2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: Nissan enters the compact SUV competition [First Look]

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport (Sinclair Broadcast Group / Jill Ciminillo)

Nissan has been having a bang-up year. In fact, in March it had a record 150,556 sales. The automaker attributes much of this to its growing truck and SUV sales.

According to Nathan Sneddon, senior planner of product planning at Nissan North America, Rogue alone is the No. 1 selling vehicle in the United States that’s not a Big Three Truck.

With that nugget, it made sense when Nissan decided to launch another SUV in the States, the automaker decided to cash in on the Rogue nameplate.

Enter the 2017 Rogue Sport.

Known elsewhere as the Qashqai, this newest entry to the Nissan lineup is a foot shorter and weighs about 200 pounds less than its big brother. Rogue Sport also loses about 9 cubic feet of cargo volume.

In photos the two look very similarly sized, but once you see them side by side, the tiny Rogue actually looks quite large in comparison.

So, why would someone choose the Rogue Sport over the regular Rogue?

Sneddon said the elevator pitch is quite simple: Rogue Sport gives you all the benefits of an SUV without the bulk.

Nissan was also very clear during the press preview about who it is targeting with the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport: Millennials. More specifically people in their 20s and 30s who are either single or married without kids.

While age is a factor, Rogue Sport is more of a lifestyle vehicle. Someone who would buy this vehicle is also likely to live in a city and have a somewhat active lifestyle. So, back to the elevator pitch: People who buy the Rogue Sport want something the size of a sedan with the functionality of an SUV.

Nissan thinks this new entry into the growing compact crossover segment will fit the bill. And it will go head to head with the likes of Honda HR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage and Mazda CX-3.

While I think it will stack up pretty well against the HR-V, Tucson and Sportage, I still like the CX-3 better - but that’s mostly because I hate the continuously variable transmission in the Rogue Sport. Plus, I think the CX-3 is more attractive and super fun to drive as well as completely functional as a compact crossover.

Rogue Sport is equipped with a 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 140 horsepower. Which is perfectly fine. But it’s not peppy, and it’s not well-suited to aggressive driving.

While the engine-transmission combination is not my cup of tea, I did find a lot that I loved about Rogue Sport. First and foremost, it gets all the high-end safety tech that you can get on the Rogue. Available features include the around-view monitor, lane departure warning, lane departure prevention, blind spot monitoring and autonomous emergency braking.

It should also be noted that the interior appointments are really nice on the Rogue Sport - it’s not just a cheap version of the Rogue. You can get a lot of the luxury appointments, including leather seats, navigation and heated front seats.

Nissan also did an amazing job reducing road noise in the cabin. While there is some engine noise that creeps in during aggressive driving, for the most part, Rogue Sport has class-above quietness.

The one thing that surprised me, however, is there’s just one USB port in the entire vehicle. One. When we asked Nissan about this, execs on hand said they thought that would be “sufficient” for this vehicle, stating that for this vehicle there would likely only be one person in the car the majority of the time. IMHO: As soon as you add a +1, you’ll be fighting over that port to charge - just like my drive partner and I did during our day-long test.

Overall, I thought the Rogue Sport was comfortable to drive, and I had an excellent driving position. The seats were supportive, and the front heated seats worked really well.

Even though Rogue Sport is on the compact side of the spectrum, I didn’t feel like I got pushed around on the highway, and it maintains its quietness even at highway speeds.

Rogue Sport will be built in Japan, and it is available as a 2017 model in the U.S. beginning this week.

Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Nissan covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.

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