SUV smackdown: Comparing a Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee, and Mazda CX-5

Enlarge / The 2020 Ars FrankenSUV will not be coming to a dealership close to you.

Aurich Lawson / Eric Bangeman / Marlowe Bangeman

If you reside within the suburbs of an American metropolis, you’ll be able to barely cross the road with out dodging an SUV. That’s as a result of SUVs and pickup vans account for round 70% of recent automobile gross sales within the United States. With each main carmaker all-in on the form-factor, now is a superb time to buy an SUV or crossover. In a change from our standard evaluations, we will pit three compact SUVs head-to-head-to-head to see which one is most deserving of your hard-earned money.

Meet the contenders

Earlier this yr, I spent every week every with the Nissan Rogue SL, the Jeep Cherokee Limited, and the Mazda CX-5 Signature. All are compact SUVs that begin at round $25,000, however every is constructed with a special purpose in thoughts.

The Nissan Rogue is the economical, jack-of-all-trades of the three and was the fifth-best-selling automobile within the US throughout 2018. It has the very best mileage and lowest sticker value. The Jeep Cherokee is constructed for versatility with a number of driving modes for all kinds of terrain, and the Jeep badge had the very best gross sales progress within the US throughout 2018. The Mazda CX-5 is the sportiest and has essentially the most polished inside of the lot—and it outsold all the different Mazda lineup mixed within the US throughout 2018.

Most importantly for our functions, every of the automobiles I drove had comparable choices and trim ranges.

Here’s how they stack up:

Nissan Rogue SL AWDJeep Cherokee Limited 4×4Mazda CX-5 Signature
2018 US gross sales rank (SUVs solely)2916
Base MSRP$25,020$25,045$24,350
Price as configured$36,085$41,220$39,450
Dimensions185″ × 72″ × 69″ (4,699mm × 1,829mm × 1,753mm)182″ × 75″ × 68″ (4,623mm × 1,905mm ×
179″ × 73″ × 65″ (4,547mm × 1,854mm × 1,651mm)
Wheelbase106.5″ (2,705mm)106.6″ (2,708mm)106.2″ (2,697mm)
Cargo area39.3ft3 (1,112L) / 70.0ft3
25.8ft3 (730L) / 54.7ft3
30.9ft3 (875L) / 59.6ft3
EPA mileage27mpg (25mpg metropolis, 32mpg freeway)24mpg (21mpg/29mpg)24mpg (22mpg/27mpg)
Engine2.5L DOHC inline-4 (2.0L base)2.0L DOHC inline-Four turbo2.5L Skyactiv Turbo
Horsepower and torque170hp (125kW) at 6,000rpm / 175lb-ft (237Nm)
at 4,400rpm
270hp (199kW) / 295lb-ft (400Nm)227hp (166kW) / 312lb-ft (423Nm)
TransmissionXtronic repeatedly variable transmission AWDNine-speed automated AWDSix-speed automated AWD
Driving modesEco, Normal, and SportAuto, snow, sport, sand/mud, and rockRegular and Sport
Driver help systemAdaptive cruise management, lane centering,
blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors
Adaptive cruise-control, lane-keep help,
blind-spot monitoring, parking help
Adaptive cruise management, lane-keep help,
blind-spot monitoring, 360° parking sensors and digicam,
heads-up show
Infotainment7.0″ Touchscreen with buttons, CarPlay and
Android Auto assist
8.4″ Touchscreen, CarPlay and Android Auto
7.0″ touchscreen with dial, CarPlay and
Android Auto assist

Going by the eye-popping mileage and cargo area numbers, we may simply declare the Nissan Rogue the winner and transfer on. But there’s much more to car-buying choices than how a lot you will be spending on fuel, so let’s dig in to every automobile’s strengths and weaknesses.

On the street

The Mazda CX-5 is the clear winner from a drivability standpoint. Not solely is it the quickest off the mark, however it’s truly satisfying to drive, particularly in sport mode, the place the six-speed transmission communicates a sense of urgency as you step via the gears. As one would anticipate from the corporate that introduced us the Miata, the CX-5 is agile and exact the place it must be. I’d have loved it a bit extra with an eight-speed transmission, although.

Like the opposite two automobiles, the CX-5 comes with Mazda’s suite of driver-assistance tech, together with lane-keep help and start-stop adaptive cruise management. Lane-keep help is purposeful however not almost as aggressive as different automobiles within the class. I did admire the heads-up show within the CX-5, one thing that is not out there within the Rogue or Cherokee.

At the opposite finish of the spectrum, driving the Rogue is one thing to be endured, not loved. There’s a way of sluggishness with the Rogue, and I actually disliked feeling the engine working by way of vibrations within the fuel pedal. Nissan’s CVT does not assist, as its presence requires the engine to drag increased revs at comparable speeds than it might with an automated transmission. The result’s a noisier trip that feels remarkably generic.

If you need the most recent and best in driver-assist tech on the Rogue, you will must spring for ProPilot Assist in the event you’re not going with the SL trim bundle. The 360° digicam view is a welcome addition, making tight squeezes rather less nerve-wracking.

The Jeep Cherokee got here with the elective 2.0-liter inline-four turbo, which was surprisingly sprightly. (Those in search of extra towing capability ought to take into consideration the elective 3.2-liter V6.) I might have appreciated the Cherokee to be faster off the mark, however at cruising speeds, tapping the accelerator pays off with a pleasant oomph. The trip high quality is strong—passengers are insulated from nasty chunks of street, though there was barely extra street noise contained in the cabin than I might have appreciated. Where the Cherokee surprises is with its dealing with, offering a way of stability round curves. If you are pondering primarily about off-road efficiency, you will need to look laborious on the Cherokee Trailhawk. But the bottom Cherokee does embody a sand/mud setting for these drives alongside… muddy seashores.

For Jeep, superior driver-assist tech is additional. Lane-keep help and adaptive cruise management require a $1,095 improve. Unlike Mazda and Nissan, Jeep doesn’t provide a 360° parking view.

Edge: CX-5

The view from inside

One part of Mazda’s technique to separate its crossovers from the pack is its positioning out there. In our assessment of the CX-9, we described it as “90% of an Audi Q7 for 75% of the price.” That sentiment holds true for the CX-5, which actually takes purpose on the Audi Q3. The really feel is certainly upscale, with stitched leather-based on the steering wheel and across the inside. The seats are snug and supportive, and visibility from the driving force’s seat is sweet. Unlike Nissan and Jeep, Mazda additionally features a heads-up show and ventilated seats. The backseat is enough, as is the cargo area of 30.9cu-ft (875L). The solely quibbles I’ve with the CX-5 regard its cheap-feeling steering wheel controls and the odd placement of the USB ports, that are in the back of the middle storage bin.

Mazda’s infotainment system seems like a stripped-down model of Audi’s previous-generation MMI system. That’s not essentially a foul factor, however the CX-5’s 7″ infotainment display screen, mounted to the highest of the dashboard, feels tiny and insignificant. It’s managed by a well positioned knob proper in entrance of the cupholders or by way of contact if the automobile isn’t in movement. It will get the job accomplished, however may have been positioned at a extra driver-friendly angle. It’s additionally laggy, making it irritating to make use of.

Compared to the the opposite two autos, the Rogue feels spacious. And it ought to, given the almost 40cu-ft of cargo area. Where the Rogue falls brief is in match and end. The seats aren’t as snug because the CX-5 or Cherokee, though the sight traces from the driving force’s seat are good. I’ve discovered Nissan (and Infiniti) interiors to be bland and uninspiring, with seemingly little thought given to driver ergonomics. There are two rows of buttons above the driving force’s left knee, plus a touchscreen infotainment system that feels dated. Everything you want is there, even when it is not instantly clear the place “there” is.

The Cherokee has essentially the most stylish-looking inside, and the panoramic moonroof feels particularly upscale. My largest quibble was the thickness of the steering wheel and kit shift lever, each of which really feel like they belong in a a lot bigger automobile. Sight traces are good, and all the things the driving force wants is inside simple attain. There’s a satisfying visible coherence to the cabin lacking from the Nissan and Mazda. The presence of Chrysler’s Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system helps. While the competitors has spent the final couple of years catching up, Uconnect continues to be the most effective infotainment techniques out there in a mainstream SUV.

Where the Cherokee falls brief is room—there’s simply not sufficient of it. That contains the meager (in comparison with the Rogue) 25.8cu-ft of cargo area and a barely cramped-feeling backseat.

Edge: CX-5

Fuel financial system

In the course of a assessment, I sometimes put between 300 and 500 miles on the automobile, and I exploit it as I might my very own automobile. That entails driving my son to rugby follow, journeys to the grocery retailer, visiting my in-laws who reside 40 miles to the south, going to church, and a 63-mile route via the northwest suburbs of Chicago that features nation driving on two-lane winding roads, freeways, and typical suburban driving. While the driving circumstances assorted with the three automobiles (largely the typical temperature), I put roughly the identical quantity of miles on every one.

The large shock right here—and never in a great way—was the Rogue. It’s rated at 27mpg by the EPA (32mpg on the freeway), and I obtained 23.9 miles to the gallon. I managed 24.1mpg with the Cherokee and 24.4mpg with the CX-5; each are rated at 24mpg by the EPA.

If you are in search of one thing greater than an inner combustion engine, Nissan presents a hybrid model of the Rogue rated at 34mpg. Fiat Chrysler plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid Compass and Renegade for the 2020 mannequin yr, with the Cherokee presumably to observe in some unspecified time in the future within the not-too-distant future. Mazda, then again, is concentrated on making its ICEs extra fuel-efficient and has not introduced plans for hybrids.

Edge: Rogue

And the winner is…

Going purely by the numbers, the Rogue ought to be the clear winner, proper? After all, it presents the very best mileage and most cargo area of the contenders. But the Rogue can be the least-interesting SUV of the lot, combining an uninspired design philosophy with a bland and noisy trip. Driving the Rogue felt like one thing to be endured, relatively than embraced.

At the opposite finish of the spectrum is the CX-5. Mazda’s performance-oriented, luxury-light strategy makes for a crossover that gives the occasional flash of pleasure on the freeway. But among the design selections Mazda made are grating, together with minor issues like USB port placement (the within rear of the middle storage compartment) and controls that really feel low-cost.

If you reside in a spot the place you frequently take care of awful roads, or you probably have a yen to go off-road, the Cherokee is the very best guess. And it has essentially the most coherent feel and look of the three SUVs. But, regardless of having a near-identical wheelbase and comparable dimensions to the Rogue and CX-5, the Cherokee falls brief on inside room. If certainly one of your car-buying necessities is most area in your stuff, look elsewhere. And a completely loaded Cherokee Limited goes to be $5,000 greater than a equally geared up Nissan or Mazda.

Ultimately, every of the three SUVs has one thing to advocate it. Off-roading? Cherokee. Fun behind the wheel? CX-5. Space and gasoline financial system? The Rogue.

If I had to decide on one of many three to be my day by day driver, nonetheless, the CX-5 is a greater all-around trip than the Jeep and Rogue.

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