2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid SV review: Rogue Hybrid is just a bit more green, but every bit counts, right?
Nissan debuted the Rogue Hybrid in January of this year and, by the time it recently arrived in the Roadshow HQ garage, I'd totally forgotten about it. With only a 5 or 6 mpg advantage over the standard Rogue (and only 2 mpg better on the highway), it doesn't look very exciting on paper and is, honestly, fairly forgettable and a mild boost that easily got lost amidst a larger mid-cycle styling upgrade.
Then again, the standard Rogue is actually a pretty good starting point with pretty good performance, cargo area, efficiency and tech. It's not my favorite choice in the class, but it's still a very solid pick. So, even a mild bump in performance and efficiency should leave the Rogue Hybrid in a pretty good place, even better considering our 2017.5 Nissan Rogue Hybrid SV is only $1,000 more than the non-hybrid SV AWD model.
Electrifying the Rogue
The biggest change that comes to the Rogue Hybrid happens under the hood, where the 2.5-liter standard engine has been replaced with a smaller 2.0-liter mill that makes 141 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The smaller engine is mated with an electric motor that adds 30 kW to the party (about 40 hp) and 118 pound-feet of torque.
The hybrid system's combined peak output of 176 horsepower is 6 ponies more than the larger standard gasoline engine, but it feels less torquey. Since, Nissan doesn't state peak combined hybrid torque -- hybrid math isn't as simple as adding the pound-feet -- I can't confirm my suspicions. I noted that the Hybrid feels less responsive off of the line than the standard Rogue, but I'm not sure if the power train or the extra weight (about 200 pounds) is to blame.
In the initial instant of acceleration from a stop -- when the e-motor operates alone -- the Hybrid feels sort of wimpy and hesitant. Only when the gasoline engine kicks in does the SUV start to feel alive and willing to get up and go. What really tweaks me about this power train is the inconsistent throttle feel around town. Starting with not enough pedal off the line and ending up with a hair too much throttle when the gasoline engine kicks in, resulting in a sudden lurch of acceleration. It's mildly annoying, but not the end of the world and with much patience I eventually learned where the Hybrid's sweet spots were.
Like the standard Rogue, the Hybrid is based on a front-wheel drive architecture, but is available with an optional all-wheel drive system. Checking that box brings the FWD Hybrid's EPA fuel economy estimates of 34 city, 33 highway and 35 combined mpg down to 31 city, 34 highway and 33 combined — about a 2 mpg drop across the board. That said, I ended my relaxed week of testing at a disappointing average of about 26 combined mpg.
Regardless of the chosen power train, all Rogue models feature Nissan's Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which eschews fixed gear ratios in favor of infinitely variable ratios. Nissan has proven that it can build a good CVT with the standard Rogue and it's just as good here on the hybrid, with none of the hunting and rubber banding that tend to plague this lesser examples of this drivetrain.
A bit less cargo capacity
The standard Rogue is a fairly spacious little SUV. So spacious that there's even an option for a third-row seat. The Hybrid model, not so much, thanks to its lithium-ion battery pack.
The bank of batteries lives beneath the floor of the rear cargo area where the standard model's Divide-N-Hide (rolls eyes) storage space would be. This means that the Hybrid loses about 12 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity and can't be equipped with the Family Package third-row seating option. It's still got a very respectable 27 cubic feet of trunk for your junk behind the second row, so it's not a total loss, and the rest of the cabin is just as spacious as the non-hybrid.
Speaking of the rest of the cabin, I've got one small nitpick with the Rogue Hybrid's ergonomics. Overall, it's a comfortable place to sit, but Nissan has tucked most of the buttons for the all-wheel drive system, liftgate, drive modes and driver aid systems beneath the dashboard at the driver's left knee. They're nigh impossible for me to see down there without craning my neck, which is fine for most of them. I'm not going to be opening the liftgate on the highway. However, I just didn't understand why at least the drive mode buttons — which are meant to be pressed while driving — weren't on the center console where they could be reached without looking too long away from the road.
A 5-inch display audio system is standard equipment for the Hybrid SV, but our example was equipped with the optional Premium package that adds nearly all of the available bells and whistles for $2,870.
One of those whistles is the upgraded 7-inch NissanConnect infotainment system. Along with the larger display, owners also get decent navigation software with voice recognition. The system supports Siri Eyes-Free connectivity when paired with an iPhone device, but not true Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone integration. Instead, Nissan offers very basic integration with a handful of apps including Pandora, iHeartRadio and Facebook. There's also the ability to search for destinations online via Google when connected to the automaker's own smartphone app. Overall, NissanConnect hasn't changed much since this generation of the Rogue debuted back in 2014 and is starting to feel very dated.
Along with the infotainment features the Premium package also adds a massive panoramic moonroof, a motion-activated power liftgate, Bose audio and Nissan's Around-View camera system, which stitches feeds from four cameras mounted around the Rogue Hybrid into one 360-degree view of the area around the car. With motion-detection software, the cameras can also audibly alert drivers if they get too close to a person or pet.
This is in addition to the standard SV trim-level equipment that the Rogue Hybrid rolls off of the line with, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and forward precollision alerts with automatic emergency braking.
The Rogue Hybrid is also available in the SL trim level, which adds leather trim and LED headlights with automatic high beams and makes many of the SV Premium package options into standard features.
Every little bit counts
About the best thing that I can say about the Rogue Hybrid that already hasn't been said about the non-hybrid Rogue is that at least it doesn't cost much more. The 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid SV (technically, a 2017.5 model) starts at $26,640, only a $1,000 premium. Add $1,350 for all-wheel drive, $2,870 for that Premium package and a $960 destination charge to reach our as-tested price of $31,820.
With such a low hybrid premium, it makes sense for many drivers to go ahead and check that box if you're already spec'ing a Rogue. Using the EPA's standard calculations of 15,000 annual miles and current fuel prices, the Hybrid power train will start paying for itself within five years of ownership — sooner, if you drive more annual miles than that conservative estimate.
If you're not already sold on the Rogue, there are compelling alternatives to the Rogue Hybrid, including Toyota's RAV-4 Hybrid. Even Honda's non-hybrid, turbocharged CR-V only falls a few mpgs of the Nissan's fuel sipping estimates, but is way more pleasant to live with, offering much better tech, performance and amenities.