cars

Nissan's Rogue Sport lacks that je ne sais quoi

Scott Sturgis, Auto Columnist

Updated: Thursday, November 9, 2017, 3:01 AM

Slightly smaller dimensionally than the Rogue, the new 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport provides the perfect size and utility for active urban lives, featuring responsive handling and maneuverability.

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport SL FWD: Where Mr. Driver’s Seat, international man of mystery, admits he could get sued for malpractice.

Price: The 2017 model cost $29,980 as tested (options include $2,280 for the SL Premium Package, which includes a moonroof, and $570 for Platinum Package). A base model for 2017 starts at $21,420.

Marketer’s pitch: “The street savvy versatile crossover up for anything.” (Needs a hyphen, Nissan.)

Conventional wisdom: It’s based on the European/Asian model Nissan Qashqai.

Reality: The same as the Nissan Qashqai? Hardly.

Fat and happy: Perhaps testing out the Nissan Qashqai — reputed to be a world-traveling twin for the Rogue Sport in the U.S. — while on vacation in Europe left me un petit peu vulnerable. Was I filled with French food and wine? Soaking up the Italian sun?

Back to reality: Because while the exterior and interior looked just like what I’d driven across three countries, the fun stayed abroad.

Up to speed: The first major difference is under the hood — while the Qashqai had a torque diesel powerplant buzzing up front, the Rogue Sport’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder creates just 141 horsepower. That’s as much as you’ll find in a Kia Soul Base, but the upgraded Soul models offer 20 to 60 more horses.

Naturally, acceleration is disappointing. Of course, 0-to-60 times will be far better in Europe, where they’re measured in kilometers, but even still — 9.5 seconds is a long wait.

Shiftless: The CVT has a lot to do with the disappointment. It revs high, but I couldn’t get much oomph out of it. Even the shiftable function didn’t help.

The Qashqai in Europe came with a delightful six-speed manual and a clutch that never let me stall, and the Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat and I rode from Barcelona to Torino and back.

Take away the six-speed manual and there isn’t much to get excited about.

Back down again: Here’s a problem I rarely see among new cars these days — the brakes in the Rogue Sport test model were not very good. I was forever misjudging when to put them on. Furthermore, a panic stop at one point set the vehicle ashudder as well, another downside.

Driver’s Seat: This was comfortable enough covered in leather, and not too hard.

On the road: Handling was uninspired, a lot looser than the European version. It felt neither fun nor particularly confident.

In addition, the Nissan Rogue was really bouncy. Road seams could be brutal. Thinking back, most of the roads through Europe seemed quite smooth, so perhaps a comparison is not so easy.

The 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is more than an extension of the popular Rogue, which accelerated past the Nissan Altima sedan in calendar year 2016 to become Nissanís number one selling model. While sharing the Rogue name, platform and numerous advanced safety and security features, Rogue Sport stands on its own as a stylish, nimble, fun-to-drive and affordable compact SUV.

Friends and stuff: Legroom for rear-seat passengers was meh. Foot room is hampered by the rear vent.

Headroom was OK. The rear seat was comfortable enough, though a little on the short side.

A decent tray in front of the shifter holds cellphones and such, and the center console is not bad.

Play some tunes: The radio matches the Qashqai’s. Buttons control a lot of the settings and dials do most of the rest — a rather button-heavy setup that seems circa 2011.

The sound is average at best and the tiny map can be difficult to follow (an unfortunately standard feature on both sides of the pond).

Keeping warm and cool: Dials control the driver and passenger temperature. A button controls fan speed and another directs location, not my favorite setup. Drivers spend too much time with their eyes off the road.

Night shift: The interior lights were delightfully subtle. The headlights lit the roadway just fine.

Fuel economy: I averaged about 27 mpg in a highway-heavy round of testing, far worse than the 36 mpg of the diesel across the pond.

Where it’s built: Kyushu, Japan.

How it’s built: Consumer Reports dubs the reliability of the Rogue Sport a 3 out of 5.

In the end: At the end of the Qashqai review this summer, I said: “Comfortable for long trips, with a nice interior and decent ride. Too bad the great fuel economy and stick shift aren’t available on this side of the water.” Add in the better handling in Europe and it still holds up. That’s why I already bought our tickets for next year’s trip.

Scott Sturgis, Auto Columnist

Read full story: Nissan's Rogue Sport lacks that je ne sais quoi