In what was to become the last true model year of its first generation, the 2013 Rogue I sampled last year exhibited all-around competence but little in the way of passion. Now that it’s got a fresh new wrapper, it might finally pack the combination needed to woo buyers from some of the segment’s most popular entrants.
Tag - Nissan
Photos courtesy of Nissan
It’s hard to get worked up over a midsized sedan. Yes, I believe they make up the defining segment in the American automotive market, and from time to time I find one of them to be particularly satisfying to drive, but on the whole, they are just plain vanilla.
Nissan’s been making waves within the automotive press lately with two announcements – first, that it’s developing a sports car to go head-to-head with the likes of the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S, and second, that it’s slashing the sticker prices of 2014 370Z Coupes by up to $3 grand versus last year. The two statements seem to go hand in hand, considering the current 370Z’s been around since 2008 more or less unchanged. Dropping the price on the hardtop, which has seen some key new competitors come into the marketplace since then, will incentivize those buyers on the fence to make the move now. What remains to be seen is what, if any, effect that new sports car will have on the next Z car, or if perhaps a change in mission in fact means the next Z is that new BRZ/FR-S competitor.
As I write this, what appears to be a black-construction-paper-interpretation of an origami tadpole sits in my driveway. Nissan calls it a crossover, but I’m inclined to disagree. It might be a dystopian interpretation of the future of the car, but I’d still call it a car nonetheless. The Juke is deceiving. I first saw one in England when I was living there, and having only seen it in pictures up until that point, I was somewhat shocked when I saw it in the metal. It’s small, this thing. It looks big in pictures, but it hardly casts a bigger shadow than a Golf or Impreza hatchback. It gives the impression of being tall by virtue of how short and narrow it is; at 164 inches, it’s shorter than a VW GTI by two inches and narrower by a couple tenths. Being only 4 inches taller than the GTI, it’s clear the design is meant to play visual tricks on passers-by.
Nissan’s Rogue entered the small crossover fray in 2007, a year fraught with potential danger for the company’s new baby. The heads of the class, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, were still sporting fresh redesigns, the Toyota having received a much-lauded makeover in 2006 and the CR-V an aggressive restyling for the 2007 model year. And while Nissan had successfully dipped its toe in the compact SUV pond elsewhere in the world with the Qashqai/Dualis and X-Trail, the US represented uncharted waters. Indeed, Ford, Honda and Toyota had already done a pretty good job of exploiting Nissan’s absence, so the Rogue had its work cut out for it before it even landed in showrooms. It had to be a bit of a Rogue, but also a gentleman, in order to woo buyers. Luckily, it has pretty much succeeded on both counts. This Rogue has received good marks both in the press and with buyers for its melding of value and comfort, but also (for the segment) sorted driving dynamics. How does the Rogue, now in its sixth model year for this iteration, stand up to scrutiny in a tough segment?
Even with the minivan segment as lean as it currently is, there’s still room to be considered an outsider. Case in point: the Nissan Quest. Originally introduced via a joint venture with Ford (remember the Mercury Villager?) the first and second generation Quests split the deck in the minivan game, fitting nicely between the short wheelbase and long wheelbase variations of the Chrysler vans. With its third generation, Nissan pushed the Quest off the deep end. Sporting more than a touch of French design quirkiness, the Quest expanded in all directions, finally one-upping even the long wheelbase Chryslers in overall size.