It was either fantastic timing or horrible timing depending on how you look at it: Nissan invited me to the “Go Rogue” event focused on the new 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport compact SUV the same week I bought one of its biggest competitors, the 2017 Mazda CX-5. Both vehicles are aimed at the same buyer, both have a $29K base price, both are even the same basic dimensions. Would I regret my Mazda purchase after a day of driving the Nissan? Read on to find out…
Automotive companies know that car writers are an important channel for getting the word out about new vehicles, so there are a surprising number of boondoggle trips that happen. The last one I went on involved Ford flying me up to Yellowstone National Park and giving me the keys to the brand new Explorer Platinum and saying “check out the National Park, have fun”. I did, it was a really interesting day of being a car geek. You can read about it here: Yellowstone in a Ford Explorer Platinum.
The team at Nissan pulled together an excellent event based around Greeley, Colorado, about 45min north of Denver. We started out at the gorgeous Platte River Fort where we had lunch and chatted with the Nissan team. Then there were ten of us and five 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport vehicles, so we doubled up and had about three hours to drive to the Wild Animal Sanctuary (about 30min away). The goal was to “go rogue” and explore the area, so fellow writers Mia, Lisa, Clifford (my co-pilot) and I scoured TripAdvisor to find something fun to do in the Greeley / Loveland area.
Tip: There’s not a lot to do around there. We did find that there was a washing machine museum, which the gals found amusing and were eager to check out, along with something I thought could be interesting, the Benson Park Sculpture Garden in Loveland. We headed to the sculpture garden in our gleaming new Rogue Sport vehicles — both of us had Monarch Orange — and found it a hidden treasure with lots of lovely sculptures in an idyllic setting. Very nice.
From there it was a quick pitstop at Starbucks for a refreshment and then on to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, which I found sobering and extraordinarily cool both. I wrote about it separately: The Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary. Our visit included a nice catered dinner followed by us driving our little Rogue Sport fleet back to Platte River Forte for late night s’mores and drinks around the fire.
A very fun experience, for sure, and my thanks to Nissan for inviting me!
But what about the vehicle itself? What about that cute little compact SUV? When we got in the car…
The Nissan Rogue is one of its best selling vehicles and is a popular choice in the hot SUV market. Building on that, Nissan decided to shrink down the base vehicle and add some sports features. Enter the 2017 Rogue Sport. It’s a foot shorter, a few hundred pounds lighter and rather underpowered, even in this “sport” edition. Most egregious: The nav system felt like it needed a complete redesign when compared to the most recent versions from other vendors (including Mazda, which has a splendid nav system). Not sure why a big company like Nissan still has such a poor “infotainment” system, but one hopes there’ll be a big upgrade to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or similar darn soon.
The lack of power was also surprising for a vehicle with a CVT (continuously variable transmission): usually CVT systems give you lots of torque and are a peppy drive, particularly hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Truth be told, it wasn’t a very fun drive, and that was on flat roads in the middle of nowhere. Up in the mountains? I can’t help but wonder if it would have a hard time with the uphills.
The overall interior design, however, was quite pleasing and I really like the “D” steering wheel shape and design, as shown in this photo:
As you can see, it’s quite a nice design with everything where you’d expect on a modern car, from audio and other controls under thumb on the steering wheel to tach and speedometer on the dash to the environmental controls just below the infotainment system. Problem is, I really love the Mazda infotainment and vehicle control knobs that are located in the center console by the gear shift. Without having to reach forward while driving to mess with the screen or controls, it’s a simple matter to set navigation points, call someone or change radio station while driving.
Even with this fully tricked out Rogue Sport, there were a curious number of unused buttons on the dash controls board:
This board is by the driver’s left knee, pretty much ensuring that no-one is going to switch in or out of ECO mode while driving (who can get to these buttons while the vehicle is in motion?) And what are the three unlabelled buttons supposed to be? 🙂
The Rogue Sport had plenty of safety features, however, including forward emergency brakes, blind spot warning (a feature I now consider a must-have on any new car), rear cross traffic alert, intelligent cruise control (again, a must-have) and lane departure warning. Not all critical, but all signs of the gradual march of the autonomous car into our driveways, with their radar, cameras and AI smarts.
Of course, to get all these safety features, we jumped up from the $27,420 base price for Rogue Sport AWD to a whopping $31,365 with all the premium and platinum package additions. My philosophy of car buying, however, is to always load up with everything you think you’ll want on your new vehicle because you’re going to be driving it for 7-10 years or longer. My 2017 Mazda CX-5 has every single option available with the exception of a trailer hitch.
And speaking of the interior, when I climbed into the back seat, I was a bit surprised by what was and wasn’t present:
The Nissan reps proudly proclaimed that the rear passenger AC vents were “unusual in this class of vehicle”, apparently without knowing that the Mazda CX-5 also has these and even adds a USB port to the console so rear seat passengers can charge up their devices. The Rogue Sport has exactly one USB port in the entire vehicle.
Truth be told, while I liked the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL AWD that I got to drive for the day, I didn’t love it. The design is bold, the exterior color – Monarch Orange – was gorgeous, and the car was reasonably comfortable for my 6’3″ frame, but nothing about the car wowed me and the driving performance was rather underwhelming. If you’re interested in this vehicle, give it a long and aggressive test drive first. As for me? Still happy with my Mazda purchase. Phew!
AS DRIVEN: 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport SL AWD PT in Monarch Orange, featuring 2.0L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine delivering 141 horsepower. Add-ons: SL Premium Package and Platinum Package, Floor Mats. Total: $31,365.00.
Disclosure: Nissan invited me to its Go Rogue event so that I could learn more about the vehicle and have a driving experience. Many thanks, Nissan! I had a really great time.