NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The automotive industry is like a vast ocean of really big numbers, consisting of companies selling 10 million cars per year and booking over $150 billion in revenue. Under the surface of this giant market we find glitzy halo cars that sell very little -- but garner almost all attention -- as well as unsung heroes that both sell in large volume and are growing sales at huge rates.
In the U.S. auto market today, there are few better examples of one of these unsung heroes than the Nissan Rogue.
Contrary to Tesla (TSLA), which consumes CNBC's coverage 12 hours per day, you may be forgiven if you never even heard the name Nissan Rogue.
The Rogue is Nissan's second-best selling model in the U.S., just after the Altima, and it's made right here, too, in Tennessee. In 2014, U.S. sales were 199,199, up a whopping 22.4% over 2013. So far in 2015, sales are 65,514, up an even more impressive 32% over 2014.
To put things in perspective, the U.S. auto market grew 6% in 2014, with a similar number expected for 2015. Meaning, the Nissan Rogue out-grows the U.S. auto market to the tune of four-to-five times. In Wall Street parlance, it's a growth stock, sort of like Netflix (NFLX).
The small SUV market leader is the Honda CR-V. It sold 335,019 units in the U.S. in 2014 and 102,579 so far this year. Those numbers were up 10.2% and 6.7%, respectively. In other words, the Nissan Rogue is gaining -- and at a fast clip.
The comparison with the Honda CR-V is apt from another perspective as well. The cars are a spitting image of each other, styling-wise. They look just about the same. Nobody will notice either of them, either because they are bland, too common, (or, perhaps, so poorly kept -- unwashed -- by their owners).
The Nissan Rogue starts around $24,000 but my fully loaded test car topped $32,000, typical for its class. There aren't any engine or transmission choices, so you just have to pick 4x2 or 4x4, and the equipment level.
As is typical for its class, the first thing you will notice about the car is how "right-sized" and easy to use the body is. It's not too big, and not too small. You fit five large adults and a decent amount of luggage. Thanks to the car's high hip point, it's easy to get in and out. The door openings are generous.
If you had asked me only five months ago, in late 2014, I would have said that the interior is the richest in its class, with soft-touch materials galore. However, the goal posts have shifted, and I now declare the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500x the standard bearers in terms of refinement.
Just because the Nissan Rogue isn't as rich or visually appealing as those models, however, doesn't mean that it has poor ergonomics. To the contrary: strictly speaking, in terms of the ergonomics, it's equal to the best. There is nothing confusing or annoying; zero friction points.