2012 Nissan Rogue Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 18, 2011

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2012 Nissan Rogue Buying Advice

The 2012 Nissan Rogue is the best compact SUV for you if you’re comfortable on the conservative side of the crossover aisle.

The 2012 Nissan Rogue gets some new features – including a 360° exterior-view monitor – but is otherwise a virtual rerun of the 2011 Nissan Rogue. The 2012 Rogue marks the final edition of a compact-crossover design that debuted in model-year 2008. Waiting in the wings is an all-new 2013 Nissan Rogue that’ll be built in the U.S. rather than in Japan. Still, based on above-average ride and handling, solid build quality, and good fuel economy the 2012 Rogue should finish its run as a relatively strong seller.

Should you buy a 2012 Nissan Rogue or wait for the 2013 Rogue? Buy a 2012 Nissan Rogue if you’re smitten by a plain-but-pleasant five-passenger crossover that still has some appealing qualities. It’s competitively priced and great deals should be available as Nissan clears inventories to make way for the redesigned 2013 Rogue. Wait for the 2013 Rogue if you want to take advantage of Nissan’s latest thinking about compact crossover SUVs. The second-generation Rogue will have styling that’ll look fresh well into the future, new features, and most likely better fuel economy. And with production moving from Japan to the U.S., it’s possible the 2013 Rogue won’t cost much more than the model it replaces.

2012 Nissan Rogue Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Nissan Rogue styling carries over the look of the 2011 Rogue. It reprises the new grille and front fascia and other styling tweaks Nissan bestowed upon the 2011 Rogue as part of a midcycle freshening. The 2012 Rogue also retains the basic shape and dimensions this crossover debuted with in model-year 2008.

The Rogue is among the longest of the model-year 2012 crop of compact crossover SUVs, though front-seat roominess is the only area in which it feels notably spacious. Rear-seat passenger room is merely average and maximum cargo volume -- 57.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded -- is slightly below par. The redesigned 2013 Rogue would benefit from a longer wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles – as a way to stretch rear-seat leg room.

With introduction of the smaller Nissan Juke in model-year 2011, the 2012 Rogue again occupies the middle of a Nissan crossover roster topped by the midsize 2012 Murano. All three seat five passengers and qualify as crossovers because they’re based not on truck-like body-on-frame SUV designs but on lighter, car-type engineering that integrates body and frame into a single structure. In Rogue’s case, that would be an adaptation of the Nissan Sentra compact car but with a taller wagon body, elevated ride height, and available all-wheel drive (AWD).

The 2012 Nissan Rogue returns base S and SV models but discontinues the top-line Kröm model. A new addition to the list of optional trim groups is the Special Edition package for the S model; it includes fog lamps, rear privacy glass, and new 16-inch alloy wheels, among other items (see “Features” below). The Rouge SV model retains standard 17-inch alloy wheels but they’re of a new design for model-year 2012. And Graphite Blue is a newly available exterior color.

Mechanical: The 2012 Nissan Rogue gains a Sport Mode designed to enhance acceleration but otherwise is mechanically unchanged. It returns with one engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the punch that gets a vehicle moving, horsepower as the energy that keeps it moving).

Nissan leads the industry in use of continuously variable transmissions and the 2012 Rogue returns with a CVT standard on all models. A CVT performs the duties of an automatic transmission but with a rheostat-like delivery of power instead of stepping up and down through five or so fixed gear ratios. CVTs are designed to more efficiently match engine output to the conflicting demands of acceleration and fuel economy.

Rogue’s new-for-2012 Sport Mode provides the driver with a switch that allows the CVT to maintain a higher engine rpm to improve throttle response at all speeds. During deceleration, Sport Mode maintains a more constant engine speed. The effect is similar to downshifting a manual transmission and the result is quicker re-acceleration.

Overall, the 2012 Rogue gets up to speed as rapidly as any four-cylinder crossover in its competitive set and the CVT helps pass and merge more quickly from midrange speeds than most competitors. Engaging Sport Mode improves throttle response slightly but does little to erase a common trait of vehicles with CVTs: a buzzing disconnect between forward momentum and engine speed. The blame rests with a CVT’s tendency to allow the engine to rev to its most efficient rpm and stay there until vehicle speed catches up; then things quiet down. No such complaints regarding ride and handling: the 2012 Rogue counts among its assets a suspension adept at cushioning bumps and encouraging enthusiastic cornering.

Every 2012 Rogue is again based on a front-wheel-drive configuration. Front-wheel drive places the weight of the engine over the tires that propel the vehicle to the benefit of traction on slippery surfaces.

Like virtually all compact crossovers, the 2012 Rogue isn’t designed for severe off-road duty but it is available with AWD for added grip in messy on-road conditions. As in most compact crossovers, Rogue’s AWD system normally operates in front-drive but automatically transfers power rearward if the front tires slip. Unlike some, however, the driver can also lock in a 50/50 front-rear torque split to enhance traction at low speeds. Maximum towing capacity remains at 1,500 pounds, about par for a four-cylinder compact crossover.

Nissan equips the 2012 Rogue with the usual array of standard safety features, including traction control to reduce tire slip off the line and an antiskid system to reduce chances of sideways slides. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes for better control in emergency stops also continue as standard. The Rogue S has 16-inch steel wheels, with 16-inch alloys optional. The SV comes with 17-inch alloys and offers 18-inch alloys as an option.

Features: The 2012 Nissan Rogue’s most significant new feature is the Around View Monitor. It employs four small superwide-angle cameras mounted on the front, sides and rear of the body. They provide a virtual 360° view, helping the driver maneuver in tight spots and see otherwise hard-to-spot objects. Nissan says the 2012 Rogue is the first non-luxury vehicle in the U.S. to offer this sort of system. Around View is exclusive to the 2012 Rogue SV model as part of the SL Package option.

In addition to the items listed earlier, the Special Edition option package that’s new for the entry-level 2012 Rogue S model includes steering wheel audio controls, rearview monitor, 4.3-inch audio display, a USB iPod interface, and satellite radio.

The Special Edition package finally makes USB connectivity available on the Rogue S model (it’s been standard on the SV), but Nissan continues to shut out the S model from two other popular connectivity features. One is Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone linking, which is exclusive to the SV model, where it’s standard. The other is a navigation system, which remains an option only on the SV as part of the Premium and SL Packages.

Otherwise, the 2012 Rogue continues with a fairly comprehensive list of standard and optional features. Among the former are cruise control, tilt steering wheel, air conditioning and power windows and locks, rear heater ducts, and a manual driver-seat height adjuster.

Nissan keeps options ordering simple. The Special Edition package is exclusive to the S model. The SV is available with two extra-cost equipment groups. The Premium Package includes the navigation system, power moonroof, automatic on/off headlamps, and automatic climate control. The SL Package includes all that, plus leather upholstery, heated front seats and outside mirrors, the Around View Monitor, xenon headlamps, fog lamps, and the 18-inch alloy wheels.

S models come with a four-speaker audio system. The SV has steering-wheel controls as standard and a six-speaker audio system. A Bose-brand premium setup with a subwoofer is part of the SV model’s SL Package.

All 2012 Rogues have an instrument-panel display that shows miles per gallon, distance to empty, average speed, and the outside temperature. All 2012 Rouges also come with keyless remote entry but keyless pushbutton ignition is exclusive to the SV, where it’s standard.

As for Rogue’s navigation system, it lacks such features as voice recognition and uses a smallish 5-inch dashboard touch screen, so it isn’t as sophisticated as that in some rivals – or in some other Nissans.

The 2012 Rogue continues to augment its cargo utility with a huge glovebox, big center-console bins, and a washable, removable tray beneath the rear load floor. Also available is a neat cargo-bay organizer that pops from the load floor at the touch of a button and a front-passenger seatback that folds forward to create an 8.5-foot cargo channel inside the vehicle. Standard safety features again include head-protecting curtain side airbags designed to deploy both in side collisions and when sensors detect an impending rollover.

2012 Nissan Rogue Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2012 Nissan Rogue is $22,340-$26,030. That’s a small increase over 2011-model-year prices and keeps Rogue competitive against other four-cylinder compact crossovers. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2012 Rogue is $810.)

The 2012 Nissan Rogue S model starts at $22,340 with front-wheel drive and $23,590 with AWD. Considering its range of added amenities, the S model’s Special Edition Package is a good value at $1,200.

Starting price for the 2012 Rogue SV is $24,780 with front-wheel drive and $26,030 with AWD. The Premium Package costs $1,700, which is also worth it considering its added features. At $3,900, the SL Package tacks on another $2,220 and is a good value only if you think a dull-looking near-$30,000 four-cylinder compact crossover in the final year of its design makes sense.  

2012 Nissan Rogue Fuel Economy back to top

The 2012 Nissan Rogue’s fuel-economy ratings are unchanged from those of the 2011 model. It remains among the more fuel-efficient compact crossover SUVs thanks in part to the CVT’s ability to balance gas mileage and engine speed.

Fuel-economy ratings the 2012 Nissan Rogue are 22/28 mpg city/highway and 25 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 22/26 city/highway, 24 mpg combined with AWD.

2012 Nissan Rogue Release Date back to top

The 2012 Nissan Rogue went on sale in September 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Nissan Rogue back to top

SUV buyers over the past few years shifted in large numbers from traditional body-on-frame models to more driver-friendly crossovers. The trend now is to less costly and even more fuel-efficient compact crossovers. Rogue has benefitted with steadily climbing sales, hovering around No. 4 in a field of 16 or so vehicles in its competitive set. It’s Nissan’s most popular SUV of any kind and one of its best-selling vehicles.

Future Rogues could relinquish some sales momentum to Nissan’s smaller, youth-oriented Juke. And a revamped 2013 Nissan Murano could rekindle interest in the automaker’s larger, more expensive crossover. But the 2013 Rogue will face its most immediate threat from an onslaught of redesigned compact crossovers. It’s led by the all-new 2012 Honda CR-V and will be fortified by the redesigned 2013 Ford Escape and re-engineered 2013 Toyota RAV4. That gives Nissan plenty of targets as it develops the second-generation Rogue.

Don’t look for the all-new 2013 Rogue to stray from its four-cylinder/CVT formula. A gas-electric hybrid version is possible, though Nissan is focused more on pure electric vehicles (EVs). This is led by the Nissan Leaf compact car. EV versions of existing Nissan models may follow. The next-generation Rogue could be among them. Don’t expect the 2013 Rogue to grow much larger than today’s model, but it will likely be more space efficient and almost certainly will have higher gas mileage.

2012 Nissan Rogue Competition back to top

Honda CR-V: The 2012 Rogue and every other SUV in this class will find itself competing with an all-new 2012 CR-V. Honda would like nothing more than to reclaim the No. 1 compact-crossover sales spot with a redesigned CR-V that promises greater refinement, more features, and improved fuel economy. Honda build quality, reliability, and resale value will continue to attract buyers. But this fourth-generation CR-V also gets livelier styling and better performance. Complete details were unavailable in time for this review, but expect a repeat of a four-cylinder engine, now with around 200 horsepower, up from 180. There won’t be a V-6, but a gas-electric hybrid is a strong possibility. A choice of front- or all-wheel drive will remain. A switch to a six-speed automatic transmission from a five-speed would modernize the powertrain.

Toyota RAV4: The vehicle that pioneered the compact crossover class in 1996 is still one season away from a model-year 2013 redesign but the 2012 RAV4 merits inclusion on your shopping list. Four-cylinder versions are the RAV4’s closest Rouge rivals. They start around $23,700 with front-wheel drive and $25,000 with AWD. But this Toyota also is among the few in the class to also offer a V-6; it starts around $26,000 with front-drive and $27,200 with AWD. The RAV4 is just large enough to accommodate a small third-row seat, making it the only model in this group to offer seven-passenger capacity. The redesigned 2013 RAV4 will have swoopier styling and probably drop the V-6 in favor of an all-four-cylinder lineup. It’ll likely feature a gas-electric hybrid version and eventually an EV model. But the lame-duck 2012 RAV4 is still among the class leaders for solid comfort and pleasing road manners.

Subaru Forester: Perhaps the most sensible overall choice in popularly priced compact crossover is this remarkably roomy five-seater that looks more like a tall station wagon than an SUV. Don’t be fooled: the Forester actually has more passenger and cargo room than a Rogue – more in fact than any crossover near this size. A relatively low center of gravity makes for above-average handling. And every Forester comes standard with a highly capable AWD system. All Foresters use a four-cylinder engine; 2.5X models have 170 horsepower, turbocharged 2.5XT versions have 224. The 2.5X models start around $22,000 with one of the few manual transmissions available in this class; they’re priced from around $23,000 with a four-speed automatic. The 2.5XT versions come with the automatic and start around $28,000.

UPDATED LARRY E. HALL