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2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: First Drive Review

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author photo by Russ Heaps May 2017

If you think Nissan is crazy for sharing the "Rogue" nameplate with the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport, you would be correct: Nissan is crazy like a fox. It isn't that the suits and product planners at Nissan didn't want to bother noodling up a fresh nameplate for its new-to-the-U.S. compact crossover; just the opposite. A lot of thought and research went into the decision to stretch the Rogue moniker to encompass the more compact Rogue Sport. In fact, had the carmaker chosen to take the easy way out, it would have called the new crossover the Qashqai, the name Nissan already uses to market it around the world.

In building the case for naming this crossover, presenters at its recent Nashville media launch were very open about cashing in on the Rogue's wild popularity. Just a few of the numbers worth mentioning: Rogue year-over-year sales were up 15 percent to almost 330,000 in 2016. For the first 3 months of 2017, sales are up 47 percent over the same period last year. Eliminating the full-size pickup trucks from Ford, GM and RAM from the equation, the Rogue is the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Yep, it has even left the perennial-favorite Toyota Camry in the the dust. Why not try to give the new compact crossover some name recognition and the accompanying sales advantage the Rogue name enjoys? Why not, indeed.

In the end, the Nissan Rogue Sport has a story all its own. Yes, it's sort of a Rogue Mini-Me, but its owners will probably range from those seeking a more affordable CUV to those wanting a pint-size version of Nissan's already small crossover. Nissan thinks it will attract some first-time buyers in the way of millennials, too. In the end, they're both compact crossovers of differing degrees. Nissan will lump the Rogue Sport with the Rogue for purposes of reporting sales and, of course, the bragging rights that go along with those sales.

 What's With the Tude?

To appreciate Nissan's strategy in slotting another small crossover between the popular Rogue and the radically styled Juke, we need to grasp the carmaker's determination to deliver vehicles aimed at what it assumes will be a future dominated by young urbanites zipping around downtown in fuel-efficient vehicles, jockeying for a limited number of parking spaces. Of course, that means targeting millennials and subsequent generations as well, the idea being that solid fuel economy, loads of high-tech goodies, and maneuverability are what will attract forward-looking buyers. It's all about the attitude of today's crop of younger drivers, who are gazing into an urbanized future.

 What's the Diff?

When comparing the Rogue and Rogue Sport, you will find more aspects that are conflicting than similar. Although the styling differences may not be readily apparent unless you study these CUVs side-by-side, the Rogue Sport isn't simply a compact version of its somewhat larger sibling. As with some fraternal twins, there's a definite family resemblance, but they simply don't look all that alike. A version of Nissan's familial V-motion grille takes center stage at the front end, but the interpretations are different. Otherwise, the headlamps and boomerang running lights are the primary visual cues that you're looking at stablemates.

More highly defined, the Rogue Sport's lines are sharp where the Rogue's are softer. And where the Rogue's profile simply melts into the tailgate, the Rogue Sport's flanks flare out at the rear shoulders, encompassing the wraparound taillights.

Sharing a platform, their wheelbases are somewhat similar (104.2 inches for the Rogue Sport and 106.5 in for the Rogue), yet the Rogue is more than a foot longer in overall length. There isn't enough difference in width to even discuss, but the Rogue stands nearly 6 in taller.

Whether the second-row seat is in place or folded flat, the Rogue Sport gives up around 9 cu.ft. of cargo room to the larger Rogue. Rear-seat passengers in the Rogue Sport must make do with 4.5 in less legroom.

 What Makes It Go?

If Nissan is correctly predicting the wants and needs of those forward-looking consumers, its choice of a 141-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine lashed to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is right on the money. It's all about fuel economy and feeling good about your vehicle's mileage. If most of your driving involves slugging through stop-and-go traffic, acceleration and passing capability just won't be high on your list.

Even on country roads, like the ones we drove during the media event, the Rogue Sport was able to hold its own. Had we been driving something with a bit more grit under the hood, we would have passed a few vehicles rather than choosing to take a deep breath, count to 10 and follow instead. But, generally, the Rogue Sport's performance chops were adequate. You can add AWD to any grade for $1,350.

Curiously, government fuel economy estimates actually rate the Rogue Sport's mileage a bit lower than that of the larger, heavier Rogue. Where the FWD Rogue is rated at 26 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg on the highway, the FWD Rogue Sport delivers an estimated 25 mpg city/32 mpg hwy. With AWD, the Rogue Sport drops to 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

 What's Inside?

Three trim levels (S, SV and SL) provide an ascending amount of content and pricing, beginning with the S grade's $22,380 base price with destination charge. Nissan envisions the 2-row Rogue Sport as the runabout for empty-nesters, younger singles and couples, and maybe even young families with one or two smaller children. There's sufficient room inside to address the needs of these varying constituencies.

Interior materials are first-rate, with plenty of soft surfaces. Leather seating, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are available. Techno geeks will appreciate all the standard and available options for charging and connecting devices. Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, streaming audio and hands-free texting are all standard. Such available goodies as NissanConnect with Navigation and Mobile Apps and Services come with a 7-in touchscreen. Other standard or available features include remote start, a 360-degree round-view monitor and a power moonroof.

 What About Safety Tech?

In the Rogue Sport, Nissan offers all the same safety/driver-assist technology found in the Rogue. Intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning, lane-departure prevention, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high-beam headlights are all available as determined by trim level.

 What's the Bottom Line?

Is it possible to parse the crossover segment into slivers too small to make sense? Apparently not. There seems to be no CUV niche so narrow a vehicle can't survive in it. At least, the industry has yet to find it if it does exist. Beginning in early May, those who determine the compact Rogue to be too large for their needs will have the tidier Rogue Sport as an even smaller option.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: First Drive Review - Autotrader