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The 2017 Nissan Rogue compact SUV recently took the sales lead, becoming the best-selling vehicle for Nissan and the best-selling compact SUV in the class by outselling the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and others. Now, Nissan gives us the 2017 Rogue Sport, a smaller version of the Rogue that aims to take on the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and more in the burgeoning subcompact SUV segment. Think of the Rogue Sport as a "fun size" version of the Rogue, with much of the same flavor, but in a smaller and less expensive package.

The Rogue Sport is all-new to us, but in reality has been on sale in the rest of the world for a while now with the name Qashqai on the hatch. Modifying it for U.S. sales involved changing the name for fairly obvious reasons, but not much else, and that's fine. While the Rogue Sport occupies the same price class as the HR-V and CX-3, it's notably larger than either, and is actually bigger than anything else in its class with the exception of the new Jeep Compass, which is a few tenths bigger here and there. 

Sophisticated ride

With different sheetmetal and a notably smaller profile, it's hard to tell that the Rogue Sport shares anything beyond half its name with the larger Rogue. About the only exterior dimension where it comes close to the Rogue is overall width because the two share a front seating area. The dash, center console, and door panels are virtually identical to the Rogue, save for the upholstery on the seats themselves. That's fine by us, since we like the intuitive design of the dash layout; no sense reinventing that particular wheel. The Rogue Sport also feels more substantial than some of its competitors, with a quieter and more sophisticated ride than you might expect for a small compact SUV starting in the low-$20,000 range.  

We found few complaints to direct at the interior's function during the several hours we spent behind the wheel of the Rogue Sport in and around Nissan's North American headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. The front seats are straight out of the Rogue, which is to say they're comfortable and supportive. The rear seats are a different story, and although they're fine for short hops, we doubt five adults would pick the Rogue Sport for a 12-hour road trip; a quick trip to lunch shouldn't be a burden. Cargo space is the most dramatic difference between the Rogue Sport and Rogue, but the Rogue Sport still has plenty of room (up to 22.9 cu-ft with the seatbacks up, and 61.1 with them folded), and a Divide and Hide cargo system helps you maximize that space with reconfigurable hard panels. There's even Nissan's excellent around-view camera system for maneuvering in tight parking spots. The one big downside is the infotainment system, which stands out as a glaring anachronism with its tiny screen, hard to find buttons, and lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Hopefully Nissan will update this system soon.

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A 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine sends 141 horsepower and 147 lb-ft of torque through either the front or all four wheels. It's enough power to keep the Rogue Sport from being a complete slug, but not quite enough to keep those seduced by the word "Sport" in the name spellbound. Still, for most people, it'll likely prove fine. There's only a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) available, but Nissan's "Xtronic" programming simulates gear changes and keeps you from having to hear a constant engine drone when accelerating at full throttle.

The rest of the Rogue Sport's dynamics are also up to snuff. The suspension's compromise between comfort and handling was spot on for the class, offering neither too stiff a ride nor handling that was overly squishy. The steering uses an electric assist, and feedback isn't great, but the weighting was right. The Rogue Sport isn't actually sporty to drive, but it won't beat you up nor will it make you seasick.

Pricing

Prices come in a little higher than the HR-V and CX-3 though, with the $22,380 (including destination) you'll pay for a base front-wheel drive Rogue Sport S about $1,000 more than the automatic-equipped base model of those two. On the other hand, the Rogue Sport is bigger than both, and compared to the similarly sized Jeep Compass, the price difference is just a couple hundred dollars here and there.

Despite a name that implies going against the grain, the Rogue Sport is just as middle-of-the-road as its larger cousin. That sounds like faint praise, but that formula earned the Rogue Toyota- and Honda-beating sales in its segment. Nissan is banking that the same formula, but smaller, will be just as successful. Our guess is they're probably onto something.


 

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