2018 Nissan Rogue Review: Slick Self-Driving Compact SUV

The 2018 Nissan Rogue is one of the more desirable mainstream compact SUVs with a roomy interior, comfortable front seats, useful storage features, solid safety offerings, and excellent crash test results. Add the ProPilot Assist option to the high-end Rogue SL and you’ve got a car that more or less drives itself on interstates. Just understand that you have to keep your hands lightly on the wheel and pay attention along with the car.

The Rogue does not aspire to be a sporty SUV or a 0-60 champ. Nor does it have the smoothest ride on rough roads and the engine gets noisy if you push hard on the throttle. The infotainment system got a 2018 upgrade but not a bigger screen. While safety offerings are good, you need to buy the highest trim line to get everything.

This is the second-generation Rogue, which dates to the 2014 model year, with a 2017 refresh. (The 2019 Rogue will be essentially the same as the 2018 model I tested.)  The Rogue no longer offers the third-row seat, which proffered false hope in a vehicle 184.5 inches long.

Front seat passengers are coddled in Nissan’s zero-gravity (their term) seats. It’s not bad in back and passengers sit up high with good legroom, if not best-in-class. Cargo capacity is very good (for a compact) and helped by Nissan’s load-floor covers that can be placed at different heights.

The ride is decent for a car with a short wheelbase (this applies to all compact SUVs) except on rougher roads. Similarly, Nissan’s 170-hp four-cylinder engine (no turbo) is pleasant unless ridden hard, at which point it sounds strained. The CVT (continuously variable transmission) is pretty well tamed; no one is putting more effort into CVTs than Nissan. It takes just under 10 seconds to reach 60 mph, on the slower end for small SUVs. In almost 2,000 miles of mostly highway driving, I averaged 32 mpg (regular fuel) for my all-wheel-drive Rogue, which is rated at 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, 27 mpg combined. The front-driver is rated 29 mpg combined and the hybrids are rated at 33 mpg combined (AWD) and 34 mpg combined (front-drive).

ProPilot Assist functions are shown in the instrument panel: The blue icon means PPA is active. The green steering wheel means steering assist is active. The converging vertical green lines mean the camera sees both left and right pavement markers. And the car icon shows adaptive cruise control has locked onto the vehicle in front, as it’s pacing the front-runner’s speed.

ProPilot Assist: Unmatched in a $30K Vehicle

ProPilot Assist (blue), speed, and following distance controls.

ProPilot Assist is Nissan’s Level 2 autonomous driving technology, Level 2 meaning two or more systems working together. In Nissan’s case, it’s lane centering assist (keeps the car in the middle of the lane) and adaptive cruise control (maintains a set speed and follow the car in front).

To activate ProPilot Assist, you need lane centering assist turned on (one of the many buttons by the driver’s left knee). On the right of the steering wheel, enable ProPilot Assist by pressing the blue button. Get to your desired speed, at least 20 mph, and press the speed Set or Resume button. The car checks its sensors, following distance, and wiper setting (off or intermittent). It waits for all systems to lock on (instantaneously to as much as five seconds), the gray steering wheel in the instrument panel goes green, and then your Rogue is driving you. Just keep your hands lightly on the wheel. Take them off for 5-10 seconds and the car warns you, then warns again and goes to standby.

ProPilot Assist takes the hassle out of long, boring stretches of interstate highway. Also, slow moving traffic. PPA drove straight and true in our tests on more than 1,000 miles of interstate, tracking perfectly through curves. Only on some twisty sections of West Virginia Interstate was ProPilot Assist unable to stay centered and it disengages as it alerts the driver to take over. Unlike an earlier version of ProPilot Assist I drove in the Nissan Leaf, the car no longer favors the right-side lane markings that take you onto exit ramps. ProPilot Assist is well-behaved, the driver remains in control, and it does ease the monotony of long-distance driving.

In comparison, Cadillac’s Super Cruise is a superior autonomous Level 2 system, but it’s a $5,000 option or requires the $85,000 version of the CT-6. Super Cruise lets you drive hands off, but an eye tracker scolds if your gaze wanders for more than 5-10 seconds.

What if you don’t like ProPilot Assist? If you’re not a fan, do this: Don’t press the blue button.

The “around view monitor” gives a 360-degree view from (seemingly) overhead. It stitches the output from four cameras and also alerts you to movement near the car (children, pets). Nissan is a pioneer in surround cameras.

Technology, Safety, Infotainment

All three trim lines — S, SV, SL — have blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert plus forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking.  The Rogue S for 2018 also gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and adds a second USB jack, as do the higher trim lines.

The midrange SV premium package has adaptive cruise control (stop and go), Nissan’s excellent surround view monitor (“intelligent around view monitor), navigation, voice recognition for navigation and audio, and a SiriusXM Travel and Travel Link data feed.

The SL has standard adaptive cruise control, navigation, and pedestrian detection as part of automatic emergency braking. The SL premium package combines LED headlamps with a huge moonroof. It’s required in order to get the platinum package with ProPilot Assist, electronic parking brake, and 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 55-series tires, which is borderline safe for people in pothole country.

The Rogue Pilot has nicely sculpted lines. They do a lot for looks, but not much for rear vision. This Rogue has the signature Monarch Orange paint ($395).

The Nissan Rogue Trim Lines

The Nissan Rogue comes in three variants: S, SV, and SL. Prices range from $24,800 (including the $975 freight charge) for the front-drive Rogue S with no options to $36,760 for the all-wheel-drive Rogue SL with the signature Monarch Orange paint job and all three options packages. All-wheel-drive is a $1,350 cost-adder on all three trim lines. A hybrid drivetrain adds $1,000 to the SV, $1,200 to the SL. A Midnight Edition with just about everything blacked out adds $1,095.

The S value package provides 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, roof rails, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering and shifter.

The SV gets a motion-activated liftgate in 2018. The Premium Package is $2,870. A sun-and-sound Touring Package is $3,220 with Bose premium audio, navigation, traffic and travel, the around view monitor, ACC, moonroof, healer leather steering wheel, and memory for driver’s seat and mirrors.

The SL integrates navigation, stop-and-go cruise control, and leather seats. The SL  premium package of moonroof and LED headlamps is $1,820; the platinum package of ProPilot Assist, electronic parking brake, and 18-inch alloys is $790 and requires the premium package. A platinum reserve package brings quilted leather inserts for $250.

Infotainment is controlled by a 7-inch touch screen. Others in the compact class have 8-inch displays and 2019 small SUV intros may bring a 10-incher.

Infotainment System Shows Its Age

The Rogue sometimes comes off as a crossover that’s better than the sum of its pieces. There are a half-dozen minor dissatisfiers. The infotainment screen is small at 7 inches diagonal, the buttons flanking the screen are smaller than most fingers, and there’s just one USB jack, one 12-volt socket, and an aux-in jack at the base of the center stack. Passengers in the second row must share a 12-volt socket in the cargo bay. There is, however, legacy entertainment in the form of a CD player.

The Nissan Rogue led all compact SUVs with 195,689 sales in the first half of 2018, up 31 percent. Only Mitsubishi Outlander did better, up 34 percent. Nissan includes sales of its smaller, similarly named subcompact SUV, Rogue Sport. If Honda did that with H-RV and Toyota with C-HR, they’d be at 233,884 and 211,005 sales. (Source: GoodCarBadCar.com)

Should You Buy?

Rogue sales (2018 projected based on 2017)

The second generation Rogue is aging well in the years before the third generation arrives in 2020. Most of the key competition is newer. The fifth-generation Honda CR-V was new as of the 2017 model year. The third-generation Chevrolet Equinox is new this year. The fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 ships later this year. The fifth-generation Ford Escape is due in North America next year.

Even against newer competition, Rogue holds its own on crash safety and basic safety features. It rides reasonably well. The $1,000-$1,200 hybrid upcharge is fair. Last year there was a Star Wars special edition; this year there’s a Midnight Black Edition, $1,095 extra. Honda and Toyota beat Nissan with safety suites on their comparable SUVs. Having a named safety package such as Honda Sensing or Toyota Safety Sense gives the customer something to ask for. But Nissan has blind spot detection standard across the Rogue lines, where the named Honda and Toyota packages lack BSD except as an extra-cost option on some trim levels.

For most buyers, the Rogue SV makes the most sense. If you appreciate technology, we suggest you look to the top-line Rogue SL with the options packages that give you ProPilot Assist, and a price in the mid-thirties if you choose all-wheel-drive. ProPilot Assist eases the boredom and occasional safety concerns of long-distance highway driving as well as daily commuting on limited access roads. For now, among mainstream vehicles, Nissan Rogue is in a class of one when it comes to assisted driving among affordable small SUVs.

Now read: 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review: Solid, Roomy Performer Gets 30+ MPG, 2017 Honda CR-V improves comfort, adds volume knob, loses LaneWatch, and 2017 Mazda CX-5 first drive review: Will more tech, quieter cockpit match Audi, BMW?