Over the years there have been plenty of words used to keep certain brand names high on the sales charts, and to use the halo of well-earned reputations to promote the latest and greatest.
Think Grand Cherokee, Camry Solara, Mustang II.
Some more successful than others. And now we have a spinoff of Nissan’s exceptionally popular Rogue. The Nissan Rogue Sport.
What’s up, Sport?
Sport fits the smaller, more aggressive looking Rogue, being a good foot shorter than its big brother. Designed to compete against such city funsters as Mazda’s CX-3, Honda HR-V, and Toyota’s CH-R, it’s still a handy size, small enough for urban environments, yet roomy enough for longer road trips as well.
Our Palatial Ruby tester was the mid-level SV model, which adds to the base model’s LED running lights and sporty rear spoiler with nice stuff like 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails and LED turn indicators in the mirrors. It’s a nice-looking package – until you see the SL model’s massive 19” alloy wheels that really make the design pop. Oof! You pays your money, and you gets your thrills.
The interior is a very nice surprise. The big sibling Rogue recently got a nice upgrade in materials, and this has carried over to the Rogue Sport. You get the same nice clear gauges, convenient Advanced Driver Assist Display in between that can give you navi directions, audio info, text message alert, and other useful stuff, plus luxo touches like dual-zone climate control, pushbutton ignition, and power driver’s seat.
Speaking of seats, the design of the Rogue Sport’s is excellent and supportive with a nice bottom cushion for taller drivers. The rear seats are a limited in legroom because of the 2.1-inch shorter wheelbase compared to the Rogue, but they are fine for adults for shorter trips. We also liked the clever divide-n-hide cargo compartment behind the rear seats that give you some cool ways to keep your stuff from rolling around.
Our SV had the Premium Package, so we also got a 7-inch color touchscreen with Navigation, Voice recognition for audio and navi, and it even let us access Siri on our iPhone by holding down the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. Handy.
We also had the All-weather package, that brings in thoughtful items like heated mirrors, remote engine start with intelligent climate control (it senses the outside temp, and either heats or cools the interior so you get in a comfy cabin), and quick-comfort heated seats (warms up the most important parts of the seats first).
How about the drive?
OK, the first thing is to not get hung up on the Sport name. While it has smaller dimensions and a more aggressive style, this is not really designed to be a model that makes you put on your driving gloves.
Around town, the 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, which puts out 141 horsepower, feels quick on its feet, and the CVT transmission acts like a conventional automatic, keeping the Sport in its powerband. Once you get beyond city driving, though, acceleration is pokey, and we think the optional All Wheel Drive might be to blame – it adds weight.
It’s worth mentioning that some of the Rogue Sport’s competitors don’t offer AWD, so if you need an around- town crossover with the extra grip, it’s a fine choice. But if you can get by with front drive, we’d recommend that here. Or perhaps consider the larger Rogue, with has a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that has no such problems with AWD.
The handling definitely is sporty, with nice steering feel, quick response, good grip, and a playful demeanor that makes it a great partner in the cut and thrust of city traffic. And once up to cruising speed on the freeway, the Sport’s ride is nicely composed, and the interior is impressively quiet.
The Rogue Sport is also impressively easy to drive – it really looks after you, with info-tainment that’s seamless and easy to use, and we really learned to love the clever AroundView Monitor. While many other manufacturer’s now offer this 360-degree view, Nissan was the first. It really helps squaring yourself into a space, watching out for wheel-munching curbs.
And the system’s moving object detection is a lifesaver – especially when backing out of spaces in the mall when vehicles are zipping by in a mad rush to find a space. It just adds a layer of confidence that lets you relax. Very nice.
Adding to that confidence on our tester was optional Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic alert.
What are the membership fees to the Sport club?
Something we’ve noticed on vehicles in this segment – we all hoped for a new less expensive entry into the crossover world, but most of the manufacturers bumped their current larger offerings upmarket, and priced the new smaller models in the gap left behind.
And the Rogue Sport is no exception. The base S model starts at a very reasonable $21,420 for front wheel drive and this would be an excellent alternative for people looking for a small sedan or hatchback. An SL like our tester starts at $23,020 – also a nice value. But add in all wheel drive ($1,350), the All-Weather Package ($920), SV Premium Package ($1,500), floor mats and destination and we had an all-in price of $27,885.
For comparison, a loaded HR-V AWD comes in at $27,315, while a Mazda CX-5 is $2,000 less – but not available with All Wheel drive.
Go for the top-of-the-line Rogue Sport SL with Platinum Package and you get leather, panoramic moonroof, and leading-edge goodies like Intelligent Cruise Control, Forward Emergency braking with Pedestrian detection, Lane Departure Warning and Prevention. Loaded up, yours for $31,245.
We really appreciate that Nissan gives you a wide range of choices to match your taste and budget. For our dollar, we’d probably stick with an S or SV with front wheel drive, which hit the sweet spot in pricing for looks, performance, technology and value.
If you’re taking on the city, the Rogue Sport is a great urban assault vehicle.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.