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A FINE FRIEND: 2015 Nissan Rogue packs a lot to like in a compact package

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In case you haven’t noticed – and if you haven’t, you’ve not been paying attention – the compact crossover utility segment is on fire.

You can’t drive two blocks without seeing a Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5, any other number of other competitors’ offerings.

Drivers have taken to the smaller utes for many reasons. Their maneuverable size makes them handy in crowded urban environments. The tall seating position provides a confidence-building view over traffic. Convenient access to generally generous and easily reconfigurable cargo space provides plenty of room for those trips to Costco or Home Depot – or a pile of outdoor activity gear.

Another big plus is the lack of truckiness from these sedan-based conveyances. They do drive much like the cars upon which they’re based, meaning for the most part they handle, steer, brake and ride comfortably and safely.

And then there’s the ever-increasing fuel economy these mini-SUVs are delivering. Our tester the week, a 2015 Nissan Rogue, is rated at 25 mpg in the city with a thrifty 32 mpg on the highway.

The Rogue is entering its second year since a major overhaul with scant changes. Stylewise, the Rouge presents an bold juxtaposition of svelte curves and edgy angles. It’s a handsome piece, its aggressive stance reflecting Nissan’s current design esthetic.

The attractive cabin delivers a pointed statement about the advances the new Rogue has made over the earlier version. There’s a near-luxury feel inside, pushed by plush seating, classy materials and exemplary fit and finish.

A SV Premium Package, a bargain at $1,590, brings navigation and upgraded audio; a 360-degree vehicle surround monitor; power liftgate; heated front seats and side mirrors; and additional safety nannies including blind-spot and lane-departure warnings.

rogueinteriorThe suspension tuning tilts more toward comfort than athleticism, delivering a rather bland – but secure – driving experience. And the only engine offered is somewhat short on power, particularly with a full load on board.

As a family transport, the Rogue is exceptionally quiet on the open road, and it lopes along smoothly and compliantly on all but the most ragged road surfaces.

Ultimately, it’s less of a rogue, and more like a dependable friend.