2017 Nissan Rogue Sport first drive

Compact but cushy, Nissan's Rogue Sport is all the SUV you need

The Rogue Sport hits the bullseye for older urban millennials who want something bigger than a Juke, but not quite as big as a Rogue. The price walk is short enough that the sport and luxury trims are well within reach of young families.

As one of Japan’s leading automakers, Nissan has several small SUV options for you to choose from. The compact Rogue has been the third best-selling SUV in America for years, moving almost 330,000 units in 2016. But as compact SUVs go, the Rogue is still pretty big – large enough to accommodate three rows of seats, anyway. Nissan’s sporty Juke subcompact SUV sells well enough in its segment, but Nissan needed something in between to really cover the market.

The 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is that in-between crossover, offering two rows of seats in a package that is not too much smaller than the Rogue, but enough to make a difference. However, there’s more to it than size, and the Rogue Sport is far more than a slightly smaller version of its successful big brother. This is an SUV that can stand on its own, and may even overshadow the original.

What’s New

The 2017 Rogue Sport is new to America, but the rest of the world has known this vehicle for years as the successful Nissan Qashqai. That’s a good thing, because it means the bugs have been worked out long ago.

The 2017 Rogue Sport is new to America, but the rest of the world has known this vehicle for years as the successful Nissan Qashqai.

Nissan has adapted the world market formula for American roads and buyers, of course, and our Rogue Sport will have different engine options than you’ll find elsewhere.

The Rogue Sport comes with only one engine – a 2.0-liter direct-injected four-cylinder that delivers 141 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque. Engine power is passed to the front wheels, or all wheels, by Nissan’s standard Xtronic continuously variable transmission.

Trim Levels & Features

The exterior of the Rogue Sport is among its best features. The designers got it right with a look that’s up to date while not calling too much attention to itself. The Rogue Sport is a handsome vehicle that buyers will be proud to own. The Rogue Sport is available in three trims ranging from the basic S trim to the sporty SV and the luxury SL. All trim levels are available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive.

The S trim starts at a thrifty $22,380, and for that you get the basic FWD vehicle on 16-inch steel wheels, with cloth upholstery and a four-speaker AM/FM/SAT/CD sound system with USB and Bluetooth interfaces and a 5-inch display. You’ll get a standard rear-view camera and Nissan’s active handling package. The available appearance package adds 17-inch wheels.

The SV trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, automatic headlights, power seats with lumbar support, two more speakers on the sound system, and push-button ignition starting at $23,980. The SV all-weather option package will get you heated seats and steering wheel, remote engine start, and some leather. If you choose the premium pack, you’ll get a 7-inch touch screen with navigation and smart phone integration, plus safety features including a surround-view camera system and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic alerts.

SL trim is the whole kaboodle, with 19-inch wheels, heated leather seats, the 7-inch navigation system with Siri, and the surround-view camera for a starting price of $27,030. Option packs include power moonroof, LED headlights, auto high beams, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure control. All in, a top of the line Rogue Sport SL comes in right around $30,000.

Technology Overview

Any automaker without a decent infotainment system is lost in the woods these days. The Nissan system works well and sounds great in the car. We tested the 7-inch screen, and apart from occasionally having to scroll through to a second set of menu options, we had no issues with it.

The safety tech all works as designed. If you live in a place with narrow roads, you’ll likely turn off the lane departure warning frequently, but that’s true of any car. The surround-view camera system is a godsend for reversing and well worth the extra money you’ll spend to get it.

Interior Fit & Finish

The interior is one of Nissan’s biggest wins with the Rogue Sport. It’s nice and comfortable for quick jaunts or a whole day in the car.

If you live in the 75 percent of North America that gets weather, AWD is worth the price you’ll pay.

Leather is standard on SL, adding to the case for choosing the top trim, but even if you get the cloth seats, you’re still getting a nice soft-touch environment that is well designed and sensible. Both SV and SL seats offer lumbar support, which should be considered essential if you plan to commute in the Rogue Sport.

While the Rogue Sport shaves a foot off the overall length of the Rogue, the wheelbase is only 2.3 inches shorter, so you get plenty of room in two rows of seating. Four six-foot adults can ride comfortably. With the rear seats down you have up to 61.1 cubic feet of cargo area, which is plenty for a trip to the big box or home supply store.

Driving Performance & MPG

The Rogue Sport is really quite pleasant to drive. Curb weight varies from 3,225 to 3,415 pounds depending on your options, so the Rogue’s 141-horsepower engine won’t win any speed contests. However, your perceived engine power through the CVT is more than adequate to the task of getting around town, driving on the freeway, and hauling your family where you need to go. Our actual fuel economy on an all-day test drive was in the ballpark of the advertised 24 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 27 mpg combined for an AWD model. The FWD figures are 25/32/28.

The real joy of the Rogue Sport is in its handling. Like most modern cars, Nissan has an active handling system going as well as the usual stability controls. The result is that the Rogue Sport corners very well, is perfectly predictable, and inspires confidence when you’re driving.

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We didn’t have occasion to put the AWD system through any torture tests, but like most compact crossovers, let’s stipulate that no one is going to be doing heavy off-road driving in a Rogue Sport. This is an AWD system designed to get you through winter snow and spring rains safely and efficiently. If you live in the 75 percent of North America that gets weather, stepping up to AWD is worth the price you’ll pay. Which is $1,350 on any trim level. Spend the money – it will be worth it the first time you cruise past a stuck car next winter.

Safety

Nissan knows enough about family cars to make every safety technology available, with the important features offered as standard equipment. The Rogue Sport has not yet been rated by NHTSA or the IIHS, but this is a state-of-the-art compact SUV from a major Japanese manufacturer. It’s safe to assume the Rogue Sport will get high marks.

Conclusion

The bottom line on the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is that it’s going to be a hit. It’s priced right for the young families Nissan wants to attract, and it does all the right things for a small compact crossover. The list of available upgrades is mercifully limited, and the price walk is short enough to make top trim levels an attractive deal.

Nissan was smart to bring the Rogue Sport to America, because as the popularity of compact SUVs has grown, they’ve also become bloated. Larger families want three rows of seating, but there needs to be a more nimble, easy to park, and economical option for smaller families and active couples. The 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is that SUV.

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Highs

  • Exterior styling is a great improvement

  • Comfortable inside

  • Reasonably peppy and quite nimble

  • Good technology suite

  • Attractively priced

Lows

  • Could use more engine power

  • A manual transmission would be really fun in this car