Nissan has been brilliant at anticipating the shift to crossovers in the market and has great breadth to its offerings, across almost all classes and price points. The Rogue and slightly smaller Rogue Sport fit very well into this range, and aside from their lackluster engines, are quite competitive.
By Isaac Bouchard
2018 Nissan Rogue Sport SL AWD
The Rogue Sport looks great, really showing off its European heritage (it’s been available for multiple generations overseas) and really illustrates how they defined a market segment. Likewise its interior looks good—at first glance. Spend more time aboard and the cheapness of the materials starts to grate; the Sport isn’t in the same ballpark, never mind sport, as competitors like the Mazda CX-3 in this regard But it does have more interior room in the back and a savvy cargo management system.
Nissan has chosen an interesting group of equipment to make standard and optional for the Sport, such as the Technology Package—which also includes remote start, heated front seats and wheel, and their choices make a lot of sense, with an exception or two, like only one USB for the front. Around-town, on light throttle openings, the very well calibrated CVT-style transmission makes it feel almost like the Rogue Sport has a turbo, with readily-accessible torque. But pressed beyond merely stop-and-go duties and it flounders—the 2.0-liter, normally aspirated four has no real reserves of power, or at least not enough for the Sport moniker. 0-60 takes 10 seconds in independent testing and the Nissan feels labored when you need to hoof it, despite being rated at 141hp/147lb-ft. The engine doesn’t sound sophisticated nor refined (typical of direct fuel injection units), and the structure also passes on lots of road roar. The Rogue Sport would be an awful ski vehicle unless you crank the tunes and even then you’d be hanging in the right hand lane if you didn’t want to be a mobile chicane. Handling and body control are really good, and the steering is accurate. Equipped with a downsized turbo to fill in the dearth of midrange torque and better shrug off elevation and you’d really have something here, as the overall package has some compelling qualities.
2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD
Lookin good too! The Rouge SL has it down in the style department as well, what with its chunky stance, bold frontal aspect and big, 19in rims. Inside too, where the spacious cabin is lined with milk chocolatey, soft tan leather. Ergonomics are great and there is more room than most competitors—that’s a side benefit of having the Sport in the lineup—you can cover the gamut of needs in this super-popular class with two vehicles. But the same issues hobble the Rogue’s chances of winning the compact crossover crown: a moaning and groaning, 2.5-liter engine that glugs when it should sing, and only eventually motivates the Nissan to one of the slowest 60mph times in the class. It also disappoints in real world fuel economy, a common effect of not having enough power and torque (170hp/175lb-ft) for its size and heft, and no turbo to offset our thinner air and the inefficiencies of a CVT.
The Rogue doesn’t handle with the European élan of the Sport, either, but it rides our rough roads better. What it doesn’t do is smother noise from underneath, something that is sad to hear, insofar as Nissan makes some incredibly refined crossovers, like the Pathfinder and Armada. There’s nothing about the performance that a nice little turbocharger wouldn’t fix, as Honda proved with the latest CR-V. And the lack of refinement can be easily cured with 50 pounds or so of insulation. Then, we could concentrate more easily on the genius of things like Pro Pilot Assist, the optional suite of Level 2 autonomy driving aids. The Rogue really will almost steer itself on highways, stop and go with traffic and protect one from oneself when it comes to distraction. As a package it has a lot to recommend it, but the competition is too fierce for half-hearted measures.
EPA ratings: Rogue Sport–24/30/27mpg; Rogue–20/25/22mpg
0-60mph: Rogue Sport–10.0sec; Rogue–9.1sec (indep test)
Price as tested: Rogue Sport–$30,530; Rogue:–$36,520
Here is what Nissan has to say about the Rogue Sport and Rogue.
Rogue Sport–★★★☆☆; Rogue–★★★☆☆
Contact Isaac Bouchard for help saving time, money and hassle when buying or leasing one at [email protected]