2020 Nissan Rogue Sport — A sound crossover value

By Russ Heaps
Clanging Bell

(July 14, 2020) If your top criteria for shopping crossovers are mileage and cargo space, the Nissan Rogue Sport follows the Goldilocks principle of being just right. Slotted between the pipsqueak Kicks and popular compact Rogue, the Rogue Sport packs a lot of space into its tidy, stylish wrapper. Despite its affordable price, every Rogue Sport arrives with a full suite of safety/driver-assist features and above-average connectivity technology.

It's not all unicorns and lollipops. The engine is on the noisy side and, as with most in its class, rear-seat legroom is a bit stingy. Moreover, inserting “Sport” into its nameplate is a little misleading. Sporty it isn't. Yet, what it is is a competent smaller crossover providing a healthy degree of utility and solid fuel economy.

Nissan offers three Rogue Sport flavors available with front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Anchoring the lineup is the entry-level S at $24,525, including the $1,095 factory destination charge. Next up is the $25,995 SV. Topping the list is the SL at $29,695. Adding AWD tacks another $1,350 to the bottom line. My test 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport was an SL FWD.

Competition within the smaller crossover segments is becoming a real cage match. As each carmaker strives to further subdivide the CUV pie, there is no room for just good enough. Even in design, there is no place for mediocre. Losing no points in the styling category, Rogue Sport is about as handsome as you can make a two-box exterior. Included in the exterior color palette are such fun colors as Nitro Lime Metallic and Monarch Orange Metallic. Curb appeal? Rogue Sport has plenty. Simply put, it' looks more pricey than it is.

This holds true as you move behind the wheel. There is nothing quirky or over the top about the cabin. It's a clean, inviting design without a lot of dashboard clutter. The 60/40 split rear seat folds down to create more than 61 cu. ft. of maximum cargo space. With the second-row seat upright, it offers more than 20 cu. ft. of cargo room, besting Altima's trunk space by more than 5 cu. ft. Furnished for four comfortably and five in a pinch, the seating is ideal for small families and empty nesters.

Rogue Sport is not an explosive performer. Don't expect to be pinned to your seat when goosing the accelerator. It's not that sort of vehicle. Its 141-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generates 147 lb-ft of peak torque. This modest, but adequate output is sent to the wheels via a CVT with hill-start assist. I'm not crazy about CVTs, but Nissan does them as well as any carmaker. The good news, however: Government-estimated mileage with FWD is 25 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. Opting for AWD scrubs away an mpg or two to 24 mpg city/30 mpg highway/27 mpg combined.

Let's face it, smaller CUVs are engineered primarily for zipping around busy city streets, and sheltering in the narrow spaces of city lots and parking structures. The Rogue Sport excels at this. Moving with alacrity around urban areas, this CUV thrives in stop-and-go traffic. Still, on the highway, it holds its own. It's mainstream handling dynamics don't dazzle, but it goes where it's pointed and the ride is smooth enough.

Now, about those safety/driver-assist features: Even the starter S grade comes standard with forward-collision warning, front emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear automatic braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert and high-beam assist. Nissan's ProPilot Assist, along with adaptive cruise control are optional on the SV and standard on the SL.

The government hasn't crash tested the 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport, but the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) issued its top score of Good in its overall evaluation.

The S grade also provides as standard Nissan Connect with a 7-in touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free text messaging, a four-speaker audio system with one USB port, satellite-radio capability, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The SV and SL get six speakers. The SL also adds a navigation system to the mix.

At the end of the day, the Rogue Sport is a sound value among smaller CUVs. It does everything it needs to do well. Some may consider engine performance lacking, but even here, it gets the job done with efficiency. And, it looked good in my driveway.