Nissan’s Rogue Sport is a subcompact-crossover standout, and the 2018 version is safer, too

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

What changes will make the 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport different?

Autonomous emergency braking as standard equipment on all trim levels will be the key 2018 update for Nissan’s likable subcompact crossover. The driver aid – a prerequisite for top safety ratings – was an extra-cost option available only on the Rogue Sport’s most expensive version for 2017. Otherwise, this surprisingly roomy five-seater will return little-altered, again vying with the likes of the Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Chevrolet Trax for young urbanites hopping aboard the crossover bandwagon.

Styled — to its credit — like a scaled-down version of Nissan’s popular Rogue compact crossover, the 2018 Rogue Sport reprises three trim levels: base S, volume-selling SV, and top-trim SL. All share a four-cylinder engine and are again available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). Distinguished by an upscale feel inside and out, the Rogue Sport’s model-year 2017 introduction made Nissan the only automaker with two entries in the burgeoning subcompact-crossover category. Nissan helped ignite the class with the model-year 2011 introduction of the Juke, an even smaller and more flamboyant crossover. The more conservative Rogue Sport is an Americanized version of the second-generation Nissan Qashqai, which went on sale in overseas markets for 2014.

Why should I wait for the 2018?

To get autonomous emergency braking without paying extra for it. The feature uses radar to sense an impending collision with a vehicle or pedestrian in front. It first alerts the driver, then automatically applies the brakes to reduce speed and, if necessary, to bring the Rogue Sport to a stop. Nissan calls it Automatic Emergency Braking and is making it standard for 2018 on virtually all versions of every car and crossover it sells in the U.S. On the 2017 Rogue Sport, automatic braking was available only on the SL model and only as part of the $570 Platinum Package or $2,280 Premium Package. Other driver aids, such as blind-sport warning with rear cross-traffic alert, are likely to remain optional for 2018 on all but the Rogue Sport S model.

Addition of autonomous emergency braking as standard will likely contribute to modest 2018 price hikes on what otherwise will be a rerun of the 2017 Rogue Sport. Expect perhaps a new color choice or two, but no deviation from the basic formula of upscale looks and upmarket décor. By naming U.S. versions of its newest crossover the Rogue Sport, Nissan leverages good will associated with the larger Rogue, a sales hit since its model-year 2014 redesign. And making it look like a downsized Rogue creates a handsome alternative in a class characterized by the mass-market traditional (Trax, CX-3, HR-V, Fiat 500X,) the jerrycan-quirky (Renegade, Subaru Crosstrek), the awkwardly proportioned (Ford EcoSport, Mini Countryman), and the attention-desperate (Toyota C-HR, Hyundai Kona, Juke).

Should I buy a 2017 model instead?

Yes, if you plan to spring for the full suite of available safety items. If not, wait for the ’18 Rogue Sport to get autonomous emergency braking even if all you can afford is the entry-level S model. Buying a ’17 will save you a few bucks on the base price, too, but you’ll get the same design formula Nissan will retain for the ’18 Rogue Sport.

This crossover’s relationship to the larger Rogue is more than skin deep. The two share a basic understructure, the so-called Common Modular Family (CMF) platform used by Nissan and its French partner, Renault. Here, it’s cut down to subcompact size, trimming from the Rogue 2.3 inches of wheelbase (the span between the front and rear axles), 12.1 inches of body length, 5.6 inches of height, and some 215 pounds of curb weight. It’s virtually the same width as the Rogue, but has 28 percent less cargo volume behind the rear seat and 12.7 percent less overall. The shorter wheelbase nets 4.5 fewer inches of rear legroom, and the Rogue Sport isn’t available with the toddler-suitable third-row seat optional in the Rogue. Of course, the Rogue Sport is less expensive, with a projected model-year ’18 base-price range of $22,880-$28,880, versus the Rogue’s projected $25,260-$32,750.

Will the styling be different?

No. It’ll again look so much like the Rogue that you’d need to see them side by side for the difference in size to be apparent. And it’s a rather handsome visage, with similarly curvy body sides, look-alike grilles, even the same available 19-inch alloy wheels. All ’18 Rogue Sports will retain LED daytime running lights and taillamps, with visual differences between trim levels relatively minor. Expect the S model to stay with 16-inch steel wheels with plastic wheel covers as standard, while the SV upgrades to 17-inch alloys, plus roof rails and outside mirrors with LED turn signals. The ’18 SL will likely again build on that with fog lamps and 19-inch alloys.

Inside, all 2018 Rogue Sports will again share a classy flat-bottom steering wheel with leather covering standard on the SL and optional for the SV. Leather upholstery will remain exclusive to the SL, where it’ll again be standard. Expect S and SV to retain a standard 5-inch central dashboard infotainment screen. A 7-inch display will again be included with the embedded navigation system that’ll remain standard on the SL and optional for the SV. It’s a comfortable cabin, with materials that feel upscale for the segment, especially in SL trim. Front-seat room is good. The back seat will easily accommodate two adults (thanks, Nissan, for the substantial center armrest), but rear legroom gets tight if the front seats are more than halfway back. And doorways very narrow at the bottom compel rear passengers into ankle contortions when exiting.

Any mechanical changes?

No. Nissan may well be considering a gas-electric hybrid iteration for some future model-year, but the ’18 Rogue Sport will stick with the 2017 model’s sole powertrain. It’ll mate a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with the automaker’s ubiquitous continuously variable transmission (CVT). At 141 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque, output will again be middling, even in a segment that prioritizes economy over acceleration. A CVT does the job of a conventional automatic transmission, but without stepped gear ratios. Here, Nissan uses sportier calibrations than in the Rogue, even replicating the “shift points” of a conventional automatic transmission. Still, pickup is best described as adequate, and you’ll find yourself flooring the throttle when merging onto a fast-moving freeway or attempting to pass on a two-lane road.

Slightly more than half of Rogue Sport buyers opt for AWD, and they’ll again get a crossover-traditional system that normally operates in front-wheel drive and shuffles power to the rear wheels to quell front-tire slip. It’s an aid in snow or on gravel, but despite a generous-for-the class 7.4 inches of ground clearance, the ’18 Rogue Sport won’t be suited for real off-roading. It will continue to handle with friendly confidence, thanks in large measure to the presence of an independent rear suspension. It’s just one of six vehicles in its 13-member competitive set to boast that feature; not even the Juke has an independent rear suspsenion. The relatively sophisticated underpinnings contribute to fine ride quality, as well. Only a darty feel to steering inputs at highway speed detracts from otherwise impressive road manners.

Will fuel economy improve?

Given no powertrain changes, highly unlikely. EPA ratings for the 2018 Rogue Sport were not released in time for this review, but expect them to repeat the 2017 numbers: 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined with front-wheel drive and 24/30/27 with AWD.

Those ratings would again be around par for the subcompact-crossover class, although they would fall short of those earned by the larger, heavier, and more powerful Rogue. Its gas-only version, which has 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, rated 26/33/29 with front-drive and 25/32/28 with AWD for 2017. (Rogue’s gas-electric hybrid model rated 33/35/34 and 31/34/33, respectively). Nissan cites the sporty CVT calibrations designed to enhance the Rogue Sport’s sportier character, and also notes that the smaller crossover is not as aerodynamic as its larger cousin.

Will it have new features?

Aside from autonomous emergency braking as standard equipment, probably not. The Rogue Sport launched as a smartly equipped subcompact crossover, and the SL model in particular should return for ’18 with enough upscale features to sate most any tech- and style-conscious young couple. All models come with satellite radio and Bluetooth connectivity and support Siri Eyes Free. Also aboard for ’18 will be Nissan’s handy Easy Fill Tire alert that toots the horn when you’ve pumped a tire to the proper inflation.

SV models will again build on the S, including as standard keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, automatic headlamps, a power driver’s seat, and Nissan’s nifty Divide-N-Hide cargo-floor-panel system. In addition to aforementioned features, such as embedded navigation, expect the 2018 Rogue Sport SL to again include remote engine start, heated front seats and steering wheel, and Nissan’s Around View Monitor that aids close-quarters maneuvering by projecting a bird’s-eye image on the dashboard screen.

On the safety front, expect some features to remain optional on the SV and SL and unavailable on the S. These include blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert for the SV, and for the SL, those aids, plus lane-departing warning and automatic lane-maintaining steering. Autonomous emergency braking is a prerequisite for the industry’s most coveted safety award, Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Top-trim Rogue SLs models equipped with it – as well as with LED headlamps – merit the award. The IIHS had not tested a Rogue Sport in time for this review, but the SL, which is the only model available with LED headlamps, would likely be the sole 2018 version to qualify. As of this review, the Mazda CX-3 was the Rogue Sport’s only direct competitor with Top Safety Pick+ status.

How will 2018 prices be different?

They’ll increase, under the influence of the newly standard autonomous emergency braking and normal model-year price inflation. Still, expect the ’18 Rogue Sport to again be among the more affordable subcompact crossovers. (Note that estimated base prices in this review include Nissan’s destination fee, which was $960 for the 2017 Rogue Sport.)

Estimated base price for the 2018 Rogue Sport S is $33,880 with front-wheel drive and $234,230 with AWD. For the ’18 Rogue Sport SV, it’s $24,480 with front-drive and $25,830 with AWD. And for the ’18 Rogue Sport SL, it’s an estimated $27,530 with front-drive and $28,880 with AWD.

Among key returning options, look for the S model’s Appearance Package to again include 17-inch alloy wheels for around $570. Expect the SV All-Weather Package to again include heated front seats and mirrors and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, plus remote engine start and fog lamps, for around $920. For model-year ’17, the All-Weather Package was required to order an SV with embedded navigation and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, which were part of the $1,500 Premium Package.

The only way to get a 2017 Rogue Sport with autonomous emergency braking was to equip an SL with the $570 Platinum Package or the $2,280 Premium Package. Like the Platinum, the Premium package included all the available safety features, plus a power moonroof and LED headlamps.

When will it come out?

Expect a fall 2017 release date for the 2018 Rogue Sport.

Best competitors

Chevrolet Trax, Fiat 500X, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade, Kia Stonic, Mazda CX-3, Mini Cooper Countryman, Subaru Crosstrek, Toyota C-HR

What change would make it better?

Conveniences like a power liftgate, plus the ability to display and control your smartphone apps on the dashboard screen via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A higher-definition navigation display in place of the current, fuzzy and cartoonish graphics would be an upgrade.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]