Nissan North America Inc. will play in the popular small cross/utility vehicle segment with the all-new Rogue, debuting at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The Rogue will be powered by the same 2.5L 4-cyl. engine as Nissan’s Altima midsize car, making 170 hp and 175 lb.-ft. (237 Nm) of torque in the Rogue.

As in the Altima, the engine will be mated to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. Unlike the Altima, however, there will be no manual-transmission option.

The Rogue is derived from the same global C-platform as the new European-market Qashqai small CUV.

“The interiors are essentially identical, the exteriors are completely different,” Thomas Lane, corporate vice president-product planning and strategy for Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., tells Ward's.

However, the wheelbase of the Qashqai, as well as its interior volume, is less than the Rogue to make it more maneuverable on European roads, Lane says.

“In the U.S. market, the priority was more for automatic-transmission drivability; size wasn’t an issue, so we put a 2.5L engine in and consequently the front end got a little bit bigger,” he says of the Rogue’s packaging.

The Qashqai’s biggest engine is a 2L.

Kelly Hamilton, Rogue marketing manager, says the vehicle will target men more than women, despite the small CUV segment largely being driven by female buyers.

Nissan calculates 20%-30% of its customers have gone outside the brand to purchase a small CUV because it did not offer one.

The Rogue, like Honda’s new CR-V, will not boast a third row or an optional V-6 engine. The Toyota RAV4 offers both features.

Like the CR-V and RAV4, the Rogue will offer an optional all-new all-wheel-drive system with yaw-moment control. Nissan expects 50% of buyers will opt for the $1,600 AWD system.

The Rogue uses an independent strut-type front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension configuration. Steering is electric power-assisted, Nissan says.

The Rogue’s wheels are a standard 16 ins., but 17-in. alloys are optional.

Also standard on the Rogue is an electronic stability control system and 4-wheel antilock disc brakes, as well as six airbags.

The Rogue’s interior has a driver-centric cockpit, Nissan says, as well as a variety of storage spaces including a dual-level center console, oversized glove box and detachable cargo organizer that limits the movement of items while the vehicle is in motion.

Optional features include paddle shifters; heated front seats and exterior mirrors; Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity; Intelligent Key entry; satellite radio; power sliding glass sunroof; Xenon headlights; leather seating and an MP3-ready Bose-developed 7-speaker audio system with an auxiliary jack.

Two trims, S and SL, will be offered on the Rogue, which goes on sale in September at U.S. Nissan dealers. The average transaction price should be in the low-$20,000 range, Nissan says.

The Rogue will be assembled at Nissan’s Kyushu, Japan, plant, the same site for a number of Nissan models, including the X-Trail and Almera.

Hamilton says plans originally called for production at one of Nissan’s two Mexican assembly plants, before Rogue output was moved to Japan two years ago.

Nissan plans to sell the Rogue in Canada, but Lane says he is uncertain whether the auto maker will continue to market the rugged X-Trail small CUV there, as well.

“The long-term plan for the X-Trail isn’t clear yet,” he says.

– with Herb Shuldiner

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com