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2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Road Test and Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
January 11, 2013
7 min. Reading Time

Nissan has a well-deserved reputation for building fun-to-drive entries in almost every major segment of the automotive market.  It's not easy to build crossovers and minivans that don't feel lackluster from behind the wheel, but the engineers at Nissan have time and again found a way to ingrain at least a hint of engagement into the majority of its products.  That being said, the 2013 Nissan Rogue is a compact crossover that is at a crossroads.  While competently packaged and certainly useful on a daily basis, the Rogue is a model that increasingly finds itself in the position of fending off much more modern SUVs without being able to employ the same set of tools as its recent rivals. 

This particular Nissan is on the cusp of a redesign, and as such, we set out to determine whether there exists any value in current crossover shoppers picking up what will surely be the last year of the current generation Rogue or instead whether it would be better to wait for the newer version of the crossover that is just around the corner.  For those who can't delay their purchase any longer, we also went into this road test with an eye towards comparing how the Rogue fares against competitors like the Ford Escape, the Subaru XV Crosstrek, and the Mazda CX-5.

2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Models and Prices

The 2013 Nissan Rogue is positioned as an affordable option for those in the market for a compact family vehicle, and its entry-level S trim's MSRP of $22,610 reflects this philosophy.  The vehicle is also available in a more expensive, and better equipped SV edition, which stickers for an MSRP of $25,050.

The vehicle that we had parked in our driveway for a week was a 2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD, which came with available all-wheel drive and a single options package.  Base equipment for our Rogue S included amenities such as cruise control, a CD player, a trip computer, power windows and door locks, and air conditioning, while the Special Edition package added 16-inch alloy wheels in place of the stock steelies, a moonroof, keyless entry and ignition, different interior lighting, and fog lights.  As our vehicle was a Canadian-market car, the Special Edition package did not include the 4.3-inch LCD screen for the stereo system found in America., and Bluetooth connectivity and parking sonar were installed free of charge.  The total MSRP of our Rogue came out to $25,110.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Design

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Nissan Rogue is unchanged from the 2012 model.

The 2013 Nissan Rogue looks a lot like a baby Murano, the popular mid-size crossover that slots in above the compact Nissan in the company's lineup.  The resemblance is particularly prominent when the Rogue is viewed from the front, as its grille and headlight arrangement are unmistakably cut from the same cloth as its larger sibling.  The smaller platform does the Rogue well, however, as it avoids some of the awkwardness inherent in the Murano's design, especially from the side and three-quarter angles.

The Nissan Rogue is no styling standout - its inoffensive looks allow it to blend in a little too well when surrounded by traffic.  There's nothing individual about the Rogue that grabs you by the throat viewing it for the first time, but in a segment where crossover design seems polarized between generic, universal styling cues and look-at-me body work, this will certainly appeal to buyers who are interested more in what the SUV can do for them on a daily basis than in how fashionable it makes them feel.

The passenger compartment of the Nissan Rogue is arranged in a simple, straightforward fashion, with our S model featuring cloth seats with manual adjustments and a general lack of adornment on the dash and door panels.  Compact crossovers haven't been hit by the same wave of extreme individuality that is slowly taking over the small car segment, and moving from a 2013 model year hatchback into an SUV like the Rogue is almost jarring.  The general sense inside the Rogue is one of function over form, and the basic nature of the SUV's interior almost feels old-fashioned in this respect. 


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Comfort and Cargo

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Nissan Rogue is unchanged from the 2012 model.

The 2013 Nissan Rogue does an excellent job of carving out enough space for front seat passengers to feel comfortable on longer trips, and the position of each bucket is high enough that the view of the road ahead is relatively commanding.  Unfortunately, when it comes to seeing out the back of the Rogue the situation isn't quite clear, with a tight rear window and no real visibility out the side quarter windows making reversing into a parking spot an educated guess at night or in the rain.  Parking sonar is present and accounted for take some of the edge off but once the sensors become covered with road grime they aren't much use, which can lead to unintended close encounters with garage posts and curbs.

Riding in the second seat of the Nissan Rogue is a pleasant enough experience - certainly not cramped - but the bench doesn't come with the same fore and aft sliding or reclining features that are starting to proliferate across the compact crossovers built by other brands.  Cargo space is good (we were unable to purchase enough groceries in a single trip to overload the area between the hatch and the rear seatback), and folding down the seats provides nearly 60 cubic feet of total space.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Features and Controls

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Nissan Rogue is unchanged from the 2012 model.

The basic nature of the 2013 Nissan Rogue’s interior extends to the vehicle’s controls.  Our S model was without automatic climate control, offering a set of knobs present on the center stack to control temperature and blower speed and a few buttons nestled within them to operate the front and rear defrost systems.  Strangely, setting the heater to only blow on our feet kept the front defroster functional, and in fact we were unable to ever completely shut off the upper vents during our time with the crossover.

While we were fine with the easy to use climate controls, we weren’t nearly as enamored with the extremely basic stereo system that came with our entry-level Rogue.  Outfitted with a CD player and an AUX line-in, the cramped lines of text displayed by the head unit were difficult to read and looked anachronistic in a 2013 model.  We were also completely incapable of figuring out how to link our phones to the car via Bluetooth, which is unusual given Nissan’s high level of user interface design in other automobiles.

Finally, while the gauge pod found directly in front of the driver was legible and clean, we were a bit disappointed with having to reach underneath the dash - to the left of the steering wheel - to access the buttons that disabled stability control and locked the all-wheel drive system.  Especially concerning the latter, these features should be located on the center console where they would fall easily to hand instead of forcing us to crouch forward while driving.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Safety and Ratings

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Nissan Rogue is unchanged from the 2012 model.

The 2013 Nissan Rogue is outfitted with a full complement of airbags, including dual forward units, side impact airbags mounted to the front seats, and side curtain airbags that extend along the entire passenger compartment.  Electronic stability control is also standard with the Rogue, as is traction control.

2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Crash-Test Ratings:  The Nissan Rogue scored a four star rating in federal testing for front impacts and five stars in side impacts, and posted an overall score of four out of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has rated the Rogue 'Good' in frontal overlap and side impact testing, and 'Average' in roof strength testing.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

What’s New:

  • The 2013 Nissan Rogue is unchanged from the 2012 model.

All versions of the 2013 Nissan Rogue come with the same 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine.  Tuned to provide 170 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque, this unit is yoked to a continuously-automatic transmission.  Front-wheel drive is standard with the Rogue, while all-wheel drive can be added as an option.  Official fuel economy for the all-wheel drive model that we drove is listed at 22-mpg in city driving and 27-mpg on the highway, but we weren't able to do better than 15-mpg in snowy, city driving over the course of a week.  Given that a lot of the time we piloted the Rogue with the all-wheel drive system 'locked,' the lower figure makes sense.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Driving Impressions

We kicked off this review with a mention of how Nissan is able to consistently imbue its automobiles with at least a little spirit, especially when it comes to handling.  The 2013 Nissan Rogue certainly drives smaller than it actually is, allowing pilots to pivot the crossover through turns without feeling overly bulky.  It would be a stretch to call the crossover athletic, but it's not devoid of life in the way that other affordable suvs can occasionally seem.

Power from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is adequate, and while acceleration in the upper rev range of the motor tends to peter out, off of the line and around town the Rogue feels reasonably peppy.  There are some who dislike the way continuously-variable transmissions peg engine speeds at a fixed rpm instead of regularly shifting gears like a traditional automatic, but aside from occasionally buzzing from under the hood when one's foot is pushed to the floor the unit in the Rogue gave us no reason to complain.  Nissan is adept at producing CVT boxes that mesh seamlessly into the driving profile of a particular model, and although the Rogue's might not have been as smooth as it could have been (and also featured a 'Sport' button that had no perceptible change in performance), it certainly worked as well as a standard six-speed automatic would have under similar circumstances.

The all-wheel drive system found in the Nissan Rogue works on the principle of only diverting power away from the front wheels once slippage has been detected, and in the soupy, snowy mess that was Montreal's clean-up from a recent record snowfall we were able to put it to the test time and again.  When left in normal operation the Rogue's forward momentum was admirable but at times unruly, which had us dealing with a bit of tail-sliding around corners and steering tug under throttle.  In deeper snow, or when starting on an incline, we reached under the dash to push the AWD Lock button, which distributes engine torque more equally front and rear and which was quite useful at keeping us from getting stuck. 

We were a bit confused, however, by the unpredictability with which the AWD Lock indicator light would shut off during normal driving.  It didn't seem to be related to vehicle speed or the slipperiness of the conditions we were piloting the crossover through - at times the Lock feature would disappear and the Rogue's AWD system would slip back into normal operation.  While there certainly must be a formula at work there, it was opaque to us during our week with the Rogue.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Final Thoughts

The 2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD occupies a very competitive niche in the family transportation ecosystem.  Time has marched inexorably forward in the compact crossover segment, which means that challengers like the Escape have brought exotic turbocharged engines to the table, while others such as the Mazda CX-5 and Subaru XV Crosstrek have staked out strong handling and unmistakably styling, respectively. 

The Rogue is certainly well suited to its role as a small, people-moving runabout, with great cargo space and usable passenger room, and for those who can look past its plain appearance inside and out and its lack of 'wow' factor in terms of available equipment, it is worth a test drive as one of the more affordable vehicles in its class.  With a new model on the horizon, however - one that promises to be more fuel efficient, and which will be loaded with technologies simply not offered in the current Rogue - it would certainly behoove patient buyers to wait and see what the next-generation Nissan compact crossover brings to the table.


2013 Nissan Rogue S AWD Review: Pros and Cons


  • Low cost of entry
  • Roomy interior
  • Good amount of power, livable CVT
  • Better than average handling
  • All-wheel drive traction


  • Semi-anonymous styling
  • A bit thirsty at the fuel pump with all four wheels churning
  • Plain interior and lackluster stereo system in base model
  • Next-generation model just around the corner

Nissan Canada supplied the vehicle for this review



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