2019 Nissan Rogue Sport: A great Portland compact crossover
Automakers are so eager to jump on the popular crossover market, they've redefined the term and are beginning to compete against themselves. The result is good news for consumers, who are being offered more choices than ever before. But it helps to know what you're looking for.
The best example is Nissan, the Japanese manufacturer than now offers two vehicles it advertises as subcompact crossovers, the all-new Kicks and the Rogue Sport, which was first introduced in 2017 as a smaller version of the popular compact Rogue crossover.
Both the Kicks and Rogue Sport are affordable hatchbacks that offer a lot of value. They also look somewhat alike at first glance, although the styling on the Kicks is edgier.
But the Rogue Sport is the only one that qualifies as a crossover in the original meaning of the word because it is available with all-wheel-drive. In other words, it crosses over from a car to a truck-based sport utility vehicle, which always offers AWD. The Kicks only comes with front-wheel-drive, although it sits higher than a car, like all original crossovers.
Confused? Comparing the Kicks to the FWD version of the Rogue Sport helps.
When we tested the 2019 Kick in February, we called it "a great choice for Portland." With bright trim colors and a good sound system, it was clearly designed for younger drivers. But although it was small on the outside, we found the Kicks surprisingly roomy inside, The 1.6-liter engine proved more than enough power, and the handling was nimble enough to make even routine errands fun. You can read that review here.
The front-wheel-drive version of the 2019 Rogue Sport is like a grown up version of the Kicks. It is a little bit larger, with more restrained exterior styling and a softer ride. But the standard 2.0-liter four cylinder engine and Continuously Variable Transmission are tuned to make it feel peppy around town, providing a more entertaining to drive than you might expect. That means it is also great for Portland.
What makes the Rogue Sport even better for Portland is the availability of all-wheel-drive, which improves traction in slippery conditions, like out wet falls, winters and springs. We recommend it. But, as we pointed out in our Kicks' review, "the fact is that with modern traction and stability controls a FWD vehicle with a good set of winter tires will get most of us everywhere we need to go, and the cost savings at purchase time and in fuel economy can be significant."
As might be expected, the 2019 Kicks is less expensive than the 2019 Rogue Sport, with a starting price of $18,540 versus $22,240. The Kicks also gets better mileages, with EPA ratings of 31/36 compared to 25/32 for the FWD Rogue Sport. But one trade off is less interior space in the Kicks, including less cargo space under the hatchbacks, which is an important consideration for those who enjoy travel and the outdoors.
Nissan isn't the only company selling what they call subcompact crossovers that are only available FWD. So is Ford, with the new EcoSport, and Kia with the Niro, and Toyota with the C-HR. But so far Nissan is the only one that also sells another FWD subcompact crossover that is available with AWD, the Rogue Sport.
There are other affordable subcompact crossovers with available AWD, including the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona, and Mazda CX-3, and Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. Although all have their pros and cons, we found the 2019 Rogue Sport to be very well balanced package during our week of test driving. It was always comfortable, felt very open and airy, offered great visibility, and had no trouble keeping up with traffic, although the engine was a little noisy under heavy acceleration.
Standard safety features on all trim levels now include Automatic Emergency Braking, and Blind Sport Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert. We had an upper-end SL version of the Rogue Sport with a wide range of comfort, convenience, infotainment and safety features that made our trips even more enjoyable, including a Bose stereo with a CD player, which is increasingly hard to get at any price these days. The front bucket seats were wider and deeper than those in some competitors. Some internal materials were not the most high-end, but they looked durable.
The bottom line is, the increasing popularity of crossovers is resulting in a wealth of new models, many in the affordable range. But not all crossovers are created equal, and the 2019 Nissan Rogue Sport is one of the best.
2019 Rogue Sport SL FWD
Base price: $27,960
Price as tested: $31,275
Style: Subcompact crossover
Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (144 hp, 147 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA fuel economy: 25/32
Length: 172.4 inches
Weight: 3,274 pounds
Final assembly point: Kyushu, Japan