Nissan let us drive their new, smaller Rogue model known as the 2017 Rogue Sport at their headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. Hands on the wheel, we realized that this is a compact crossover having more in common with the European Qashqai than with the American Rogue.

The Rogue Sport is meant to fit in the Nissan lineup underneath the larger Rogue and ahead of the subcompact Juke model, and is aimed at an urban audience that needs the space a compact crossover provides, but not a third row of seating or the longer body of a larger vehicle.

The Rogue Sport is a full foot shorter in length than the Rogue (12.1 in, 307.5 mm), but its wheelbase is only 2.3 in (58.5 mm) shorter, pushing those wheels to the corners for better turning and maneuverability. The Rogue Sport is also 5.6 in (142.5 mm) shorter than the Rogue, but has about the same wheel track and vehicle width. This means that comparable models of the Rogue Sport are about 200 pounds (90.7 kg) lighter than the larger Rogue.

Comparing those specs to the European Qashqai, which is within 2 millimeters of the Rogue Sport in both overall length and height, it's clear that the cars are very close cousins.

The lighter weight of the Sport is key, as it's is powered by a smaller engine than the larger Rogue. This new model uses a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that outputs 141 horsepower (105 kW) and 147 foot pounds (199 Nm) of torque, very much like one of the engines offered in the Qashqai. This direct-injected engine uses the new coatings and continuously variable valve timing control of Nissan's newer-generation engines and mates to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional.

The 2017 Rogue Sport also features a multi-link independent rear suspension system that improves handling and frees up cargo space. Wheel sizes range from the 16-in (406.5 mm) steel wheels on the base model up to 19-in (482.5 mm) alloy wheels on the top trim. With those larger wheels, we noted, turning is not apparently compromised, but ride quality is a little stiffer than it would be with smaller wheels and higher sidewalls on the tires. Both the 16- and 17-in wheel options have 215/65 tires versus the thinner 225/45 tires on the 19s.

In terms of exterior design, the Rogue and Rogue Sport are similar, but not identical. The front grille of the new Rogue sport is understated and emphasizes the lower intake rather than the big V-motion found on the Rogue. The hood has deeper carving for the creases and an overhanging edge, but the headlamps are much the same. Observers will also note the round fog lamps on the Rogue Sport versus the more trapezoidal ones found on the Rogue. The angle of the greenhouse is also steeper on the Rogue Sport, better matching its lower roofline.

Body panels on the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport are similar to the Rogue in terms of greenhouse and pillar shapes, but the Rogue Sport has a more emphasized rear quarter and much thicker edges for its upper and lower beltline. The lower body panel crease is angled upward at the rear door for a more sporty appearance, and from the side, the pushing of the wheels to the edge of the corners is very apparent.

Inside, the 2017 Rogue Sport and the 2017 Nissan Rogue share many similarities in terms of materials and design. This five-passenger crossover is noticeably smaller than the Rogue though, and larger folks may feel a bit cramped in some seating positions on the rear bench. For the driver and front passenger, however, despite less headroom, there is little cramping in the Rogue Sport.

The driving position in the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport is also solid. Visibility is good ahead and to the sides, though rear visibility is a bit lower due to the thinner windows back there. Cargo space is also much lower than that found in the standard Rogue, though the impressive cargo-organization system remains intact and very useful. Cargo in the 2017 Rogue Sport is at 22.9 cubic ft (648.5 liters) behind the second row and 61.1 cubic ft (1,730 liters) with the second row folded.

The second row doesn't fold flat, we note, but close enough for most needs. We also noted that parents will be happy to see that the LATCH system for child safety seats is very easy to access – something we found lacking in the Rogue's second row.

There are a lot of technology options for the Rogue Sport as well. The upgraded infotainment system (available in all but the base model) features a 7-inch touchscreen that has a host of smartphone-integration and connected technologies. Mobile apps and voice recognition are nicely done, as is the navigation and its available live-traffic and weather updates. The optional 360-degree Around View monitor for backing up and parking is also much appreciated and recommended.

During our short drives in and around the Nashville area, we appreciated the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport's upscale interior and nimble handling. The crossover doesn't struggle to get to highway speeds or to pass another vehicle, and it is quiet and well-mannered on the highway. Transmission and engine noise can be heard when the powertrain is pressed for speed, but is otherwise unobtrusive.

The Rogue Sport enters showrooms in the United States in the second quarter, with a starting price of US$21,420 and fuel economy ratings of 25 mpg city and 32 mpg highway (11.5 and 7.4 l/100km). Sales in Canada under the Qashqai name will begin shortly after that.

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