Nissan Rogue Sport — Smaller can be better

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Crossover utility vehicle sales are booming and have been trending to ever smaller vehicles, and despite their sub-compact size are proving useful as cargo and people haulers while deriving better gas mileage than their larger siblings, and offering more maneuverability in urban surroundings.

The list of diminutive crossovers is substantial from virtually every mainstream automaker such as the Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, Toyota C-HR and Fiat 500X. And now add the Nissan Rogue Sport to the list.

The compact Rogue has become the best-selling vehicle in the Nissan lineup and, in fact, was the best-selling vehicle for three of the first six months of 2017 in America outside of the Big 3 pickup trucks. To attract even more buyers, Nissan's new sub-compact Sport crossover is a smaller version of the Rogue while wearing the Rogue name. Notably it’s not just a new trim package, it’s a different vehicle with a different engine, targeting a different buyer.

Nissan is specifically marketing the Rogue Sport to people in their mid-20s-30s, both singles and couples, without children, who — Nissan says — are outgoing, social, and prefer an urban lifestyle. Nissan is looking for buyers 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.

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport (left) and 2017 Nissan Rogue

The 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.

At 172.4 inches long, it’s slightly bigger than the smallest subcompacts, but it’s more petite than compacts such as the 180.6-inch Honda CR-V. The closest competitor in size to the Rogue Sport is the new 173.0-inch 2017 Jeep Compass.

The Rouge Sport comes with just one engine choice, a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder making 141 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque mated to an Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission. Therein lies out biggest complaint with a vehicle that we found very few things to complain about. It’s slow. But then so are most of the vehicles in this segment — figure about 9 seconds from 0-to-60. That said, we were pleasantly surprised by the direct-injected engine’s refinement displaying a lot less engine noise than most small four-bangers under hard acceleration.

In a combination of interstate driving, two-lane road hustling and running errands around town, we were never let down by the performance — even with four people on board or loaded up with cargo. The Sport got the job done and we must admit that it’s certainly not boring with pleasing driving dynamics not found in most sub-compacts. The suspension absorbs road imperfections, bumps and uneven road surfaces keeping the body in check. Steering is quick and brakes are excellent.

We enjoyed the top-of-the-line Sport SL we drove for a week with optional power sliding moonroof, LED projection headlamps, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control, lane-departure warning, and lane-departure prevention. 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.

There’s plenty of bin space in the doors, and an ample number of cup holders. The interior of our 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.

Back-seat passengers will find generous legroom and comfortable seats that should wear well on a long journey. At the same time there is an adequate 22.9 cubic feet of storage behind the seats and 61.1 cubic feet with the seatbacks folded down. The rear seatback can be folded in a 40-60 configuration to accommodate three passengers with additional storage space.

The Rogue Sport comes in three trim levels — S, SV and SL — with all-wheel drive available on all trims for $1,350. Standard equipment for the $22,255 base S model includes Bluetooth, cruise control, a backup camera, rear HVAC vents, a USB port, and satellite radio. Step up to the $23,855 SV, and you get 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, proximity entry, a power driver’s seat, six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control and keyless ignition.

Our SL test car with front-wheel drive carried a base price of $26,905 and a bottom line of $29,755 with a couple of options including the Premium and Platinum packages.

Base price: $22,255; as driven, $29,755
Engine: 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 141 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 147 foot-pounds @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 104.2 inches
Length: 172.4 inches
Curb weight: 3,300 pounds
Turning circle: 36.9 feet
Luggage capacity: 22.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity: 61.1 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 25 city, 32 highway, 28 combined
0-60: 9.4 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Honda HR-V, Jeep Compass, Chevrolet Trax

The Good
• Many high tech features available
• Well equipped at base price
• Excellent rear seat passenger room
• Good cargo space for segment

The Bad
• Noisy transmission

The Ugly
• Underpowered engine