph, and up to about 75 mph for short spurts. However, we found that anything but very light throttle application will kick on the gas engine, so these are more in theory than practice.

2017 Nissan Rogue
Rogue’s dash boasts a simple, straightforward layout with relatively easy-to-use controls.

While the Hybrid’s powertrain is slightly more potent than the straight gas model’s, it’s propelling about 200 extra pounds. Nissan says the Hybrid is thus about 2/10ths of a second slower from 0-60 mph, both models hovering in the mid 9-second range – perhaps a bit slower than average for the class. Although neither gets a strong jump off the line in a full-throttle start, the Hybrid feels a bit quicker up to about 35 mph or so, after which acceleration wanes some. In both models, the CVT automatic transmission kicks down fairly quickly for more power when the throttle is stabbed at speed, but the Hybrid feels a bit more responsive. Certainly in the Hybrid’s favor is fuel economy, which Nissan says ranges from 5 to 8 mpg better, though the 2017 gas model’s EPA figures had not been released at the time of this writing. However, Nissan says the front-drive Hybrid should be rated at 33 city/35 highway/34 combined, while those with all-wheel drive should come in at 31/34/33.

As our Atlanta-area drive route was on mostly smooth roads, we’ll have to wait until we get a Rogue around our Chicagoland office to evaluate ride quality, but it seemed just fine on the surfaces we drove, as was handling.

2017 Nissan Rogue
A two-tone color scheme is available to liven up the interior’s look.

By current standards, at least, Rogue also has a relatively simple control layout. The infotainment system has volume and tuning knobs along with a number of physical buttons, with other adjustments – such as station selection – being done on the touchscreen. Climate controls aren’t quite as convenient, as only temperature gets its own rotary knob (still the best adjustment device ever invented), while fan speed and mode are by repetitive-step pushbuttons. All controls are placed rather high, and all but those on the far right are within easy reach.

Visibility is OK to the left front, a bit more restricted to the right front, while it’s good to the sides and fair to the rear corners. Optional is Nissan’s Around View Monitor, which shows a 360-degree overhead view around the vehicle.

Interiors are nicely trimmed, with padding on the dashtop, doortops, and armrests, and available two-tone color combinations help brighten what is otherwise a rather subdued look. There’s a reasonable amount of interior storage space, highlighted by a large glovebox and several small bins.

2017 Nissan Rogue
Folding the rear seat backs leaves a flat, level load floor, but the floor panels can also be moved into several different positions to create a lower deck, a raised shelf, or a partitioned compartment.

Nissan offers its Zero Gravity front seats in the Rogue, and we found them to be more cossetting than most. There’s good headroom in front but only fair legroom; in back, a higher seat cushion limits headroom under the available sunroof for 6-footers, while legroom is quite good, as is step-in height. In gas models, the rear seat moves fore and aft several inches to balance passenger and cargo room.

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In back, the aforementioned Divide-N-Hide Cargo System is easily adjusted to several different configurations, and is indeed one of the Rogue’s strong suits. There’s also a large amount of cargo space available, adding to the appeal. Also notable is the newly available hands-free power liftgate, which not very many others in the class offer.

It’s a bit odd to me that the Rogue’s two most unusual features don’t appear to be (or appear will be) big selling points. Which means buyers are obviously being drawn to its many other virtues. Since those “virtues” are even more numerous for 2017, anyone in the market for a compact SUV – or even a midsize one – would be wise to check out the roomy, versatile Rogue.

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