2015 Nissan Rogue has unique features, attractive base price

Despite its name, there's nothing too rogue about Nissan's compact Rogue sport utility vehicle.

In fact, the five-door, 2015 Rogue is an easy runabout, with good people- and cargo-hauling capability and a not-too-big and not-too-small overall size.

Special features include a divide-n-hide cargo storage system that uses panels in the cargo floor to help contain items and keep them from sliding around during travel. There's also Nissan's innovative, Virtual 360-degree Around View camera system, which gives a driver a "from on high" view of how close tires are getting to the curb during parallel parking.

And, unlike some compact SUVs, the Rogue offers an optional third-row seat to allow for up to seven passengers inside. When not in use, the third-row seating folds flat into the cargo floor.

Best of all, the Rogue is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, which puts reliability at average.

The Rogue also is Nissan's lowest-priced SUV. Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $23,675 for a base, front-wheel drive, 2015 Rogue S with 170-horsepower, four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission (CVT). The lowest starting retail price for a 2015 Rogue with all-wheel drive is $25,025.

The Rogue's starting retail price isn't the lowest in the segment, however. The 2015 Kia Sportage starts at $22,795 with front-wheel drive, 182-horsepower four cylinder and six-speed automatic. Other competitors include the top seller in the compact SUV segment — the Honda CR-V — which has a starting retail price of $24,325 for a base, front-wheel drive, 2015 model with 185-horsepower four cylinder and CVT.

The second-best-selling compact SUV in the United States — the Ford Escape — has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $23,855 with front-wheel drive, 168-horsepower, naturally aspirated four cylinder and six-speed automatic. The Escape also is offered with turbocharged four-cylinder engines that offer up to 270 horsepower.

After a major redesign for the 2014 model year, the Rogue set record U.S. sales last year, topping 199,000. Indeed, sales grew so strongly — up 22 percent from the year earlier — that the Japan-based auto company started importing Rogues from South Korea to supplement the supply coming from its Tennessee factory.

For the most part, the exterior of the Rogue is unexceptional, and the test Rogue didn't draw the attention of passersby, blending with other like-sized SUVs on the road.

But the Rogue interior looks and feels more substantial than some competitors. The arrangement of gauges and controls on the dashboard is well thought out, reminiscent of other Nissans. Gauges are electroluminescent, so they have a rich, eye-catching appearance. An illuminated, 5-inch display screen is standard in the center stack of the dashboard to give drivers information about AM/FM radio as well as CD and auxiliary audio plus Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.

A rearview camera is standard on every Rogue. Other Rogue standard equipment: Keyless remote entry, audio controls on the steering wheel, power windows with retained accessory power, power door locks, cruise control, six air bags, traction control and electronic stability control.

The Rogue's 2.5-liter, double overhead cam four cylinder is adequate, particularly for city driving. But few would describe the Rogue's acceleration as fast or sporty. Indeed, in pedal-to-the-metal driving, the Rogue can feel slow to respond. Torque peaks at 175 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm, so there's no strong low-end "oomph," and 0-to-60-miles-an-hour has been estimated at a leisurely 9 seconds.

Plus, the engine in all Rogues is mated to Nissan's Xtronic CVT, which, despite improvements, still can make the Rogue drone at times during hard acceleration. A driver operates the CVT like an automatic, which is to say, he or she puts the Rogue in "Drive" and then doesn't have to fuss with a clutch pedal or the gearshifter. But CVTs typically don't have fixed gears of first, second, third, etc. Rather, there are stepless gear ratios that seek to optimize fuel economy while managing power.

Additionally, for 2015, Nissan added an "Eco" mode to the Rogue, which makes the accelerator pedal feel just a bit more resistant to foot pressure.

Still, the test, all-wheel drive Rogue averaged just 22.8 miles per gallon during travel mostly on city streets. By comparison, the federal government estimates 25 mpg for city driving and 32 mpg on the highway for a 2015 Rogue with all-wheel drive.

The tester had a resulting travel range of some 330 miles. With a 14.5-gallon fuel tank, the Rogue cost $30 to fill with regular gasoline.

At 3,600 pounds, the test Rogue felt neither lightweight nor ponderous.

Passengers noticed some body lean in turns and curves, and there was a tendency for understeer when the vehicle was pushed hard. The interior was quieter than that of some competitors, but road noise came through on rough pavement.

All passengers sit up a ways from the pavement and have decent views out, though metal pillars at the sides of the windshield can obscure views of pedestrians in crosswalks during turns.

Second-row rear seat cushions sits higher than those in the front, and doors open wide to ease entry and exit.

Maximum cargo space, with rear seats folded down, is 70 cubic feet, which compares with 68.1 cubic feet at the back of the Escape.

The Rogue's towing capacity of 1,100 pounds is less than that of many competitors.

A few 2015 Rogues were among 849 Nissan vehicles recalled in January because hub assembly bolts at the front wheels might not have been properly torqued, causing the possibility of a bolt loosening.

A loose or missing bolt could result in reduced braking power or steering control, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.