2018 Nissan Rogue N-Sport
(3 / 5)
Can a few pieces of black cladding justify a few extra dollars when it comes to signing on the dotted line? According to Nissan, it does.
It’s no secret that the Nissan Rogue is one of the company’s most popular vehicles. Across the globe the Rogue has gone gangbusters, cementing its position as a default choice in the compact SUV market.
The reason is simple. It’s spacious, solidly built and priced well. But when you start adding some bits and pieces, the price can jack up a fair bit.
For example, the regular Nissan Rogue in SV guise costs $27,370 for the all-wheel-drive version. And depending on your market, when you shell out an extra $2050 you score an “N-Sport” badge on the tailgate. Not really convincing, though, is it?
So, Nissan sweetens the deal by offering you this N-Sport edition as a limited run of 600 vehicles, either with Diamond Black, Gun Metallic, Brilliant Silver or Ivory Pearl paint.
The wheels are upgraded to 18-inch black alloys, there are gloss black mirror caps, dark metallic front and rear bumper finishers, black side sills, a dark chrome front grille and black roof rails. Nissan in the US hasn’t offered the N-Sport package yet, so we’ve tested the Australian version here, called “X-Trail” down under.
The cost to upgrade to an N-Sport version isn’t a bad deal, considering those cosmetic changes would cost a lot more than that if you individually added them, and it must be said it does make it look a lot nicer than the regular Rogue.
So is a Nissan Rogue with lipstick a good bus for the family? Here’s the rub: it’s no different to the normal Rogue.
Oh sure, it looks a little different, but the Rogue’s driving manners and mechanical layout is identical.
There’s no denying that this version of the Rogue is a popular thing. Its spaciousness puts it right at the top of the compact SUV category for usability, and it has become known as a reliable and rugged bit of family transport. That’s why it’s actually the best selling SUV of all time.
The front seats have huge amounts of legroom when put right back, and normally that would impede on second-row occupants. But with a sliding second row, the Rogue has enough room back there, as well.
In fact, with a long-legged driver up front, the second row is still very comfortable. And open up the tailgate and you’re greeted with even more space.
The tailgate’s surface area tells you that there’s a lot of room behind it, but it doesn’t have the release button where you’d normally think it is (above the number-plate), but rather it sits in a small recess at the bottom – handy if you’re not the tallest person around.
Space is 565 liters, and when the second row is folded flat, it grows to 945 litres. But there are clever little floor covers that create a flat load area, but reveal more space underneath the boot floor when removed. Also a handy little security device, by keeping everything hidden.
But the issue with the Rogue’s interior is not one of practicality or space. It’s one of quality. The dash fascia is supposed to have the appearance stitched leather.
But it’s even worse than that – it’s a solid piece of moulded plastic, which looks as bad as it sounds. And yes, it literally sounds bad when you tap it. It’s just acres of hard plastic, and the only soft surfaces are where you rest your arms.
The rest of the interior, although functional, also suffers from this cheap feel. You can see the attempts to make it a bit more presentable, but when competitors like the (admittedly smaller) Mazda CX-5 are around, it makes the Rogue’s build quality look a bit pale by comparison.
What about how it drives, though? Well, that’s a bit of a mixed bag, too.
The handling has definitely been improved by the addition of the 18-inch wheels, and the ride hasn’t been affected too badly by having the lower profile tyres. But it’s still not what you’d describe as “athletic”.
Instead, the Rogue is far happier cruising around, not wanting to be bothered much by wheel slinging antics. Good for passengers, but not exactly exciting.
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol is smooth enough, but at 126kW and 226Nm, it’s crying out for a turbocharged engine to bump up that torque. It’s also saddled with a continuously variable transmission, which wouldn’t be so bad if it used steps like Subaru’s version of the CVT.
Instead, it has that typical rubber-band feel and needs to rev to get it up and going, which sounds a bit laborious.
Thankfully, there’s an easy switch from two-wheel-drive to both automatic all-wheel-drive and locked AWD. The system is also clever enough to detect slip in the automatic AWD mode, so much so that it will predict slippage on wet roads and supply maximum grip. And it works beautifully on sand as well.
The Rogue is actually more capable when heading away from tarmac than most people give it credit for. Let the tyres down a little and you can drive onto a beach without an issue. Keep the momentum up and it will get through some very hungry sand indeed.
We’re a bit miffed, though, that markets like Australia get a seven-seat version and Nissan in America decided to discontinue the three-row Rogue in 2017. That aside, the Rogue is a decent steed for the family, but there are certainly nicer vehicles around.
The interior plastics on the Hyundai Tuscon are a lot better, and the Mazda CX-5’s interior makes the Nissan look like a Mahindra.
So while the black trims and wheels make it look a bit nicer, it is still a nice looking machine without it. People buy a Rogue because it’s a roomy and practical machine and it’s a known quantity.
For us, it’s not the pick of the compact SUV segment, but if the Rogue is on your shopping list, ignore these cosmetic packages. Put the $2K in your back pocket and save it for filling the tank for the next few months.