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PowerSteering: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport Review

By Liz Kim, October 04, 2017

Introduction
In parsing the ever-bourgeoning SUV segment into chiffon-width slices, the latest focus for carmakers is the subcompact crossover. Much smaller than previous so-called cute-utes such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, some of the latest small SUVs are barely bigger than the tiny cars that Americans have eschewed in droves.

They’re not only smaller in size, but also smaller in price, making SUV ownership more accessible than ever. Compared to the cars they’re replacing, they also have slightly higher ride heights, optional all-wheel drive, and most importantly, more rugged styling that lets all the world know that you aspire to the almighty active lifestyle.

2017.5 Nissan Rogue SL front quarter left photoNew for 2017, the Nissan Rogue Sport is a member of this new breed of small SUVs. It slots into Nissan’s lineup beneath the popular Rogue, with which it shares few things aside from a name. A rebadged version of Europe’s Nissan Qashqai, it joins the likes of the Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Honda HR-V, Jeep Renegade, Mazda CX-3, Subaru Crosstrek, and Toyota C-HR, among others, in the Liliputian army of subcompact crossovers.

For this review we evaluated a 2017 Rogue Sport SV with all-wheel drive, All Weather package, Premium package, and a set of floor mats. The price came to $27,885, including the $960 destination charge.



What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 Rogue Sport, it’s helpful to understand who buys Small SUVs and what they like most and least about them.

Women more frequently purchase Small SUVs (55%). The median age of a Small SUV buyer is 54 years, and their median household income is $80,425. Just 24% of Small SUVs buyers are members of Gen Y (those born 1977 to 1994) or Gen Z (1995 and later).

People who buy Small SUVs mostly identify themselves as price buyers or practical buyers (57%). Just over half (52%) agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company. Reliability, quality, and low maintenance costs are high priorities for Small SUV buyers (more than 90% of buyers agree), and, remarkably, 86% agree that they like a vehicle that offers responsive handling and powerful acceleration. Versatility is important, too, with 83% of buyers agreeing that a vehicle accommodating a busy lifestyle is important.

Buyers say their favorite things about Small SUVs are (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving dynamics, interior design, visibility and safety, and seats. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about Small SUVs are (in descending order) the climate control system, storage and space, infotainment system, engine/transmission, and fuel economy.


What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own assessment of how the new 2017 Rogue Sport performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

Exterior
Designers have little leeway when it comes to crafting the shape of an SUV, which means it is a good thing that today’s consumers love their 2-box appearance so much.

For the Rogue Sport, Nissan employs all the crossover cues that can possibly be stuffed into a compact package and wraps it up in a blandly handsome package. Parking next to a standard Rogue highlights its picayune size; at 172 ins., the Rogue Sport is more than a foot shorter in length—and almost half a foot shorter in height—than the original-flavor model.

Sculpturing along the hood and flanks increases visual interest, but overall, the Rogue Sport isn’t the most distinctive vehicle in its segment. Strip away the badge and you’d barely be able to tell that it’s a Nissan aside from its tamed V-motion grille. The test car came with appealing 17-in. alloy wheels, but the larger 19-in. wheels that come with the SL trim level make the Rogue Sport look stouter.

Interior
When buying a Rogue Sport, you can choose between a black-on-black color scheme and a higher-contrast light gray over black treatment for the interior. Either way, the Rogue Sport’s cabin is nicely designed, with flowing lines that emanate from the center of the dashboard into the driver and passenger areas and then into the front door panels.

Materials aren’t premium, but they’re not overtly cheap, either. Standouts in this segment that give buyers surprisingly modern and refined cabin design include the Kia Soul and Mazda CX-3.

Seats
Thinly padded, the cloth-wrapped front seats provide decent thigh support and side bolstering. The passenger’s seat didn’t have a height adjuster, which would be helpful as the seat is mounted quite low relative to the cowling. My test vehicle was equipped with optional heated front seats as well as a heated steering wheel.

Nissan needs to improve rear-seat comfort. Space is not the problem, as long as you’re limiting passengers to two adults or three kids. Rather, the aforementioned thin padding combined with a lack of thigh support makes for an uncomfortable ride.

Climate Control System
The Rogue Sport’s dual-zone automatic climate control system is easy to use, thanks to two large temperature control knobs and well-marked buttons. During a late summer heat wave, the air conditioner proved strong and effective, and my kids appreciated the rear air vents. Nissan deserves strong marks on this front.

Infotainment System
My test vehicle came with an upgraded NissanConnect infotainment system including the company’s Mobile Apps and Services technology, as well as a navigation system.

Featuring a 7-in. touch-screen display, separate power/volume and tuning knobs, and physical buttons for accessing main function menus, the system was easy enough to use. However, switching radio stations using the tiny virtual preset buttons was a challenge, and the low-resolution display washed out easily in direct sunlight.

Worse, for all of its available features and services, the Rogue Sport fails to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone-projection technology. Given the youthful target buyer, this is almost inexcusable.

With that said, the system is otherwise a robust offering, providing Amazon Alexa and Siri Eyes Free integration, hands-free text messaging assistant, Bluetooth music-streaming capability, and access to both social media and Internet radio apps. With an active subscription to the Premium package, NissanConnect Services also includes automatic collision notification, SOS emergency calling, and several programmable features that encourage safer driving by teenagers.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the Rogue Sport’s voice-recognition technology made it remarkably easy to program the navigation system, especially with regard to finding local stores, cafes, and restaurants by brand name rather than exact address.

Storage and Space
Choose a tiny vehicle and you get a tiny cargo area. Therefore, you should not be surprised when opening the Rogue Sport’s rear hatch, which reveals just 19.9 cu. ft. of space behind the rear seats. That’s about half the space offered by the larger Rogue.

The Rogue Sport does include a Divide-N-Hide cargo compartment, making it easier to transport loose items in the bins beneath the load floor. Position the floor panels vertically and larger items can be carried in two divided bins. The Rogue Sport also includes useful side bins and straps that can secure, say, bottles of wine.

Flip the Rogue Sport’s rear seats down and you’ll get 53.3 cu. ft. of space, which is comparable to other models in the Small SUV segment. The resulting load floor is relatively flat, too, no doubt one of the goals behind the decision to make the vehicle’s back seat so uncomfortable.

None of the interior storage spaces is particularly generous, especially the modest center console box. But Nissan does provide a tray here, a slot there, and what it calls a “dog-bone-shaped” cupholder area that can multi-task for various items. The front door panel bins are decently sized, too.

Visibility and Safety
Slim windshield pillars maximize the view out, and while the dashboard sits somewhat high, the driver’s seat-height adjuster ensures that you’ll find a good position from which to survey the road ahead.

My SV trim test vehicle had the available blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a 360-degree surround-view camera, which is an unusual find in this class. A full suite of driver-assistance and collision-avoidance systems is also available for the Rogue Sport, but they are reserved for the high-zoot SL trim, on which they are an option.

As this review is written, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has performed crash tests on the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport.

Engine/Transmission
According to J.D. Power research data, an overwhelming majority of Small SUV shoppers consider powerful acceleration a must. Like most of its competitors, the Rogue Sport disappoints in this regard, virtually ensuring that buyers will complain about the engine/transmission combination.

Nissan installs a 141-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine in the Rogue Sport, and torque measures just 147 lb.-ft. A continuously variable transmission is standard, programmed to simulate a traditional automatic as much as is possible. My test vehicle also had all-wheel drive, which can be locked into an even power split for low-traction situations.

Predictably, acceleration is pokey, the SUV feeling and sounding entirely unmotivated. Midrange power is decent, but there is a definite lack of propulsion at both the lower and upper ranges of the tachometer. Third-party publications have clocked the Rogue Sport’s acceleration to 60 mph at about 9.5 long seconds. And while the CVT does its best to maximize response, it also drones quite unpleasantly.

Most of the time I was driving this SUV, I wished for a 6-speed manual transmission, or for a turbocharger that would imbue the Rogue Sport with more power and torque. As it stands, this powertrain is unlikely to satisfy buyers in the segment, though it is worth repeating that most of this Nissan’s competition is equally lethargic.

Fuel Economy
Given the Rogue Sport’s lethargy, you might expect a positive trade-off when you take it to the fuel pumps. Unfortunately, you may be a bit disappointed in terms of fuel economy, as well. While the EPA says to expect about 27 mpg in mixed driving, my week behind the Rogue Sport’s wheel resulted in an average of 24.4 mpg, well under expectations.

Driving Dynamics
One can understand the appeal of a petite vehicle such as a Rogue Sport in a densely populated town. Its tidy dimensions allow it to slip into small parking spaces, as well as holes in city traffic. And the suspension is tuned to soak up good-sized bumps, delivering a peaceful ride over imperfect pavement.

Get this Nissan onto the highway or a twisty road, however, and the Rogue Sport loses points. The light and numb steering, which makes it easy to spin into a parking space, also forces minor corrections when going into and out of curves. Weight transitions are messy affairs, with plenty of lean. And at higher speeds, the engine seems to struggle to maintain speed.

On a positive note, regardless of the driving situation, the brakes are responsive and resisted fade after repeated use on a scorching hot day.


Final Impressions
The 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is competitive when measured against other subcompact crossovers, looking better than most of them and offering some features that others don’t.

Generally speaking, however, small SUVs don’t offer much in the way of value. Compared with the compact 5-door hatchbacks that people skip in favor of SUV styling and available all-wheel drive, small SUVs typically get lower gas mileage, suffer less enjoyable driving dynamics, and are more expensive to purchase.

Aside from the diminutive Versa Note, Nissan doesn’t sell a car like that, its Sentra offered only as a sedan. That gives the Rogue Sport some breathing room. But without a more powerful engine, this small SUV could struggle to satisfy its owners.

Nissan North America supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport review.


Additional Research:


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