Let me stick my neck out and make a prediction. Nissan’s new Rogue Sport will consistently be one of the three best-selling subcompact SUVs per month before this year comes to an end, and when next year wraps up it’ll either be number one or second in the class. I know that’s a bold forecast and my credibility is at risk, but at nearly 20 years in this business I’m getting better at choosing winners.
Here’s why I think so. First, Nissan’s SUV lineup is on a roll. From the Armada, Murano and Pathfinder all the way down to the Rogue, sales are strong and in most cases gaining on competitors. Next and most importantly, the Rogue Sport targets the core crossover SUV market where most people shop. What do I mean? It looks good, not weird. It’s sized perfectly, not too big and not too small. And it’s priced right.
The new 2017 Rogue Sport isn’t America’s lowest priced SUV, but no one should complain about its starting MSRP of just $21,420. Truly, the reason I didn’t choose it for number one overall is because Jeep sells its Renegade for just $17,995, which is exactly why it’s number one by a long shot. I simply don’t think any vehicle costing more than $20k can compete with that as far as numbers go, but the Rogue Sport certainly can in every other respect.
Perfect might be too strong a word, but the Rogue Sport fits its target audience ideally. At 172.4 inches long with a 104.2-inch wheelbase, 72.3 inches wide, and 62.5 inches tall, with a 62.4-inch front and 62.2-inch rear track, it’s sized just larger than average for this class, which gives it a substantive presence, plenty of room for driver and passengers, plus the most cargo space of all. To be clear, Honda’s HR-V provides 1.4 more cubic feet with its rear seatbacks upright at 24.3 cubic feet compared to 22.9 cubic feet, but the Rogue Sport is much more accommodating when you lay those seats flat at 61.1 cubic feet compared to 58.8 cubic feet. The rest of its rivals are even less competitive, ranging from 10.5 to 21.7 cubic feet with their rear seats up, and 19.9 to 53.9 cubic feet with them folded.
Numbers are objective and unbiased, but styling is personal. Nissan pushed our aesthetic buttons when introducing its Cube and Juke in 2009 and 2010, the former successful elsewhere but canceled here in its fifth year after dismal sales. The Juke has fared well in comparison, never a segment leader but certainly respectable. This said both SUVs would fall into the noted weird category, whereas this new Rogue Sport incorporates already popular design cues from the larger Rogue and Pathfinder. In other words, it’s acceptable to the masses.
It looks long, sleek and stylish, with Nissan’s V-motion grille front and center, lots of muscular body sculpting across the hood and down each side, just enough matte black cladding around the bottom to give it that go anywhere SUV look, plus tasteful splashes of chrome for premium appeal.
My tester’s Premium package was responsible for the LED headlamps while its SL trim went a bit further by adding chrome bezeled fog lamps and a sharp looking set of machine-finished 19-inch alloys with black-painted pockets, whereas the satin-silver roof rails were pulled up from mid-range SV trim. I love the rich Caspian Blue paint, although I’ve already seen the Rogue Sport in Nitro Lime, Monarch Orange and Pearl White, each adding its own unique character, with other color options being Mocha Almond brown, Palatial Ruby, Glacier White, Brilliant Silver, Gun Metallic gray and Magnetic Black. All paints are no-cost options except for the beautiful burnt orange and white pearlcoat that increase the Rogue Sport’s price by $395.
On that note the 2017 Rogue Sport comes in three trims, with the base S nicely outfitted in spite of its low entry price, its standard list including LED daytime running lights, power-adjustable side mirrors, remote entry, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, variable intermittent wipers, a large fully featured color TFT multi-information display within the gauge cluster, cruise control, filtered air conditioning, a 5.0-inch color center display with a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, text message read and response capability, Siri Eyes Free, and four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio with satellite radio, speed-sensitive volume control, RDS, plus aux and USB ports, while the features list continues with sunglasses storage in the overhead console, cloth upholstery, a rear seat center armrest, 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks, a cargo cover, six cargo area tie-down hooks, tire pressure monitoring with Easy Fill Tire Alert, all the usual passive and active safety features, and more.
SV trim starts at $23,020 and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlights, LED turn signals integrated into the side mirror housings, a remote engine starter, proximity keyless access with pushbutton start, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, dual-zone auto climate control, two additional stereo speakers, a six-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, illuminated vanity mirrors, Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide cargo organizer system, and more.
Lastly, my tester’s SL trim starts at $26,070 and, along with everything already mentioned, includes heated side mirrors, a heatable steering wheel rim, a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen display that splits the screen for a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines on one side and an Around View parking monitor with moving object detection on the other, plus navigation, voice recognition, NissanConnect mobile Apps and services, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, while SL trim also includes leather upholstery, heatable front seats, and more.
My tester included the $2,280 SL Premium package as well, which not only adds the LED headlights mentioned earlier, but also Nissan Intelligent Safety Shield technologies such as auto high beams, autonomous emergency braking, and blindspot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, while this upgrade also includes a powered moonroof. Last on the list was a $570 Platinum package that includes adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection to go along with the autonomous braking, plus lane departure warning and prevention. The Rogue with the same features earned the best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating for 2017, so I expect the Rogue Sport to do likewise once it’s fully tested. So far so good, with the IIHS giving it top “Good” crashworthiness marks for its small overlap front, moderate overlap front, and side tests.
Two features I’ve yet to mention include Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) and its Intelligent all-wheel drive, the former standard and the latter a $1,350 option across the entire line. All Rogue Sports include a 16-valve, DOHC, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine good for 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque, with the added benefit of direct fuel injection and continuously variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves. The result was more than enough power at take-off via a smooth, linear CVT delivery system, plus ample grip on slippery surfaces.
Likewise the Rogue Sport’s ride was equally smooth, this brought about by a fully independent suspension comprised of struts up front and a multi-link design in back, combined with stabilizer bars at both ends. Nissan enhances this with a standard technology it calls Active Ride Control, which simultaneously uses subtly applied power from the engine and equally unnoticeable braking force to iron out the types of bumps and dips that would otherwise cause annoying fore and aft pitching.
The Rogue Sport isn’t all about comfort, mind you, the advanced suspension also taking to curves well thanks to an electric power steering system that features a standard Sport mode, while also included across the line is Intelligent Trace Control that actively applies braking to each wheel to minimize understeer (when the front tires brake traction and push outward) and oversteer (when the rear tires lose traction and slide sideways), or in other words it keeps the SUV ideally balanced and in its chosen lane even when pushed hard. This aids confidence, but of course every technology has a limit. Fortunately, the Rogue Sport provides plenty of notice when pushed too hard, and when its overcooked dynamics tell you it’s time to get off the power it settles down nicely.
It can even use standard Intelligent Engine Braking to do so, which adds small amounts of engine resistance to assist the standard four-wheel discs, smoothing out the process and reducing brake wear, although for panic situations the regular binders are joined by the usual anti-lock, emergency brake-force distribution and brake assist technologies.
On top of all this the Rogue Sport is extremely fuel-efficient with an EPA estimated rating of 25 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 28 combined with FWD, or 24 mpg city, 30 highway and 27 combined with AWD.
While everything said so far might have already piqued your curiosity, I’ve actually saved the best for last. The Rogue Sport’s big surprise is what you’ll find inside. Granted, my tester was a top-line SL and some surface treatments and features are higher end than the other two trims, but I still wasn’t prepared for this near-premium Nissan. First off it was doused in Light Gray leather, but to me it looked more cream than gray. Either way it added a richness that made me feel like I was living the Infiniti lifestyle, rather than slumming it in the ‘burbs.
Nissan doesn’t just cover the leather seats in light gray, but rather the lower half of the dash and door panels, plus the center console, and I’m not just talking the usual subcompact grade hard shell plastic, but stitched and padded leatherette in places I didn’t expect, like each side of the center stack and even next to the inside knee where a hard surface might otherwise chafe away at exposed summer skin uncomfortably. Nissan uses a dark Charcoal shade for the top of the dash, door uppers, etcetera, with much of the surfacing up front comprised of nice soft synthetics.
The leather seats are comfortable and feature particularly attractive stitching around their bolsters and perforated inserts, while the seat heaters work well, although I prefer three-way instead of just “HI” and “LO”. There were no such niceties in the rear quarters, but the outboard positions are easy on the back and spacious enough for large adults. Really, with the driver’s seat set for my five-foot-eight medium-build frame I still had about five inches left ahead of my knees and another four above my head, which makes it good for someone well over six feet. There’s easily enough room side-to-side for two as well, or three in a pinch, my left shoulder and hips approximately three to four inches away from the door.
I’ve already gone over cargo space in detail, but I should mention Nissan’s innovative Divide-N-Hide cargo system, which provides a possible 18 adjustable variations between the passenger and stowage compartments, including “out-of-sight storage” and a “lower deck” to manage taller cargo.
I could go on and on, but I’ve said enough. The rest is really up to you. So let me summarize. I won’t go so far as to say the new Rogue Sport is the best SUV in the subcompact segment, because no single vehicle can fulfill each and every person’s specific needs or tastes, but as mentioned earlier I believe it targets the core of the mainstream volume-branded subcompact SUV segment and therefore will be very successful. Personally, I believe those spending more than $20k on a new subcompact SUV will vote it number one with their wallets.
Unfortunately, however, we’ll have no way of knowing, because Nissan has chosen to combine Rogue Sport sales numbers with those of its much larger and totally different Rogue sibling. We can only surmise this choice was made in an effort to manipulate the market (that would be you) into thinking the larger Rogue is doing better than it actually is. In actual fact, the Rogue regularly places fourth behind the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V. Of note, the Rogue Sport is named Qashqai in other markets such as Canada, where the bigger Rogue is sold as a completely separate, pricier model targeting a different clientele, but Nissan North America (Nissan’s U.S. division) chose to rename it Rogue Sport to help with name recognition, or so we were told.
“In the U.S., because of the success of Rogue, we thought it was important to leverage the Rogue name,” Christian Meunier, Nissan North America’s senior vice president of sales and marketing told Car and Driver magazine in January, 2017. “I think by calling it Rogue Sport, we’ll have the opportunity to really make it a big story.”
While there’s truth to what Meunier says, the real reason for doing so now appears to be the ability to combine Rogue and Rogue Sport sales results into one, making the Rogue appear more popular, which in turn influences the market. We all like to buy into a success story, after all. Unfortunately, by choosing to do this Rogue sales numbers can no longer be taken at face value, plus we have no way of knowing how well the new Rogue Sport is selling within its completely unique subcompact SUV segment. I know Nissan isn’t the only automaker to engineer sales numbers this way, but it’s disappointing just the same. Therefore, no matter how much success this Rogue Sport achieves, Jeep’s Renegade will take the subcompact SUV sales title home for the unforeseeable future, whereas Honda’s CR-V will likely replace Toyota’s RAV4 as number one within the Rogue’s larger compact SUV segment when 2017 comes to a close. Anyone reporting otherwise won’t have done their homework.
Nevertheless, Nissan’s attempt to trick us into believing its Rogue is more successful than it actually is doesn’t take away from all the positives the new Rogue Sport brings to the subcompact SUV segment. I recommend you try one on for size. The new Nissan Rogue Sport is totally worth your time and attention.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Nissan Copyright: American Auto Press