2017 Nissan Rogue Sport

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Nissan Rogue is the hottest-selling vehicle in the hottest-selling segment, one replete with excellent competitors — Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4. Other than the “big 3” pickup trucks, Rogue is the biggest-selling vehicle in the U.S. for two of the first four months of 2017.

Americans have been switching from sedans to compact SUVs, favoring the seating flexibility, cargo space, seating height, improved fuel economy and available four-wheel drive of the latter. Sales in this relatively new segment have skyrocketed over the past few years.

To attract even more buyers, Nissan has expanded its SUV lineup and the Rogue nameplate, introducing the new Rogue Sport. It’s not just a new trim package; it’s a different vehicle that’s slightly smaller, with a different engine, targeting a different buyer.

Already the top-selling brand among millennials, Nissan is specifically marketing the Rogue Sport to buyers in their mid 20s-30s, both singles and couples, without children, who are fun, outgoing, social, and prefer an urban lifestyle. Nissan is looking for people who want out of their current small sedans. And, the company believes that most Rogue Sport buyers will be new to Nissan, coming from another brand.

Rogue Sport closely mimics the look of the larger Rogue; you practically need to park them side-by-side to discern the difference. But somehow, with the Sport being just a bit smaller, we think it looks better. Its 104.2-inch wheelbase is 2.3-inches shorter, and overall length is 12.1 inches shorter, making it easier to maneuver and park in city traffic.

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of room up front for both driver and passenger. The interior defies its diminutive exterior size, thanks to the standard six-way adjustable driver’s seat. It’s positively spacious behind the wheel, even for my 6-foot 6-inch frame. However, the same can’t be said for the rear seat. With both front seats back all the way, I couldn’t even get into the vehicle. Again, one must consider my generous height, but it’s still a very small back seat.

Behind the second-row seat is 22.9 cubic feet of cargo space (up to 61.1 cubic feet with the second-row seat folded down), accessible through the wide rear door. The new Rogue Sport also offers the innovative Divide-N-Hide® Cargo System (SV and SL models). Included as standard on all models are a cargo area cover and six luggage hooks (four floor, two side).

I drove the top-of-the-line AWD Rogue Sport SL with optional power sliding moonroof, LED projection headlamps, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-departure prevention, and forward emergency braking.

The instrument panel features Fine Vision electroluminescent gauges and a 5.0-inch center color display (a 7.0-inch color touchscreen is available) with Advanced Driver Assist display. Sirius XM Satellite Radio with four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary audio input jack, USB connection for iPod interface and your smartphone, Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth text messaging, and a rearview monitor are all standard. The front center console includes an integral armrest and storage compartment, along with a 12-volt power outlet. Rogue Sport SV and SL grades include Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button start.

There’s plenty of bin space in the doors, and an ample number of cup holders. The interior of my test vehicle had leather-appointed seats, soft coverings on the dash and upper door trim, Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, voice recognition, navigation and dual-zone automatic temperature control.

It stickered for $31,365. That’s a bit inexpensive for a sub-compact SUV, but it lacks for nothing and drives wonderfully. Big windows deliver good sight lines, aided by blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alerts.

The five-passenger Rogue Sport, on sale this month, is available in three trim levels — S, SV and SL — each in a choice of front-wheel or all-wheel drive. All three models come equipped with a standard 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder, 141 horsepower engine connected to an Xtronic automatic transmission with a standard Eco Mode switch.

The Rogue Sport is a joy to drive, with a suspension that absorbs road imperfections, bumps and uneven road surfaces that keeps the body in check. The engine offers ample acceleration for getting up to highway speeds and for passing slower vehicles. The steering is quick and brakes are excellent. We think shoppers coming from sedans and other vehicles as first time SUV owners will love how the Rogue Sport drives and the comfort on long drives.

Overall, the new Rogue Sport is nothing short of an outstanding vehicle with stylish good looks and excellent build quality. It is loaded with useful features, drives wonderfully, is comfortable and loaded with safety features usually found on more expensive vehicles. It’s an easy vehicle to drive, and a terrific value. If you don’t need three rows of seats, nor an especially roomy back seat you should have it on your shopping list to test drive.

Vital Stats

Base Price:  $21,420 - $27,420
Price as Tested: $31,365
Seating: 5
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinderHorsepower: 141-hp
Fuel Economy: 24-MPG City – 30-MPG Highway (AWD)
Crash Test Safety Ratings: Not Available

Competes With

Buick Encore
Chevrolet Trax
Honda HR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-3

— Jim Prueter