First drive: 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid [Review]

Nissan\'s compact CUV goes part-electric.

The 2017 redesign of the Nissan Rogue was more than just a simple face-lift. Nissan decided to take advantage of the product cycle update to bring us something truly new: a hybrid.

The compact hybrid CUV segment seems to be on the rebound after being vacant for several years following the discontinuation of Ford's last-gen Escape. Toyota rebooted the concept last year with the introduction of the RAV4 Hybrid; now, Nissan is taking a stab at it too.

Playing it coolWhile some hybrid variants of mainstream models tend to adopt funky styling to draw attention to their green credentials, the hybrid Rogue does very little to draw attention to itself.

While it does carry badging on the front doors and the liftgate, the only real stylistic telltale is the hybrid's unique split-spoke wheels. If you prefer to keep a lower profile in your tree-hugging (fine, "fuel-saving") endeavors, the Rogue may be just what you're looking for.

Practical concernsWhile the Rogue Hybrid may look identical to the gasoline-powered model from the outside, some more significant changes had to happen inside the cabin in order to accommodate the hybrid-electric powertrain.

For starters, one of the Rogue's signature options--an available third row--isn't available on the hybrid. Where the seats would normally mount for the third row is occupied instead by the hybrid battery pack. That means the rear cargo area is configured a little differently too, with the recessed portion of the floor terminating about a foot shy of the second-row seats.

These are fairly minor issues, really. Nissan's engineers say the take rate on the Rogue's third row is somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-8 percent. Nissan is expecting 15 percent of total Rogue sales to be Hybrid models, making the cross-section of customers who would likely consider both to be extremely narrow.

Our biggest beef with the interior isn't relegated to the Hybrid model, or really to the Rogue nameplate at all. Like the rest of Nissan's lineup, it can't be had with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto--a deficiency that is going to matter more and more as these new trucks and SUVs start to age.

Multi-modal motivation

As is the case with the Toyota RAV4, the hybrid boasts the more powerful of the Rogue's two engine offerings. The 30 kW electric motor tacks on enough extra juice for a total system output of 176 horsepower--six more than the 2.5L makes in the non-hybrid model.

The Rogue's hybrid powertrain employs a clutch-based system to couple/decouple the gasoline and electric motors from the conventional Xtronic CVT transmission. No torque converter is utilized. The system also takes advantage of idle auto start/stop and regenerative braking to further improve around-town fuel efficiency.

The result is estimated EPA fuel economy figures of 33 in the city, 35 on the highway and 34 combined in FWD models and 31/34/33 in AWD models--1 MPG city better than the RAV4 Hybrid.

On the roadOur time with the 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid was fairly brief. It was launched alongside the conventional Rogue and Nissan's new Sentra SR Turbo, so our allotted time with each was a bit shorter than it may otherwise have been.

In terms of comfort and roadholding, differences between the gasoline-powered and hybrid Rogues were negligible. The latter's distinctive braking feel (thanks to its energy recovery system) stood out as the only discernible difference in driving feel.

The hybrid system makes enough power to offset the added weight of the battery packs and electric drive unit, effectively cancelling out some of the two cars' most significant statistical discrepancies.

Most of our driving was done on fast country two-lanes, with some brief detours into small-town Georgia for photo opportunities and water breaks. This sort of driving isn't exactly in a hybrid's wheelhouse, so we weren't surprised to see an average of only 32 MPG reported by the trip computer.

Like the RAV4 Hybrid, we found the Rogue to be a perfectly acceptable driving companion, though for our money, we'd be content with the gasoline engine and a few more features and options (or perhaps simply a little more money left in our pockets).

Leftlane's bottom lineThe 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid is a great alternative to Toyota's hybrid CUV. If fuel efficiency isn't of particular concern, the gas-powered Rogue is a perfectly decent car in its own right. The Hybrid's value proposition will likely depend more on the buyer than its own merits.

2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid base price $TBD

Photos by Byron Hurd and Nissan.

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