New look, same personality. The 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport is back with fresh duds. If big SUVs are in an arms race for power and space, small crossovers are in their own for personality – brands seem to be competing for who can put out the perkiest, zestiest design.

The Rogue Sport is a worthy entrant. New sharp LED headlights complement complicated wheel designs, which add visual appeal to the vehicle's otherwise conventional shape. The front and rear fascia have been redesigned to good effect, and the list of colors now includes orange and lime green.

But the Rogue Sport hasn’t changed its character. It still works to offer maximum features for the price, slotting in between the larger Rogue and the smaller Nissan Kicks.

Not actually sporty. No matter what the name says, very little about the Rogue Sport is sporty. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine makes only 141 horsepower, which is less than most competitors. Paired with an unremarkable continuously variable transmission, it’s enough for urban driving but struggles on the highway.

The ride is soft, especially on the base 17-inch wheels, but never interesting. The larger wheels on upper trims help to dress up the Rogue Sport even more, but they make the ride unnecessarily harsh.

We could overlook a sluggish engine if it saved us money at the pump, but that’s not the case. Even with front-wheel drive, the Rogue Sport manages 28 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA. That’s decent by most standards, but a lot of the class does better – including rivals like the Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.

Nissan Rogue Sport

Room for things, not necessarily people. One of the fundamental promises of a crossover is increased utility, especially compared to sedans. The Rogue Sport delivers – but only for cargo.

Space behind the seats checks in at 22.9 cubic feet, expanding to 61.1 with the seats folded. That’s respectable for the class and better than most hatchbacks.

With the seats in place, however, the numbers are less inspiring. Second-row passengers get only 33 inches of legroom, a full 6.3 inches less than those in the HR-V. For taller riders, that makes a difference.

In general, interior materials don’t impress. The dash is plain, and the cabin is full of hard plastics and hollow surfaces. Upper trims improve, but not enough – the Rogue Sport can never escape its economy-car origins.

Tech at a value. Where Nissan excels is providing features. The Rogue Sport is impressive here, starting with a generous 7-inch infotainment system compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The base cloth upholstery is nice enough, and all-wheel drive is an easy $1,350 even in base.

Even better, every Rogue Sport now comes with blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking in both directions. That’s an impressive kit for a car that starts under $25,000.

Upper trims add leather upholstery and even more tech, but the Rogue Sport never feels convincing in luxury form. We like it best in base form, where it’s a good value even with all-wheel drive.

Final thoughts. The 2020 Nissan Rogue Sport follows the increasingly common crossover formula: racy on the outside, tech-heavy on the inside. We dig the new exterior, and we’re not mad about newly standard safety tech.

But the Rogue Sport’s engine fails to impress, and the rear seat is cruelly small compared to rivals. The value is there, but the Rogue Sport doesn’t stand out from the crowd. With compelling rivals like the Subaru Crosstrek and Hyundai Kona, the Rogue Sport will need more than just looks.

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