Over the past few weeks, we’ve brought you some of the latest small crossovers in the new car market. Each arrives with a full slate of virtues as defined by its respective brand, plus each carves out a slice of the growing crossover pie with enough street cred to make a dent in a new-car market that is shifting to the back side of the peak-volume curve.
Add one more contestant to this specialized class of compact/subcompact raised wagons/crossovers — Nissan’s Rogue Sport.
A foot shorter than the “regular” Rogue, the Rogue Sport is one of Nissan’s top-selling models in Europe. Take note of that fact, as the same will soon be true here. This subcompact wagon is clearly one of the better offerings in this segment.
Wearing upscale sculpturing that shares more than a hint of the recent Infiniti and Mercedes small crossovers, the Rogue Sport offers excellent interior space front and rear, as well as a cargo compartment that swallows two sets of golf clubs without folding the split rear seat. Efficient packaging indeed, and without the cabin austerity found in the Chevy Trax and Honda HR-V.
And like many of today’s modern crossovers and small cars, the Nissan uses a 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder engine that makes 141 hp and 147 foot-pounds of peak torque — comparable to other subcompact crossovers, but not the elevated output found when turbocharging is offered with this size engine. Perhaps a turbo Rogue Sport is coming, with the turbo-four from the smaller Juke? Anyway, teamed with the de rigueur Nissan CVT automatic, the powertrain proved more than adequate while reaching the EPA highway estimate (24/30 mpg with AWD, 25/32 mpg with front drive) in sustained use. Lead-footed drivers will lust for more go-power; the other 95 percent of drivers will seek the peak mileage provided by a lighter touch and Eco-mode activation.
Unleashed, the Rogue Sport was comfortable at highway speeds. Quieter than most rivals, the small Nissan didn’t shy from a hasty pace, while its poise and composure rendered a confidence that several other small crossovers need. Blessed with a tight turning radius and nimble handling, the Rogue Sport sprinted around the city like a larger Mini Cooper — while taking about the same amount of space.
And that may have been the biggest surprise with the Rogue Sport. The spaciousness up front was very welcome — with functional door pockets and a center console that actually holds multiple articles — as was a rear seat that affords adult-sized comfort without compromise. Controls and switches are the usual Nissan buttons and dials with easy-to-use audio and climate controls despite the expanded touch-screen that augments entertainment and info. And this Rogue actually addresses the traditional Nissan left-of-steering wheel bank of buttons, which are all too often out of view, by reshaping the dash panel so these controls are at least vertical instead of under the curve of the dash. Nice attempt at improvement.
Pricing starts at $21,420 for a front-drive S Rogue Sport, bumping to $22,720 with AWD. An SV-trimmed model begins at $23,020, while our top SL with intelligent AWD, 19-inch wheels, sunroof, heated leather seats and steering wheel, forward braking assist, intelligent dynamic cruise, lane departure, cross-traffic and blind-spot warning systems plus premium audio with XM, around-view camera and other goodies pushes the sticker to just over $30,000. Nissan presents the Rogue Sport in an array of extroverted colors too; Monarch Orange will garner any driver some extra attention.
At 3,400 pounds and 172.4 inches in length, this Rogue Sport bursts onto the subcompact scene as slightly larger than a Buick Encore, Mazda 3 or Honda HR-V, and a tick smaller than the latest Jeep Compass. Ford’s new subcompact crossover also arrives this fall; the Eco-Sport will be similar in size to the Rogue Sport, and it also arrives from Europe.
Polished, confident and right-sized for many of today’s urban drivers, the Rogue Sport capitalizes on the crossover craze with a competent product at the right time. It should be a smash hit for Nissan dealers.