If an automaker has a hot-selling vehicle these days, it doesn’t hurt to offer a variant, especially at a lower price.
That’s exactly what Nissan did with last year’s introduction of the Rogue Sport, a slightly shorter and smaller version of the Rogue compact crossover, based on the specs of the previous generation of the same car.
The Rogue Sport continues for 2018 as a strictly five-passenger slightly junior-size version of the regular Rogue, but with a lower starting price – just $21,640 (plus $995 freight), compared with $24,800 for the bigger brother. Those prices are for the entry level S model of both vehicles, with a continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive.
Nissan added the Rogue Sport for 2017 after keeping the previous generation of the Rogue in the lineup for a couple of years as the Rogue Select after the redesigned seven-passenger Rogue arrived for 2014.
The new Rogue became Nissan’s best-selling U.S. model, outpacing the Altima midsize sedan, after the new generation arrived, leading the automaker to capitalize on that success with the addition of the Rogue Sport for value-seeking buyers.
The difference is that the Rogue Sport actually is based on the architecture of the bigger Rogue that debuted for 2014, and it looks almost identical to it inside and out. Still, it’s actually a different vehicle.
Rogue Sport is designed for consumers who don’t need the larger Rogue or its seven-passenger seating. Target customers are single people, young couples without kids and empty-nesters and retired folks.
The 2018 Rogue Sport, just like its bigger brother, comes in three trim levels. Besides the S model, which also is available with all-wheel drive ($22,990), there are the SV ($23,240, front drive; $24,590, AWD); and the SL ($26,290, front drive; $27,640, AWD).
The Rogue Sport is the same vehicle as the compact crossover that Nissan sells in Europe and other markets as the Qashqai (pronounced “kosh-kai), but it has been given the Rogue name for the U.S. market to cash in on the regular Rogue’s popularity. Nissan also sells the Rogue Sport in Canada, but up there it retains the Qashqai moniker, the name of an obscure tribe in the mountains of Iran.
Rogue Sport is 12.1 inches shorter overall than the regular Rogue, with a wheelbase 2.3 inches shorter. It has two rows of seating for up to five passengers, while the Rogue can accommodate seven passengers in three rows in certain configurations.
With the Sport, there is a smaller engine than the one in the standard Rogue. It’s a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder with 141 horsepower and 147 foot-pounds of torque, compared with the regular Rogue’s 2.4-liter inline four with 170 horsepower and 175 foot-pounds of torque.
Additionally, the Rogue Sport is about 300 pounds lighter.
Like the regular Rogue, all models have a continuously variable automatic transmission – or CVT -- and standard front-wheel drive, with available all-wheel drive.
EPA ratings for Rogue Sport models are 25 mpg city/32 highway/28 combined with front-drive, and 24/30/27 with all-wheel drive.
We tested the top-end 2018 Rogue Sport SL with front drive, in a funky looking green exterior color called Nitro Lime, and a charcoal interior with Piano Black and chrome accents. It came with 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with five “V” spokes.
The Rogue Sport’s smaller engine still gave us plenty of power, even on some twisty, hilly roads. We had no concerns about sufficient power for overtaking and passing, even on the mild hills.
Sport’s cargo area is a bit smaller than that of the regular model – with 22.9 cubic feet of space behind the second-row seat (19.9 cubic feet on uplevel models), compared with 32 cubic feet for the bigger model With the rear seat folded, the Sport has 61.1 cubic feet of storage, compared with 70 cubic feet for the Rogue.
Among Nissan crossovers, the two compact Rogue models fall below the midsize five-passenger Murano, which got its own redesign for 2015, and the full-size, seven-passenger Pathfinder, which was all new three years ago, but also got some 2017 updates. The Rogue Sport is larger than the new subcompact Nissan Kicks crossover and the stylish Juke small crossover,
Wheels and tires vary by trim level. Sport S models have 16-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers and 215/65R16 all-season tires, while the SV comes with 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 215/65017 all-season tires and the SL gets the aforementioned 19-inch wheels with 225/45R19 all-season tires.
Our SL tester came with a bunch of extra features from two options packages, along with the built-in content of the SL. Standard features included leather front seats; keyless entry and pushbutton start; remote engine start; NissanConnect with Navigation, Mobile Apps and Services, and a seven-inch color touch-screen display, and NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM.
Also included were heated front seats, a seatback pocket on the driver's seat; the cool Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, with the view showing up beside the regular backup camera display; fog lights; heated outside mirrors; heated leather-wrapped steering wheel; and a leather-wrapped shift knob.
Our tester also had the SL Premium Package ($2,280), which brought a power sliding moon roof, LED headlights with LED accents, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and High Beam Assist.
We also had the SL Platinum Package ($570), which added Intelligent Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Departure Prevention, and Forward Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection.
Inside, there is mostly adequate leg and knee room for the second row, but the middle seating position is tight for adults. It’s great for a child seat, though.
The driver and front passenger had plenty of leg-, knee- and headroom. There was a six-way adjustable driver's seat, with power adjustments including lumbar support included on the SL. The front passenger seat is four-way manually adjustable.
Our Quick Comfort heated front seats, included on the SL, begin warming body parts most sensitive to heat immediately, including thighs and hips.
Standard vehicle control technologies included Active Trace Control, Active Engine Braking and Active Ride Control
Besides our Nitro Lime, exterior colors include Mocha Almond, Monarch Orange, Magnetic Black, Brilliant Silver, Gun Metallic, Palatial Ruby, Pearl White, Glacier White and Caspian Blue. Besides the charcoal color of our vehicle’s interior, there is also a Light Gray interior available.
Other interior amenities include a D-shaped steering wheel (heated on our tester) with tilt and telescopic functions and built-in cruise control and audio controls; dual-zone automatic climate control; 60/40 split-fold-down rear seatback; and Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide cargo system. The Divide-N-Hide cargo system has 18 adjustable variations between the cargo and passenger compartments.
Plenty of interior storage is provided, along with two front cupholders and two front bottle holders. There’s plenty of room for two smartphones on a shelf at the front of the center console, which also includes the two cupholders in a row, front to back.
Also, in front of the cupholders in the flat cubby for phones are a USB port and a 12-volt power outlet. Behind the cupholders is another small cubby that also can hold a phone in a vertical position, followed by a storage box with lid.
Other standard features include satellite radio; a six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary audio input jack and USB port; Bluetooth hands-free phone system; streaming Bluetooth audio; and the hands-free text-messaging assistant (compatible smartphone required).
Our car came with power door locks with automatic locking; and power windows with one-touch up/down for the driver.
The Sport comes with four-wheel independent suspension, electronic stability control with traction control, and Hill Start Assist.
Standard safety features include front seat-mounted side air bags; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags with rollover sensors front and rear; and the LATCH system for child-safety seats. Child-safe rear door locks are included, along with an anti-theft alarm and tire-pressure monitoring with Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert system.
The CVT has a new Eco mode to help drivers improve their fuel economy. It's designed to change acceleration pedal feel, and it includes an icon on the dash to show that the vehicle is in Eco mode.
Our Rogue Sport shifted smoothly with a minimum of engine run-up that’s often noticeable with such transmissions. It seems more like a conventional transmission with defined shift points. There is a manual shift mode that makes it feel even more like a conventional transmission.
The Rogue Sport’s interior is mostly quiet even at highway speeds, an improvement over the previous generation. Standard electric power steering was tight and responsive. And with the four-wheel antilock disc brakes, braking was safe and confident.
Carpeted floor mats ($135) were included on our tester.
Total sticker price for our 2018 Rogue Sport SL model with front-wheel drive was $29,890, including freight and $2,985 options.
Unlike the regular Rogue, which is assembled at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, the Rogue Sport is built in Japan.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2018 Nissan Rogue Sport
The package: Five-door, five-passenger, front- or all-wheel-drive, four-cylinder, compact crossover utility vehicle.
Advantages: Nissan’s newest compact crossover is the Rogue Sport, added for 2017 as a complement to the larger standard Rogue model. It comes with seating for up to five, is more than a foot shorter than the regular Rogue, and has a lower starting price and smaller four-cylinder engine. It’s essentially a U.S. version of the Nissan Qashqai, which is sold in Canada, Europe and other world markets.
Negatives: No engine upgrade offered for those who want more power; fuel economy is less than for the larger standard Rogue with a bigger engine.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.
Power/torque: 141 HP./147 foot-pounds
Length: 172.4 inches.
Curb weight: 3,225-3,415 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain for both rows.
Electronic stability control: Standard, with traction control and hill-start assist.
Cargo volume: 22.9 cubic feet behind second row (S model); 19.9 cubic feet (SV, SL models).
Towing capacity: Not provided.
Fuel capacity/type: 14.5 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy: 25 mpg city/32 highway/28 combined (front-wheel drive); 24/30/27 (all-wheel drive).
Major competitors: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Subaru Outback, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5.
Base price range: $21,640-$27,640, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $29,890, including freight and options (2018 SL front-wheel drive).
On the Road rating: 8.4 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.