To call crossovers popular is a bit of an understatement. Crossovers are often some of an automaker’s best-selling vehicles. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, for instance, were the #4 and #5 best-selling vehicles in the US in 2019. Crossovers also play an important role in Hyundai and Nissan. The Hyundai Tucson is a smaller alternative to the Palisade, and the Nissan Rogue is arguably one of Nissan’s most vital products right now. Unfortunately, their standard features don’t include exciting performance.
Hyundai Tucson isn’t bad, but it isn’t great
The Hyundai Tucson is available in one of 6 trims, ranging from the $21,800 SE to the $29,900 Ultimate. The SE and Value get a 161-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, while the SEL and above get a 181-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Front-wheel drive is standard, though all-wheel drive is available on all trims.
The Hyundai Tucson does get a wide array of standard features. All trims have a 7” touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Automatic emergency braking and lane-keeping assist are also standard across the board. The Limited and Ultimate trims get an 8” touchscreen with navigation, as well as leather seating.
However, Car and Driver reports the $27,070 SEL is the best value, offering features like heated front seats and rear-seat USB ports. And even without leather, the interior is comfortable and well-designed, Motor Trend reports. Unfortunately, a solid interior can’t fully make up for the Hyundai Tucson’s performance.
To be fair, both MT and Car and Driver report the Hyundai Tucson handles poorly per se. The crossover’s ride absorbs bumps very well, body roll is controlled, and the steering isn’t overly light.
However, Car and Driver called the base engine’s performance ‘lethargic’, which can make highway passing maneuvers difficult to perform. And unfortunately, MT reports the engine sounds harsh the more it’s worked like that. Also, despite the AWD, Kelley Blue Book reports the Hyundai Tucson isn’t an off-roader.
The Tucson, then, is competent. Which may be all most drivers ask for. But those looking for something a bit more fun should look elsewhere. Though, not towards the Nissan Rogue.
The Nissan Rogue specs and impressions
The Nissan Rogue has fewer trims than the Hyundai Tucson. It only has 3: the $25,300 S, $26,720 SV, and $31,690 SL. Nissan also only offers the Rogue with one engine, a 170-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder. But, like the Tucson, AWD is optional, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
The Nissan Rogue has more standard safety tech than the Hyundai Tucson. Nissan’s standard safety suite includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. KBB also reports the Rogue is roomier inside than the Tucson, and has more cargo space, particularly through its multi-configurable rear seats.
Car and Driver recommends the Rogue SV, which adds heated front seats, motion-activated, and rear automatic emergency-braking, amongst other features. But, as with the Hyundai Tucson, the Nissan Rogue isn’t a particularly exciting crossover.
Car and Driver reports that, although the ride is comfortable, the Rogue rolls, bobs, and heaves around corners even at relatively low speeds. It’s also not noticeably more stable at highway speeds, MT reports.
The Rogue’s powertrain isn’t terrible, but the CVT transmission drones at high speeds, which ruins any sense of refinement. Car and Driver said the powertrain “seems to drag the Rogue around town rather than pull it.” And in its multi-crossover comparison, MT ranked the Nissan Rogue below the Hyundai Tucson.
To be sure, the majority of consumers aren’t looking for Mazda Miata levels of handling prowess in their crossovers. Crossovers’ elevated heights also mean their handling will be less-sharp regardless (unless they’re EVs). However, vehicles that handle well do tend to spark joy. And being able to accurately maneuver a crossover is key to avoiding potentially-dangerous hazards and obstacles. Luckily, there are some crossovers that can deliver on the handling front.
Priced similarly to the Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Rogue is the Mazda CX-5. It has more engines available than either the Tucson or Rogue, with the most-powerful delivering up to 250 hp. It’s also an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and has appeared multiple times on Car and Driver’s 10Best list. As MT put it, amongst affordable compact crossovers, “no other vehicle…focuses on exciting and delighting the driver more than the Mazda does.”
For those wanting a bit more practicality, there’s the Honda CR-V. Despite its CVT, MT reports the CR-V is fun to drive but still comfortable. It won MT’s SUV of the Year in 2018, and for those wanting a bit more efficiency, a hybrid version will soon be here.
And, if you’re able to stretch your budget, there’s the Porsche Macan. It tops Consumer Reports’ list of luxury compact SUVs and has above-average reliability. It’s also one of the best-handling compact crossovers available today, earning a spot on Car and Driver’s 10Best list for expertly blending “excitement, refinement, and practicality.”
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