2018 Nissan Rogue Sport SL Road Test
(4 / 5)
There are two sides to every story, or so goes the old adage. But when you think about it, there are three sides – your version, their version and the truth. Car companies each have their own version of history, especially when it comes to SUVs.
Which vehicle was the first subcompact SUV? Honda claims its HR-V started the whole revolution. Jeep says the Cherokee was the first. But what we have here is Nissan’s claim to be the first, the 2018 Rogue Sport.
There’s a bit of a story behind the name, too. Originally, it was called the Nissan Qashqai. The word “Qashqai” is said to come from the names of clans in Iran, but because of how it’s pronounced in some markets, Nissan changed it originally to “Dualis”, referring to its dual role as a passenger car and off-roader.
Not that you can go very far off road with it, but car companies want us to believe that crossovers can do pretty much everything.
That aside, the original name is pretty close to “cash cow” and despite that being an apt description, Nissan ran with the two nameplates. Now, there are a different two – “Qashqai” for the rest of the world and “Rogue Sport” for the US. And for this 2018 model, you’ll have to agree that Nissan has absolutely nailed the styling.
The proportions, the wheel designs, the paintwork – everything just works. Based on looks alone, it is a cash cow for Nissan.
The upgrades to the 2018 model have only enhanced what worked in the 2017 Rogue Sport. With wider headlamps, a lower grille and a few other tweaks to the bumpers (and the inclusion of a shorter, more aerodynamic aerial), it looks every part a 2018 vehicle.
Open the doors and the cabin looks as good as the exterior. The steering wheel is more sporting with a D-shape, there are new button layouts, the centre console features stitched surrounds, and the quality of plastics has been upgraded.
You can put all the windows down using one press, and you can even do that remotely by pressing and holding the unlock button – great for those warmer days.
Nissan says that road noise has been better supressed, which is a good thing considering the wheels are 19-inches and tend to transmit a bit of rumble.
As standard, the Rogue Sport gets digital radio, better resolution on the infotainment screen with new graphics and Bluetooth streaming and telephone connection.
However, the sun obscures the screen when in full daylight (depending on its angle) and the clarity of both the screen and camera are even eclipsed by the Suzuki Ignis.
The reversing camera with a top-view feature is good, but when you can’t make out any detail, that needs to be addressed, pronto.
Thankfully, the rest of its safety package is far better. This crossover now gets AEB coupled with crash warning, parking sensors at both ends, lane wander alert and a hill start function.
It will also park itself, it has high beam assist, rear cross traffic warning, headlamps that angle with the steering, radar cruise control and lane departure assistant.
We must say that for the price, the build is excellent. The front seats are very sporty (living up to its name) with beautiful padding and knee rests for the driver.
There is ambient lighting, too, but we’re not sure how everyone feels about a red glow.
There’s only just enough room to squeeze three adults in the back seat, however four-up is much more comfortable.
Open the tailgate and you’ll find a reasonable 19.9 ft³ to stow your luggage and if you don’t have anyone in the back, you can drop that to avail 53.3 ft³ of cargo space.
Open the hood and there’s a naturally-aspirated, 2.0-liter gasoline four-cylinder which starts via a push-button. It starts and idles very smoothly, and is coupled to a CVT gearbox.
The best driving style to keep it from flaring is to work on the engine’s lower torque and just take it easy. Thankfully this CVT is one of the better ones with more of a stepped gearing.
With only 141 horsepower to play with, it’s both cheap to run and cheap to buy. However, it’s not the most fuel efficient engine. We did 30 miles per gallon on test, so not too bad, but that was mostly highway driving, where Nissan claims it will get 32 mpg.
We’d also like a little more feel from the electric steering, but it does self-center better than most of the modern setups, so that’s a plus.
Underneath, the Rogue Sport has had the suspension revised to handle a bit better but also give a nicer ride, even with these larger wheels. It’s happier cruising but will grip if you need to get the kids to school in a hurry.
Going up against the Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Kona is going to be a task, but the Rogue Sport counters with better space and much nicer looks. And despite the Toyota C-HR looking more contemporary, we feel this will age better.
And because its quality is quite good, the value-for-money equation means the 2018 Rogue Sport can even go up against premium subcompact SUVs, as well.
If it’s a small runabout you’re after, put this one on your shopping list.