Sometimes, the right car for you might not be the best one in its segment. When it comes to the Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue hybrids, the Nissan just isn’t as good as the Toyota, but not everyone has an extra $1,000–$2,000 to spend on a new car. With the Nissan, the Rogue hybrid could be an option for crossover buyers who didn’t realize the Rogue they’ve always wanted was offered as a hybrid. So although the RAV4 is the better hybrid crossover overall, after spending time driving and testing a 2017 Rogue Hybrid, we discovered the Nissan still has a few positives going for it.
Where the 2017 Rogue Hybrid really stands out is how inexpensive the upgrade is from nonhybrid to hybrid. The premium is only about $1,000 depending on trim, and thanks in part to the availability of front-drive variants, prices are generally less than the RAV4 Hybrid, which is only available with all-wheel drive, before considering regional incentives. Subjectively and objectively, however, the crossover can’t quite match the driving experience of the RAV4 Hybrid.
Take acceleration. Track-tested 0–60-mph acceleration from Motor Trend might seem like an afterthought in a hybrid crossover, but it shouldn’t be. Whether you’re trying to pass on a two-lane road or just entering a freeway from a short on-ramp, acceleration should still be somewhere on the list of priorities. The 2017 Rogue Hybrid we tested in SL AWD trim hit 60 mph in 9.1 seconds, up from a 2016 RAV4 Hybrid in Limited AWD trim at 8.2 seconds and a 2016 RAV4 Hybrid in the lower XLE AWD trim at 7.8 seconds. The Rogue Hybrid is about even with the nonhybrid version’s 9.0-second performance, and really, around 9 seconds to 60 mph will feel OK to drivers trading in 5- or 10-year-old SUVs.
On the track, road test editor Chris Walton found the best acceleration run was in the transmission’s Sport mode while using the manual shift option on the gear stalk. “Unless you’re at wide-open throttle,” Walton said, “this driveline is at war with itself, and it feels painfully slow.”
In the real world, the way the Nissan’s hybrid powertrain and CVT behave makes the crossover feel slower than it is. CVTs provide an everyday smoothness you can’t always get with conventional or twin-clutch automatic transmissions, and Nissan has been improving its CVT for years. With the Rogue Hybrid, unfortunately, transitions between electric to gas are rougher and more obvious than they should be, and the transmission doesn’t always respond as quickly as it should. After that initial delay, the Rogue Hybrid will occasionally give you a tad more forward momentum than you want.
How the car drives should matter, but fuel economy is, of course, the most obvious reason to consider a hybrid. If you were only looking at the Rogue, the hybrid model’s EPA-rated 31/34 mpg city/highway is a big improvement in the city over the 2017 Rogue AWD’s 25/32 mpg. In front-drive form, the Rogue is rated at 26/33 mpg, and the front-drive Rogue Hybrid is good for 33/35 mpg.
The 2017 RAV4 Hybrid’s EPA-rated 34/30 mpg beat the Nissan in city-style driving (EPA city results comprise just over half of the organization’s combined city/highway ratings), and the Rogue didn’t do well in our Real MPG test results. Real MPG involves using a $150,000 gas analyzer and a set test route to get a real-world perspective on fuel economy. In our Real MPG tests, a 2016 RAV4 Hybrid with its standard all-wheel drive earned ratings of 34.3/39.0 Real MPG compared to our 2017 Rogue Hybrid AWD tester’s 27.8/29.9 Real MPG results. It’s disappointing compared to the Nissan’s 31/34 mpg EPA ratings but a noticeable bump up from a 2016 Rogue AWD we tested at 18.4/28.6 Real MPG.
For those considering a hybrid and nonhybrid Rogue, the hybrid’s brakes will require an adjustment in driving style. The brake feel is a bit unnatural, which isn’t as much of an issue as how slow the steering is tuned. Testing director Kim Reynolds described the steering and brakes as “indifferent,” and the Rogue’s 17.1:1 steering ratio requires more steering input than will the RAV4’s 14.5–14.7:1 ratio, depending on trim. This also makes the Nissan feel less maneuverable. The Rogue Hybrid’s lithium-ion battery doesn’t pack as much energy as the RAV4 Hybrid’s nickel-metal hydride battery, so your stints in EV mode before the gas engine turns on won’t be long. That’s a shame because hybrids are fun to drive in traffic or on an empty street, seeing how long you can safely accelerate or coast on EV mode before waking up the gas engine.
Hybrids often sacrifice cargo space to their nonhybrid counterparts, and the Rogue is no different. The Rogue Hybrid can hold a respectable 27.3 cubic feet of stuff behind the second-row seats, though the load floor is a little high when the hidden cargo space is covered up. That compares to 32.0 cubic feet on the nonhybrid Rogue and an impressive 35.6 cubic feet for the RAV4 Hybrid. Put another way, the hybridized Toyota has more cargo space behind the second-row seats than the nonhybrid Rogue. The Nissan wins back some points with its spacious second-row seats, which include standard air vents, and taller passengers will appreciate the soft front seat backs. Having said that, the RAV4’s second-row back recline lever is easier to use for passengers already seated; it’s located on the lower side of the seat, versus the Rogue’s control on top of the seat backs.
Move to the Rogue Hybrid’s front seats, and you’ll feel some of the most comfortable door-mounted elbow rests available on any car at any price. As with the Altima, the Rogue excels—something more than one editor noticed. The front seats are comfortable, too. Rear visibility is, like almost every vehicle in this class except the Subaru Forester, not good. Still, the Rogue is available with a cool multicamera parking system. Even on the Rogue’s 7.0-inch screen, which is mounted low on the center stack, it’s a helpful way of determining whether you are centered in your parking space and if you should move up before putting the car into Park. We hope the next-generation Rogue uses an 8.0-inch screen placed near the top of the dash for better visibility. One of the Rogue’s stronger interior details is its bright gauges and modern gauge-cluster screen. On that screen, the crossover’s tire pressure monitoring system displays four individual tire readouts and is coupled with Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert, which can be a helpful way to encourage drivers to stop ignoring an alert on the dash that a tire needs to be filled up.
When it comes to safety, the Rogue performs decently. The nonhybrid Rogue scored a four-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The hybrid hasn’t been fully tested but got four stars out of a possible five in the front and rollover tests like the nonhybrid model. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid received an overall five-star rating from the NHTSA. Both crossovers earned Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Those ratings apply to models equipped with their automakers’ LED headlight option—the halogen-headlight options didn’t fare as well. The Toyota and Nissan hybrids each offer a standard package of active safety tech. On the Nissan for the 2017.5 model, that includes an automatic emergency braking system, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Rogue offer the only hybrids in this price range that combine a spacious interior with the high seating position crossover drivers enjoy. If you can do without the latter and don’t need all-wheel drive, consider the Ford C-Max, Toyota Prius V, and Kia Niro. The Ford will likely feel a little quicker and drive better than the Nissan, but it doesn’t match the Rogue on cargo space. The Prius V has plenty of cargo space, but it is slower than the Rogue Hybrid. The Niro’s driving dynamics are just OK, but the car focuses more on people space than cargo space, and it’s a value.
In a way, the front- and all-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue Hybrid is a value, as well. The hybrid is offered at about $1,000 more than the same trim in nonhybrid form, an impressively low premium. Even so, it’s tough to recommend the Nissan because its prime competition is quicker, more efficient in our testing, drives better, and has more cargo space. If you aren’t completely set on the Nissan brand, test-drive the RAV4 Hybrid before committing to one over the other.
|2017 Nissan Rogue Pure Drive Hybrid SL AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$35,590|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/141-hp/144-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 40-hp/118-lb-ft electric motor; 176 hp comb|
|TRANSMISSION||Cont variable auto|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,845 lb (56/44%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||184.5 x 72.4 x 66.6 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.1 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||17.0 sec @ 79.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||124 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.7 sec @ 0.56 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||27.8/29.9/28.7 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||31/34/33 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||109/99 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.60 lb/mile|