First Drive: 2017 Nissan Rogue

There was no pressing need for the 2017 Nissan Rogue to go under the knife. Not only is this compact SUV a top-five choice for Canadian families seeking extra space and the practicality of its available all-wheel drive, but it also happens to be the single bestselling Nissan on either side of the border, with even Americans getting in on the Rogue love-fest.

Okay, so maybe ‘redesigned’ is too strong of a word to use here, as there really haven’t been any changes made to the sport-utility vehicle’s mechanical guts.

And yet, here I am sitting behind the wheel of the redesigned Rogue on the rural roads that cut through Georgia’s Lake Oconee region. Okay, so maybe ‘redesigned’ is too strong of a word to use here, as there really haven’t been any changes made to the sport-utility vehicle’s mechanical guts, including a complete carry-over of the previous model year’s platform. What has been noticeably updated about the 2017 Nissan Rogue is the visual first impression it makes front and rear. The Japanese automaker has been gradually homogenizing the styling cues used across its entire fleet of trucks and SUVs, and the Rogue is the latest – and last – member of the family to gain the new look.

It’s not a dramatic change, but rather one that makes the Nissan Rogue fit in a little better alongside its showroom companions. The vehicle’s V-shaped grille has been widened to enclose the entire space between the headlights and also sports thicker chrome across the angled arms, leading the eye back to the also-enlarged LED-framed illuminators that trade in their smooth bumper cut for a bit of a crook where the glass meets the fender. The bumper has been pushed down to accommodate the Rogue’s grille surround, with each corner now featuring a more-aggressively sculpted home for the fog lights, which are rectangular instead of round.

Out back you’ll find a new bumper with its own set of LED lights perched above it to complete the overall package, but much of the rest of the Rogue’s sheet metal remains the same, with a new 19-inch wheel design also joining the list of available equipment. Inside the 2017 Nissan Rogue the changes are more modest, with updated door panels and dashboard trim joined by a steering wheel with a flattened bottom (or D-shaped as Nissan likes to call it). The company has also gone all-in with its Platinum Reserve package, which spiffies up the interior with its own quilted leather seats.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that most of these updates to the Nissan Rogue fall into the cosmetic column, then you would be right – but there is one new feature that has been added for 2017 that serves a more practical purpose, and you’ll find it under the ‘active safety’ heading. Nissan has added automatic braking to the suite of advanced protective gear that can be had with the SUV, and it can stop the vehicle in an emergency at either highway speeds or even around town (as it also boasts pedestrian-detection capability) by working together with the sensors used by the Rogue’s also-new adaptive cruise control system. The full list of the Rogue’s safety gear is quite competitive, and includes lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems, as well as a lane-departure intervention feature.

As for the rest of what the 2017 model has to offer, you’re looking at an encore of what has made the Nissan Rogue one of the go-to options in the SUV segment. With a cabin that offers the availability of three-row seating (with the last set of accommodations intended exclusively for children, of course), and a reasonably high level of equipment options spread across several affordable trim levels, the Rogue is an unusually capacious choice in a class where five, not seven riders are the norm. Even two-row models go above and beyond when it comes to cargo storage thanks to a divider system intended to prevent messy boots and sports gear from slopping up your groceries and fine linens (and with the rear seats folded forward, total cargo room hovers near the top of its class).

Like its chief rivals from Honda (CR-V) and Toyota (RAV4), the Nissan Rogue is available with a single four-cylinder gas engine. The 2.5L unit produces 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, and is managed by a continuously variable automatic transmission. The end result is acceleration that’s modest when the SUV is loaded to the gills with people and gear, but still in keeping with what most people will need on a daily basis. That being said, if you want a zippier drive you’ll have to look to competitors like the Ford Escape or the Kia Sportage for turbocharged grunt, and if the eco thing is more your speed then it’s time to head to the Toyota showroom, as Nissan won’t be importing the US-bound Rogue Hybrid in order to do battle with the RAV4 Hybrid.

If you liked the Nissan Rogue before – and looking at its sales figures, chances are you did – then the 2017 model brings more of the same day-to-day utility and comfort with a touch more style. If you’re on the fence you likely won’t be swayed by the refresh, but the good news is that Canada’s intense craving for small SUVs means there’s no shortage of alternatives out there. Some might be quicker, while others are undoubtedly more luxurious – but the list of all-around performers like the Rogue is shorter than you’d think.

New face, same affordable practicality 10/7/2016 6:00:00 AM