Two of the market’s best compact crossovers go head to head.
By our count, there are about 20 compact crossovers you could buy today, depending on how you decipher the ever-blurring SUV segments. Options range from sporty and stylish to subdued and downright boring. But there are two obvious options at the top of the pack: the 2022 Hyundai Tucson and the 2021 Nissan Rogue.
We've tested both of these crossovers individually and scored them highly, each one making huge strides in style, technology, and drivability over their outdated predecessors. So it made sense to pair the two against each other in an effort to see which one of these two standouts stands out most.
Working in the Tucson's favor will be its spacious back seat and edgy styling. But the latest Nissan Rogue has an excellent tech suite, impressive levels of comfort, and some of the best safety in the business. Whatever the case, it’s a good matchup between these two.
Hyundai: Hyundai's current crop is a cacophony of hit and miss, to say the least. The Elantra looks too messy and the Santa Fe has a face that only a mother can love. Meanwhile, others like the Ioniq 5, Santa Cruz, and in this case, the Tucson wear the hard-pressed sheet metal exceptionally well. In fact, the Tucson might be the most attractive crossover in the entire class, although I know not everyone at Motor1 agrees.
The Tucson's intriguing elements start on the front end. The grille-heavy fascia hides slim LED headlights with waterfall-like accents that cascade down the front bumper. The profile is sharp, with hard creases above the front and rear fenders and harpoon-like taillight fixtures on the rear. The “H” badge in the back doesn't sit atop the trunklid either. Instead, it's cleverly integrated into the rear window hidden beneath a single piece of glass that almost makes it look sticker-like. And 19-inch wheels come standard on this range-topping Limited model.
Whether or not you actually like the design though, Hyundai's attention to detail and the Tucson's unique touches are what make this crossover so interesting to look at. And really, it's one of the few options in the class that is interesting to look at at all.
The Tucson might be the most attractive crossover in the entire class.
Nissan: Even though I'm obviously partial to the Tucson, the Nissan Rogue does have its own unique style and personality. The front fascia wears the brand's signature V-Motion grille, slim LED headlights sit high up on the bumper, and a sizable set of sized fog lights live lower down on the bumper adjacent to the grille. The split light fixture is a trendy look that suits the Rogue well.
The Rogue’s backside is more anonymous but still clean and inoffensive. The standard LED taillight fixtures wrap around the rear fender, a silvery treatment lower down on the bumper makes the design more rugged, and although Nissan popularized the “floating roof” in previous models, it's nowhere to be found here (thankfully). This mid-range SL model gets 19-inch wheels as standard, as does the range-topping Platinum model.
But while Nissan kept the design of the Rogue relatively safe – in line with previous generations – Hyundai went all-out in styling the Tucson, and that's why it gets the edge here.
Hyundai: The inside of the Tucson looks sharp thanks to a wraparound dash design that creates a cockpit-like feel, and the unique four-spoke steering wheel makes for comfortable cruising. Most of the materials are high-quality, with weighty aluminum fixtures dotting the steering wheel and dash and a 10.3-inch touchscreen that seamlessly integrates into the center console.
But the piano black plastic that surrounds the gear-shift buttons and the infotainment system looks cheap and gets dirty quickly. The shiny stuff attracts fingerprints like a magnet, requiring constant wipe downs to keep clean. On top of that, there are no physical dials for volume, tuning, or HVAC controls on this model. Instead, there are haptic feedback “buttons” that live atop that nasty piano black trim. It makes simple tasks like turning up the volume feel or changing the airspeed like an absolute chore.
The leather-trimmed front seats are comfortable enough, with solid bolstering, ample support over long distances, and even memory settings on this Limited model. But the front buckets feel a bit flimsy; press hard on the seatback and there's barely any resistance as if there's some cushion missing. At least the Tucson doesn't feel cramped at all, offering more total passenger room than the Rogue with 108.2 cubic feet of space. The Tucson also has the best cargo space in the class, offering 38.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 74.8 cubes with the 60/40 rear seats folded flat.
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Nissan: Rather than faux piano black trim, the Rogue opts for a silky matte black plastic atop parts of the steering wheel and door panels, with high-quality black plastic dotting the spaces in between. There are no lingering fingerprints, and unlike the Tucson, the Rogue still has physical dials for climate and audio controls on all models, which is highly appreciated.
Our SL tester comes standard with leather seats and a leather-trimmed steering wheel with accent stitching, and it all feels like high-quality stuff. The seats themselves are some of the best in the business; Nissan's patented “Zero-Gravity” buckets are one of my favorite options for long-distance drives, offering ample butt and back support, and contouring perfectly to the body.
Although the Tucson does have more total passenger space (108.2 versus 105.3 cubic feet) the Rogue has a tiny bit more front legroom and an additional 1.3 inches of front headroom over the Tucson. The Hyundai's second row bests the Rogue by a bit, but Nissan's 38.5 inches of legroom and 37.8 inches of headroom are still competitive for the class. Even though the Tucson is more spacious, the Rogue's airy front row, sublime seats, analog controls, and an overall clean cabin layout give it the slight edge here.
Hyundai: The Hyundai Tucson uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 187 horsepower and 175 pound-feet, paired to a standard eight-speed automatic transmission. Powerful the Tucson is not. The Hyundai has no giddy-up off the line and struggles at higher speeds, the engine protesting aggressively when you put your foot flat to the floor. If you want a more powerful Tucson, the Hybrid model has 227 horses.
Dynamically, the Tucson has a unique flingability that you won't find in many other crossovers in this class. It’s somewhere just below the Mazda CX-5 in terms of handling. The steering is well-boosted but still feels weighty and responsive, and the wheel itself is shaped well with great grip points. The suspension is firmer than what's common for the class, but that makes the Tucson feel lively in turns. The gutless engine does hold it back from a “sporty” categorization, but there is something to like about the way the Tucson moves.
Dynamically, the Tucson has a unique flingability that you won't find in many other crossovers in this class.
Nissan: The Rogue uses a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 181 hp and 181 lb-ft, paired to a continuously variable transmission. Although that's less power than the Tucson on paper, the Rogue applies its power better, offering more verve off the line and some much-needed grunt on the top end. The CVT is acceptable, only whining in protest when you put the gas pedal flat to the floor.
Unlike the Tucson though, there's nothing interesting about the way the Rogue handles. The suspension is absorbent and the steering is super boosted, which makes for a comfortable (but not inspiring) driving experience most of the time. Neither of these crossovers needs to be sporty – not that either one is – so it's hard to pick a winner in this category when both options are solid.
Hyundai: The base Tucson SE and the mid-range SEL models both come with a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen and Hyundai's previous-generation infotainment system. The Limited model tested here sports a crisper 10.3-inch touchscreen with the brand's new-and-improved user interface, a carryover from other newer Hyundai products like the Elantra.
The UI is easy to use thanks to its minimalist array of icons; simple swiping functionalities; and standard navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. What's odd, though, is that only the base 8.0-inch setup offers wireless CarPlay and Android Auto while this version is a wired connection only.
Just behind the steering wheel is a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster that projects two gauges on either side of a configurable center screen with options like speed, navigation, audio, and more. It's not the most customizable digital cluster out there, but it is a nice feature to have. Other add-ons include a wireless phone charger in the center console and a digital smartphone key, both standard on the Limited trim.
Nissan: The Nissan Rogue takes a simpler approach in terms of tech, and in my opinion, it’s less successful. The base model gets a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, while the SL model tested here with the $1,320 Premium package adds a 9.0-inch screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and a Wi-Fi hotspot (Android Auto is still a wired connection).
The Rogue's 9.0-inch screen is nice and crisp with a quick response time and solid scrolling functionality. But Hyundai's UI is still far superior to Nissan's outdated setup, which can be difficult to navigate at times. And unless you opt for the top-trim Platinum model – which has a 12.3-inch digital cluster and even a big head-up display – the gauges remain analog with a small productivity screen between them. The Tucson's larger touchscreen, cleaner interface, and reconfigurable gauges make it the obvious winner here.
Hyundai: The base Tucson has a few basic safety features like forward-collision alert with automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and pedestrian detection. It's not until you opt for the range-topping Limited model does Hyundai make more advanced features available.
The Tucson Limited gets a surround-view camera, a blind-spot camera within the digital cluster that shows the adjacent lane, and the much-lauded Highway Driving Assistant (HDA). HDA is Hyundai's advanced adaptive cruise control system, and it’s one of the better systems out there.
Ticking the HDA button on the steering wheel activates the entire suite and allows the Tucson to cruise comfortably on the highway with minimal interference from the driver. Automatic steering inputs keep the car centered in the lane, and the radar cruise control brings the vehicle up and down to speed without any harsh inputs. The Tucson even offers a few unique features like navigation-based Smart Cruise Control and a safe exit warning when parked on a busy street.
Nissan's ProPilot active safety equipment still feels like a step above the competition.
Nissan: For as beloved as Hyundai's Highway Driving Assist feature is, Nissan's ProPilot active safety equipment still feels like a step above – even if it is a $1,320 option on the SL model tested here. ProPilot was one of the earliest driver-assist suites in this space, so Nissan has had plenty of time to perfect it, and that's obvious when driving the Rogue.
Simply tick the adaptive cruise control function and press the blue ProPilot button on the steering wheel, and the Rogue effortlessly cruises on the highway. Invisible steering inputs keep the car centered in the lane, automatic braking is smooth all the way down to zero, and ProPilot even gives off a little “ding” that announces when steering assist is on or off.
Even without ProPilot though, the Rogue offers more standard features than the base Tucson, including rear automatic emergency braking at no extra cost – something the Tucson only offers as an option. ProPilot plus Nissan's bevy of standard features gives it the advantage here.
Hyundai: The Hyundai Tucson starts at $24,950, which means it's $900 cheaper than the base Rogue. In top-trim Limited form, the Tucson even undercuts the Rogue's range-topping Platinum model by nearly $1,000 (with optional all-wheel drive equipped). The Tucson Limited AWD costs $36,100 and the Rogue Platinum AWD asks $37,030.
Our tester, with no options, costs $37,454 after destination and handling fees, and that feels about right. The Tucson Limited doesn't require extra cash for high-end tech, great safety equipment, and gobs of style. The fact that it even offers trim-exclusive features like the larger 10.3-inch central touchscreen and wireless charging is a plus. The lone option not equipped on this car is the $350 Calypso Red paint, which looks nice, but you can live without it.
Nissan: As mentioned, the Rogue's $25,850 starting price does it make slightly pricier than the base Tucson, but both models are just as well-equipped out of the box. Unlike the Tucson, though, my Rogue tester – an SL AWD with the optional Premium Package – costs $36,705 after fees. This is not the range-topping Platinum model that might take on the Tucson Limited more directly, but the SL model is still very well-equipped.
With the $1,320 Premium package, the Rogue adds a 9.0-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple Carplay, advanced navigation, satellite radio, traffic sign recognition, ProPilot Assist with NaviLink, Bose premium audio, and a bit more. That said, the Rogue SL with the Premium package is only $36,705 as-tested and it has many of the same features as the top-end Tucson.
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The only thing the Rogue SL lacks compared to the range-topping Tucson is a larger touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster. But even this Rogue has wireless Apple CarPlay, whereas this Tucson doesn’t. And the mid-range Rogue also offers ProPilot as an option, whereas Hyundai limits HDA to the top-of-the-line model.
For those reasons, the Rogue SL (barely) feels like the better buy, even though it's technically a trim below the Tucson. The mid-range Nissan only lacks a few of the Hyundai's top-end features, while offering some other exclusives elsewhere, and it comes in at a more affordable price.
Compact crossovers are a tough business, but Hyundai and Nissan have essentially perfected the formula with their two latest products. So pitting the Rogue and Tucson against each other in this test – arguably the two best options in the segment – makes for a tough decision. But if we had to recommend one over the other, Nissan gets the slight edge.
Although the Hyundai Tucson has a ton of strong qualities that make it a solid buy – great styling, high-end tech, solid dynamics, and a spacious cabin – the Nissan Rogue nails the basics. The cabin is cleaner and laid out better, with the physical knobs and dials being a big plus. The ride is smoother, the styling is less polarizing (although the sharpness of the Tucson does stand out), and you get more features for less without having to splurge on the pricey Platinum model.
No matter which you choose, the Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Rogue are two of the best crossovers on sale today. So although the Rogue gains a narrow victory in our test, you and your family will be more than happy with either option.
|2022 Hyundai Tucson Limited HTRAC||2021 Nissan Rogue SL AWD|
|Engine:||2.5-Liter I4||2.5-liter I4|
|Output:||187 Horsepower / 178 Pound-Feet||181 Horsepower / 181 Pound-Feet|
|Transmission:||8-Speed Automatic||Continuously Variable|
|Drive Type:||All-Wheel Drive||All-Wheel Drive|
|Efficiency:||24 City / 29 Highway / 26 Combined||25 City / 32 Highway / 28 Combined|
|Weight:||3,651 Pounds||3,490 Pounds|
|Cargo Volume:||38.7 / 74.8 Cubic Feet||36.9 / 72.9 Cubic Feet|
|Base Price:||$24,950 + $1,185 Destination||$25,850 + $1,150 Destination|
|Trim Base Price:||$35,885||$33,350|