2017 Nissan Rogue Sport first drive review

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The Nissan Rogue is the best-selling, non-pickup truck in the country. Let that sink in for a moment. The Toyota Camry was ousted from the top spot and replaced by a family crossover from a lesser-known-in-the-U.S.-Japanese-marque. Crossovers are king these days, and not surprisingly one of the fastest-growing segments in the crossover space is the subcompact segment.

Living in that segment exists vehicles like the Toyota C-HR, Mazda CX-3, and Honda HR-V. What started as a dreary segment of the automotive landscape has quickly become one of the most-competitive groups out there. That means the products are all getting better, the fuel economy is improving, and the cars come packed with technology recently unheard of in small cars.

Back at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, Nissan introduced their competitor in the segment. They’re calling it the Rogue Sport, and we recently had a chance to drive it around the streets and backroads of Nissan North America’s hometown to see what’s what.

To better understand the Rogue Sport, one has to know where it came from. While it is a new vehicle for the North American market, it has been sold worldwide for a few years now as the Nissan Qashqai. In coming to the United States, Nissan opted to change the name to Rogue Sport to better capitalize on the brand recognition of the larger Rogue sibling.

But don’t confuse the Rogue Sport for a different trim of the Rogue; the car is smaller. This photograph here illustrates the size difference between the two.

RogueSport_Rogue Comp_sideLo

Nissan positions their larger Rogue as the family vehicle. The Rogue Sport can, of course, be purchased by growing families, but they imagine their customer will be younger and maybe not have children yet in their life. In a lot of ways, we found ourselves comparing it to the compact hatchbacks on sale, the Subaru Impreza, Honda Civic, and Mazda 3, especially since the pricing is quite competitive with those non-crossover vehicles.

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What’s it like to drive?

At the end of the day, for a vehicle you’ll live with every single day, it’s important to know what it’s like to drive. To sum it up, it’s pretty nice.

It’s lighter than the larger Rogue, and power feels plentiful even though there’s only 141 horsepower of it on tap. That’s competitive with the other vehicles in this segment, but in the Rogue Sport it doesn’t feel like it’s not enough.

Nissan’s continuously-variable transmission keeps getting better with every iteration, with the one in the Rogue Sport simulating a gear shift to make it feel like a more traditional offering. It seems on these type of vehicles everyone is going CVT. It’s a fine transmission, but ultimately I prefer a traditional automatic with traditional automatic gear changes.

Available all-wheel drive will be great for people who live in climates where it snows — giving it a competitive advantage over the great-driving but only front-wheel drive C-HR — and doesn’t seem to give you a huge fuel economy penalty.

With the rear seats folded, you get an ample 61.1 cubic feet of cargo space. You really don’t feel like you’re making a big space sacrifice in going with this vehicle over other vehicles in the segment.

All the driver’s assist technologies that are available on Rogue are available on Rogue Sport. Nissan calls it Safety Shield, and it includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, a rear-view camera, lane departure warning, and more.

The full-size Rogue earns a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, and since those same technologies are on board Rogue Sport, there’s no reason for us to think it won’t win the same award.

It’s difficult to observe normal fuel economy on a first drive program like this, because we aren’t driving like normal people do consistently. But at one point I looked at the fuel economy gauge and saw 31 mpg. When we get a chance to spend some real time with one, we’ll be able to report back a more solid number.

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What’s not to like?

Complaints are admittedly few with the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport. My biggest is the infotainment system’s lack of Android Auto and Apple Car Play. New Nissan infotainment systems are rolling out in some of the other models, but for a vehicle targeting millennials it’s omission is worth mentioning.

The only other thing we pointed out to the Nissan people during the drive was a lack of an auto-dimming rearview mirror on the top-end SL trim we were in. However, we were told that it’s an accessory that can be added at the port or at the dealership if it’s something you want to have.

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What is to like?

The Rogue Sport seems like a well thought out vehicle with loads of useful features and technology at a competitive price. While it might not be the “shock and awe” vehicle of the year winner, it does impress in how it literally is everything the Rogue offers in a smaller, more maneuverable package.

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Would we buy it?

When I think about all the vehicles in this segment, there are a few that come to mind. The Mazda CX-3 is typically the driver’s car of the bunch, but the lack of interior space really is a deal-breaker for someone who’s buying a crossover to have some actual utility.

The Honda HR-V doesn’t feel like a complete package, and feels like it lacks in the power department, even if power is comparable to others in the segment.

The Toyota C-HR is really the best steering and handling of the group, but a woeful infotainment system combined with all-wheel drive being not available at all makes it hard to live with day-to-day.

If you think a little premium the new Buick Encore is a good way to go, but being a premium offering means it does come with a premium price.

Ultimately that leaves the Rogue Sport. It drives well, has loads of safety technology, has a good interior, looks well, and even comes in some eye-catching quirky colors to give it even more personality.

In other words, they took the winning formula of the hot-selling Rogue and brought it to a new segment. It’ll probably sell like gangbusters.

The manufacturer provided all transportation, including airfare, plus room and board for us to bring you these first drive impressions. Opinions are always our own.
Chad Kirchner
the authorChad Kirchner
In addition to Chad Kirchner's work here, he's a freelance automotive journalist for outlets around the world.

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