2018 Nissan Rogue Sport SL FWD
Nissan introduced the Rogue Sport, a downsized version of the Rogue compact SUV, in 2017 and updated it for 2018.5 with standard automated emergency braking. Based on the inscrutably named Qashqai crossover sold in overseas markets, the Rogue Sport shares a good deal with its larger, more mainstream sibling, but for many people, the smaller member of the Rogue family might be the one to pick.
Keen to find out why that might be, we arranged for a one-week test of the Rogue Sport, serving commuter and carpool duty and taking us out on the open road on the weekend. Nissan delivered a shiny 2018.5 Rogue Sport SL with front-wheel drive, a machine that starts at $27,190 before options and delivery. Adding a $1,990 Premium Package brought a power moonroof, dual-beam LED headlights with high-beam assist, Lane Departure Warning, and Intelligent Lane Intervention. A carpeted cargo area mat, floor mats, and a first aid kit added another $275, while a $975 destination charge brought our total to $30,430.
Now, 30 large for a smallish compact SUV is a lot of coin, but getting these features on a “big” Rogue would add about $3,900 to the price. And there was no denying the long list of creature comforts that made the almost fully loaded Rogue Sport a very pleasant commuter. Key among these was intelligent cruise control, which comes standard on the SL trim. Able to bring the vehicle to a complete stop if traffic warrants it, intelligent cruise control took a lot of the fatigue out of Los Angeles traffic. Like similar systems, it was hyperactive with the brake pedal, leaving massive gaps behind the car ahead. That idiosyncrasy got tiring after a few minutes, but at the same time, it was reassuring that the car would default to such safe behavior.
Dressed in light gray, the Rogue Sport’s leather upholstery lent the interior a decidedly airy feel enhanced by large front windows and impressive forward sightlines. Quality of materials indoors isn’t bad, with soft-touch plastics on the upper dash, upper door panels, and transmission tunnel. However, you don’t have to look too hard to find stiff plastics inside: lower door panels seemed to scuff easily on our shoes, and there were a few nasty-feeling seams in some of the door panel plastics where our elbows most commonly landed. Still, given the Rogue Sport’s intended audience, we found a lot to like.
Inside, the Rogue Sport is all but identical to its big brother from the B-pillar forward. That means it gets a distinctive flat-bottomed steering wheel that was a legitimate joy to grab onto; front seats with generous head, leg, and elbow room; and a NissanConnect infotainment system that was easy to use, but lacking in modern features like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Interior styling is fresh even though the donor Rogue has been on the market for about four years now.
Aft of the front seats, the Rogue Sport’s trimmer dimensions begin to take their toll. Claustrophobia rears its head thanks to a sloping roofline, smaller side windows, and a mail-slot moonroof (the bigger Rogue gets a panoramic unit). Hiproom is pretty slim as well; avoid three-across commuting as much as possible. Still, there was enough head and legroom for two six-footers to hang back there comfortably, even with similarly tall passengers riding up front. Nissan includes a folding center armrest with two cupholders, and each front and rear door panel also comes with bottle holders in the storage pockets.
Chopping 2.3 inches of wheelbase and 12.1 inches of overall length from the Rogue will have an effect on cargo capacity. As such, the Rogue Sport does away with the optional third-row seat of its bigger counterpart, and it gets by with 22.9 cubic feet of room behind the rear seats (down from the Rogue’s 39.1). Still, Nissan wisely included Divide-N-Hide cargo management as well as a rigid cargo cover, allowing us to keep our laptop bags away from prying eyes and preventing shopping accouterment from sliding around the cargo bay. A long road trip for two passengers would be a cinch thanks to a 60/40 folding rear seat that expands total cargo to 61.1 cubes, and four people could easily fit a weekend’s worth of stuff in the Sport for an overnight getaway.
And would they enjoy the drive? The Rogue Sport is powered by a 2.0L I-4 (0.5 liters smaller than the Rogue), and the little engine is nippy enough for urban driving and freeway cruising. Its 141 hp and 147 lb-ft of torque make an appearance relatively early in the powerband, routed to the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. That CVT does suck a bit of driving fun from the Rogue Sport, with an unfortunate full-throttle drone in spite of programming that varies engine speed for a poor imitation of an upshift. Still, the willing powertrain was perfect for a commuter, and even loaded down with four full-grown men, there was just enough power for passing and merging.
“Fun to drive” isn’t really part of the Rogue Sport’s credo, but its nimble dimensions and relatively low curb weight of 3,310 pounds helped maximize the smiles on our commute. The electric power steering is numb-numb-numb, but an independent strut front and multilink rear suspension gave it reasonable moves when driven with zest. Full-bore canyon carving isn’t in its repertoire; at high G-forces, the efficiency-oriented transmission and economical suspension made for somewhat unpredictable handling. Keep it to 7/10ths and save the max-attack twisties for your 370Z.
Over the course of our 611-mile time with the Rogue Sport, we achieved an average of 24.2 mpg (down slightly from the computer’s indicated 24.4). However, on one long highway trip free of traffic, that computer promised we’d pegged 32.3 mpg, going 80 mph most of the way. On the return trip, we kept it to 70 and hit 34.2 mpg, even with one long slog through slow-moving traffic. That efficiency left us impressed, as the EPA rates the Rogue Sport at 25 city/32 highway/28 combined mpg. Given our somewhat heavy right feet, we’d say the little Rogue is rated fairly.
After its week-plus stay at the Truck Trend office, we came away from the 2018.5 Rogue Sport feeling good. Its value quotient is commendable, offering adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and LED headlamps for just over 30 large. The cheaper—but more spacious—Honda HR-V doesn’t offer any of those features, and while the Toyota C-HR comes with them standard, it’s a substantially smaller product inside. What’s more, many active safety features like blind spot warning, rear cross traffic monitoring, and the aforementioned automatic emergency braking come standard on even the base $22,110 Rogue Sport S.
As such, we’d have little trouble recommending a Rogue Sport to our friends and family who need a relatively spacious, well-equipped small SUV. With reasonable dynamics, good fuel economy, and snappy interior and exterior styling, the Nissan Rogue Sport is a fine daily driver. All it’s missing is a bit more character in the driving experience and a more modern infotainment system. Even absent those, the Rogue Sport should make most middle-of-the-road crossover shoppers totally happy on their daily drives.
Vehicle: 2018.5 Nissan Rogue Sport SL FWD
Base price: $27,190 (Rogue Sport SL)
Price as tested: $30,430
Engine: 2.0L I-4
Transmission: Continuously variable (CVT)
Horsepower: 141 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 147 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Towing capacity: Not rated
EPA fuel economy rating: 25 city/32 highway/28 combined mpg
Actual calculated economy: 24.2 mpg (611-mile trip)
Passenger volume: 94.3 cubic feet
Cargo volume (seats up/down): 22.9/61.1 cubic feet
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