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The test drive has long been a way for car dealerships to close a sale. Getting a customer behind the wheel is a chance for drivers to envision themselves going on road trips and making memories that include their newest potential purchase. That’s why it’s so surprising that 2021 Toyota RAV4s are making an appearance at select Nissan dealerships for buyers to test-drive.

Akin to the Pepsi Challenge, Nissan is pitting Toyota’s compact SUV against the heralded 2021 Nissan Rogue. The idea is if you test-drive the 2021 Nissan Rogue and 2020-21 Toyota RAV4 XLE in succession, that Nissan’s crossover will come out on top.

According to Car and Driver, Nissan expects about 500 of its dealerships to participate in this experiment over the next couple of months. 

The 2021 Nissan Rogue, which has undergone a redesign for the 2021 model year, is getting a big push from its automaker to perform well in sales. Is this blatant attempt to have drivers critically compare the two vehicles simply a marketing ploy, or is it an accurate way to get drivers behind the wheel of an appropriate car for their needs? 

Let’s take a close look at what the 2021 Toyota RAV4 and the 2021 Nissan Rogue offer and see how these test drives may affect future sales.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue fights to gain ground in a crowded segment

A red 2021 Nissan Rogue compact SUV on display
The 2021 Nissan Rogue on display | Photo via Nissan

Compact SUVs are one of the most popular vehicles on the market. So, it’s no surprise that Nissan is making every effort to give its model an advantage over the competition. The manufacturer even announced that it’s partnering with actress Brie Larson for a new 2021 Rogue marketing campaign.

The Toyota RAV4 has vastly outsold the Nissan Rogue in 2020, according to Car and Driver. However, Nissan’s 2021 redesign of the Rogue should help sales surge, as it builds hype around the all-new model.

Shoppers who test-drive both models will notice some similarities. For instance, both models are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and achieve similar gas mileage. However, there are some significant differences.

The compact SUVs have different transmissions types, with the RAV4 utilizing an eight-speed automatic while the Rogue is equipped with a CVT. Plus, the 2021 Toyota RAV4 delivers more horsepower (203 to 181) and torque (184 lb-ft to 181 lb-ft) than the Rogue.

However, Nissan knows most consumers won’t get hung up on the difference in power. Instead, these buyers are looking for the complete package.

The 2021 Toyota RAV4 has trouble measuring up to its rival

A silver 2021 Toyota RAV4 driving on a highway road
The 2021 Toyota RAV4 in action | Photo via Toyota

When you’re buying an SUV, you probably want a decent amount of space. The newly redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue offers more than six cubic feet of extra passenger volume than the 2021 Toyota RAV4. Additionally, the Rogue has more than four cubic feet of extra cargo room, too.

This difference in roominess might not seem like a ton at first glance. But that’s precisely why it may benefit Nissan to hold Rogue vs. RAV4 test drives. Potential buyers can actually feel the difference once they are inside the vehicle, making it just a little bit easier for Nissan salespeople to close the deal.

Which vehicle will shoppers choose?

Nissan’s decision to allow its shoppers to test-drive the 2021 Toyota RAV4 is a calculated risk. However, it holds a decisive advantage. The 2021 Nissan Rogue isn’t exactly head and shoulders above the RAV4, but Nissan salespeople will likely be quick to point out the positives of the Rogue and the flaws of the RAV4. This in-person persuasion from salespeople could pay off in a big way, helping Nissan sell more units of its redesigned compact SUV.


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