Meet Geoff, 36-years old, happily married to his wife of eight years, and together they are raising a 4-year old and a teething toddler in their suburban-sprawl home. Geoff works as an accountant for a logistics company, enjoys the outdoors and can make a mean lasagna. He calls his one lottery ticket purchase a week his “fool’s tax,” and he laments his parents for using the British spelling of his name.
Geoff is also in the market for a set of four shiny new wheels to grace his two-car garage. And he is extremely specific in his wants.
Geoff is after a small crossover. Well, he thought he wanted a midsized, but realized after his uncomfortable medical procedure and a few days of careful movements, he will not be adding to his brood, so he has no need for a third row.
Geoff also knows he wants either a Korean or Japanese model. That reliability, don’t you know. Geoff appreciates luxury but does not want to spring for a luxury manufacturer. But he still likes a bit of upscale, so he wants his small Japanese or Korean crossover to be in the highest trim available.
And to really iron out his choices, Geoff refuses to pay less than $34,120 and not a penny over $35,130.
Lucky for Geoff, the 2019 Nissan Rogue FWD in SL trim and the 2019 Hyundai Tucson AWD in Ultimate trim happen to fit all his parameters. And I just happened to have tested both models recently so that I can outline the good and bad of each model for Geoff, who is absolutely a real person and not someone I made up after downing a few beers at home in a cheap attempt to compare two small crossover options.
With his options narrowed down, Geoff’s attention turns to the styling of the Tucson and Rogue.
Both options are fairly easy on the eyes with the Hyundai sporting a slightly aggressive look with sharp angles around the cascade grille while the Rogue’s sweeping lines carrying a more refined, handsome appearance.
Hyundai’s Ultimate trim puts the Tucson on 18-inch alloy wheels while the Rogue sports 19-inch alloys in SL trim.
On the inside, both models are fully leathered, but the Rogue has a higher-quality feel than its Korean counterpart. Even in top trim, the Tucson is awash in hard plastics where such materials are limited in the Nissan.
While he is checking out the interior, Geoff notices that the Rogue is slightly more accommodating for passengers, but there is not much in it between the two models. The Hyundai offers three more inches of headroom in the rear and a few inches of added hip room in the front and rear while the Rogue has more leg room in the front and more shoulder room in the front and rear seats. Without the moonroof, the Nissan offers two more inches of headroom over the Tucson.
Wheelbase and width numbers are nearly identical, but the Rogue is 7 inches longer in overall length.
That added size comes into play where cargo capacity is concerned, with the Rogue holding an 8-cubic foot advantage in storage space with the rear seats erected or down. In a moment of comedic inspiration, Geoff suggests to his wife they could get the Rogue so he can transport a bigger TV for his “man cave,” simultaneously guffawing while ignoring the fact he is the only one laughing.
Geoff does not have a heavy right foot, but of course he is interested to know whether he can get his non-existent jumbo screen home faster in the Tucson or Rogue.
Hyundai has increased the engine size and added more power in 2019 models, ditching the previously used 1.6-liter turbo four for a 2.4-liter four-cylinder providing 181 horsepower and 175 lb.-ft. torque. After a bit of delay on throttle tip-in, the 2.4-liter responds with a generous level of grunt and a dash of peppiness suited well for all daily driving needs. The Tucson’s powerplant is paired with a smooth, 6-speed automatic.
When I reviewed the 2018.5 Rogue Sport (https://bit.ly/2MlJvzX), I lamented its underpowered engine. The 2019 Rogue’s 2.5-liter four cylinder gets 11 less horsepower than the Tucson, but the two crossovers come with the same amount of torque. I have no real complaints or praises for the engine, but I do take issue with the transmission.
Like the now defunct Rogue Sport, the 2019 Rogue comes equipped with an XTRONIC Continuously Variable Transmission. In short, the CVT does not use traditional fixed gears, rather a pulley system with a steel belt that adjusts the diameter of the pulley from low to high gear to deliver torque to the wheels. Without gears, a CVT has “stepless” ratio changes that should be an improvement in smoothness over fixed gears.
Not in the Rogue.
Yes, if your throttle input is perfectly smooth, you will be rewarded with a pleasing and smooth long pull up the tachometer as the XTRONIC’s climbs from low gear to high gear. However, daily driving really isn’t conducive to this, at least not when there is any shred of traffic.
Pull away from a stop behind a car and the CVT will get you to their back bumper quickly. When your foot comes away from the pedal, the transmission seemingly clunks back to low gear, and once you put your foot back on the gas after you have come off the bumper of the car in front, it wants to plop itself back into high gear. Not only is it not smooth, it severely hampers the get-up-and-go ability of the Rogue on the daily commute.
While the CVT may make for lackluster performance, it does deliver on savings at the pumps. In front-wheel drive, the Rogue gets 29 combined mpg to the Tucson’s 25 in all-wheel drive.
Neither of Geoff’s all-wheel drive options will slice up corners with abandon, but the Hyundai is far more composed and less likely to lean around bendy bits. The Rogue gangster-leans around corners even at low speeds.
The Tucson’s steering is also more responsive and has feel unlike the disconnected sensation of the Nissan.
Though Geoff’s options come with far different levels of suspension stiffness, the Tucson and Rogue smooth out most road imperfections with ease, giving both crossovers a comfortable ride.
Of course, Geoff will be keeping the speeds fairly low and the ride comfortable while he hauls his brood, and for that he has put an emphasis on the safety features offered by each model.
The Tucson and Rogue are well-equipped with safety features in their top trims, with each providing emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic high beams and other active features. Nissan’s ProPILOT assist and Hyundai’s smart cruise control can mitigate highway fatigue, and both models offer LATCH connectors for Geoff’s bundles of joy. Hyundai breaks away from the Rogue with a driver attention warning, which I have previously called a digital nanny, and lane-keep assist.
While the Tucson Ultimate comes standard with an all-around view monitor, the Rogue requires buyers opt for the Premium Package.
Where tech and creature comforts are concerned, Geoff appreciates that his choices both include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but only the Tucson offers wireless charging. Both have heated front seats and steering wheel, though the Rogue is, subjectively, a bit more comfortable. However, the Hyundai offers heated rear seats and — Geoff appreciates this in the Georgia summer — cooling front seats.
The Tucson has a 1-inch advantage in infotainment screen size, but Geoff still likes buttons, and the Rogue’s dials are a bit beefier and easier to use. However, the Hyundai’s system is easier to navigate and slightly quicker than Nissan’s.
The Rogue I tested for Geoff rang in at $35,130 (with destination charge) and included the optional Premium Package ($1,820) that adds LED headlights an and a panoramic moonroof. Other options included tan seats with quilted inserts, premium Monarch Orange paint and other amenities.
The Hyundai came fully loaded at $34,120 with destination charge.
When it comes down to it, there’s no clear winner for Geoff. The Rogue offers more cargo space, uses higher-quality materials in the cabin and gets significantly better gas mileage while the Tucson offers far better driving characteristics, all-wheel drive and added amenities for a grand less out of pocket.
He does know he wants that bigger TV for sure, though.