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2020 Nissan Rogue Test Drive Review
Since the very first one went on sale in America in 1995, the compact crossover SUV has served as a one-size-fits-all kind of a vehicle. Now, 25 years later, the popular 2020 Nissan Rogue is one of the best-selling examples of the genre despite its advanced design and engineering age.
Nissan hasn’t redesigned the Rogue since 2014, but an all-new version of this SUV is coming for the 2021 model year. In the meantime, dealers will be eager to sell remaining stocks of the outgoing 2020 Nissan Rogue, and the deals on these new cars ought to be mighty juicy. Should you bite? Should you wait? Or should you shop for something else? The answers to these questions depend on who you are and what you value in a compact crossover SUV.
Look and Feel
Available in S, SV, and SL trim levels with a single engine and transmission combination and a choice between front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD), the 2020 Nissan Rogue is nothing if not simple. Our test car for this review came with SL trim, front-drive, the SL Premium Package, carpeted floor and cargo mats, and a first-aid kit. It window-stickered for $34,870, including a $1,095 destination charge.
As far as looks go, the Rogue remains attractive in spite of its age. The big, bold V-Motion grille design is a little much, and the fender swells are a tad exaggerated, but especially with the Rogue SL’s 19-inch aluminum wheels, this is an appealing vehicle.
Open a door, and the Rogue’s age is more apparent. The waterfall control panel down the center of the dashboard and the interior’s rounded forms and surfaces are older styling themes in a world where car designers are adopting wide, horizontal, angular motifs. The plastic surfaces fail to impress, too.
On a positive note, though, the Rogue SL’s center console sides are padded where drivers' legs might rest against it, a thoughtful touch.
Nissan offers a single engine and transmission for the 2020 Rogue, and the powertrain combination is merely adequate in a vehicle weighing as much as 3,671 pounds. We’re talking about a 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder paired with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and while there is a Sport driving mode, it doesn’t make the Rogue sporty.
Admittedly, many Rogue owners won’t notice the lack of power much of the time, in part because the CVT does a good job of making the most of it. However, when you’re accelerating onto a freeway, or when you want to pass slower vehicles, or when you need to get a jump on traffic to make a turn ahead, or when you’re climbing a mountain grade, the Rogue disappoints with its response of noise rather than action.
Compounding the potential for dismay, the EPA leads a Rogue owner to believe FWD versions of this SUV will return fuel economy of 29 mpg in combined driving. During testing, the Rogue managed no better than 24.9 mpg on a loop that included plenty of freeway driving. Fuel efficiency doesn't work in the Rogue's favor.
Dynamically, where the Nissan Rogue improves is in the ride and handling department, thanks in large part to brake-induced technologies called Intelligent Trace Control and Active Ride Control. The former acts like a torque-vectoring system to tuck the Rogue tighter into a turn, while the latter aims to smooth out speed humps and pavement undulations. They work as advertised but, despite its 19-inch wheels and tires, the Rogue SL isn’t much fun to drive.
Equipped with lifeless and heavy electrically assisted steering, lacking in terms of suspension isolation, and suffering from occasional CVT drone, the Rogue is to be endured rather than enjoyed.
Form and Function
If you’re heavier of frame or longer of legs, getting comfortable in the 2020 Nissan Rogue isn’t easy. The seats themselves are fine, somewhat undersized examples of Nissan’s normally excellent Zero Gravity cushion designs, which aim to replicate the weightlessness of space with perfect support. And they’re available with so-called Quick Comfort heating.
My problem was that I could not dial the driver's seat in for the right amount of seat height for my preferred tall driving position combined with good space for my 33-inch-inseam legs. Forced to sit lower than preferred so that my legs weren’t folded up under the steering wheel, the Rogue was to be endured rather than enjoyed for yet another reason.
People sitting in the back seat of this compact SUV are lucky. The seat cushion sits high off of the floor, stadium-style in relationship to the front seats, and provides terrific thigh support coupled with a proper backrest angle. Plus, the view out is excellent, amplified by the available panoramic glass sunroof. As a result of these characteristics, the rear air conditioning vents, and the available rear USB charging ports, my children were mighty happy campers, and adults are likely to prefer sitting in this location as well.
Back up front, in-cabin storage is lacking. Only the glove compartment offers a healthy amount of space. Open the liftgate, and the opposite is true for cargo volume and utility, where 39 cubic feet of cargo space awaits behind the back seat—significantly more than the Mazda CX-5. The Rogue also has underfloor storage compartments and a standard Divide-n-Hide cargo management system.
Review the list of infotainment features available in the 2020 Rogue, and you’ll be impressed. Try to use them, and you might be frustrated.
Every Rogue infotainment system includes Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a hands-free text messaging assistant. For some people, that’s good enough right there. Upgrades, depending on trim level and equipment, include SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation with door-to-door assistance via smartphone app, a decent-sounding Bose premium sound system, and NissanConnect Services.
Subscription-based, NissanConnect Services equips Rogue models with features such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, remote access to engine starting and door lock operation, a car finder function, automatic collision notification, emergency SOS calling, and safe teen driver settings related to speed, curfew, and geographic boundaries. Free trial periods range from six months to three years, depending on the feature.
If this sounds sophisticated, you’re right. But the Rogue’s NissanConnect interface leaves plenty to be desired. It uses a 7-inch touchscreen with a recessed display that looks about as modern as an iPhone 6. Add slow response to inputs, especially when you’re trying in vain to accurately zoom the navigation map with your fingertips, as well as voice-recognition technology that is not up to par, and the Rogue’s tech quotient suffers.
A similar story is true when it comes to the Rogue’s safety features. A bunch of stuff is standard, and the options are impressive, but put everything to use and you’re left wanting for better.
Nissan gathers multiple advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in the standard Safety Shield 360 collection. It includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking for the front and rear, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlights. These are among the most useful and effective ADAS in daily driving, making Safety Shield 360 more useful than what some competitors provide.
Additionally, the Rogue includes a Rear Door Alert as well as a Tire Fill Alert system. The former is designed to prevent you from leaving someone or something important behind in the rear seats when exiting the SUV. The latter makes it super easy to maintain proper tire pressures.
Options include a surround-view camera and ProPilot Assist adaptive cruise control with lane-centering capability. When Nissan first added ProPilot Assist to the Rogue a couple of years ago, it was sophisticated and rare at the Rogue’s price point. Now, however, it comes across as dated as competitors introduce newer and more refined versions of the same technology.
The Rogue’s advancing age is also reflected in its crash-test ratings. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Rogue a 4-star overall rating due to the SUV’s dismal 3-star protection for the driver in a frontal-impact collision. In testing performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), dings against the Rogue’s headlights and front-passenger protection in a frontal-impact collision prevent the SUV from earning a Top Safety Pick designation.
Average summarily describes the 2020 Nissan Rogue, which is not unexpected given the design’s age. And with average warranty protection, average free trial periods to NissanConnect Services, and no free scheduled maintenance or other ownership perks, the 2020 Rogue is left to entice you with “the deal.”
As the summer of 2020 swelters on, just months before an all-new and presumably much improved 2021 Nissan Rogue goes on sale, Don't expect to pay MSRP for a Rogue when you visit your local dealership. The automaker is offering up to $2,000 in cash rebates or zero-interest financing for 60 months plus $1,500 in cash. Alternatively, you can lease one almost identical to the test car for nothing down and around $415 per month, with a mileage allowance of 12,000 per year. Not bad for a compact SUV with all-wheel drive.
The new 2021 Nissan Rogue will need to build upon what makes the current model appealing while improving in the areas where it falls short. If you can wait for it, you should wait for it.
But really, aside from achieving mere competence, Nissan needs to find a more compelling reason for consumers shopping for a compact crossover SUV to choose a Rogue over a Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience reviewing cars and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, J.D. Power, the New York Daily News, Autobytel, and Vehix. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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Nissan Rogue Questions
Radio has been randomly turning itself on after being turned off. Also navigation turns itself in and keeps navigating to my home. Also system shut down and rebooted itself about a week ago.
I would like to pay cash for a car. Is that an option?
Hat is the warning when loud truck horn goes off in 2020 Nissan rogue
I have 2020 nissan rogue. I just noticed water leaking on the inside car near gas pedal. It happens when I run the A/C (which is all the time). Is this a major problem? Covered under warranty?
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