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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Hyundai Tucson Vs. Nissan Rogue: Compare Cars

In a few short years, what difference. Now, the set of compact crossovers is superior, and some of the compromises associated with going compact have diminished. With brand-new versions of the Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4 just out for 2013, and the excellent Honda CR-V carried over just a couple years after a full redesign, there are plenty of strong alternatives here—enough to give any good comparison shopper pangs of doubt.

So which would we choose--the Nissan Rogue or the Hyundai Tucson? If you've scrolled down to the chart below, you already know the Tucson wins in a walk, but it's a little closer than the numbers might indicate. That starts with styling. Both the Tucson and Rogue haven't been fully redesigned in some time, yet they wear smart, urbane lines. There's reason to recommend either on looks alone: the Tucson's a little more daring, the Rogue a little more refined, except across its toothy grille.

Both the Rogue and Tucson slot in at the truly compact end of the crossover spectrum. The Nissan fares a bit better with its well-packaged interior and ideal driving position; the Tucson has almost as much space, but we think its optional leather seats need longer bottom cushions to be truly comfortable. In each of these utes, the cargo area is large enough for a few weekend bags, but you'll want to think twice about bringing along pets, as the upswept styling of both vehicles blocks out rear visibility for pets and drivers alike.

Where these crossovers begin to distance themselves is in safety, features, and performance. The Tucson's a Top Safety Pick, and offers a rearview camera and Bluetooth on most models. The Rogue can be fitted with those features--its Around View Monitor is superior, even--but its roof-crush test scores are just average. All Tucsons come with satellite radio and a USB port, both of which are upgrades in the Rogue. Leather, navigation, power seats and a sunroof can be had on either. And neither of these models have absolutely stellar safety ratings—both of them, in fact, flubbed the latest frontal offset test from the IIHS.

Finally, neither the Rogue nor the Tucson will win over race rats with straight-line numbers or g-force figures, and ultimately the Tucson gets the nod, barely, for its conventional transmissions. Both crossovers can ride a little roughly and accelerate in a relaxed way, but the Tucson's well-managed six-speed automatic makes up for its wandery electric power steering. The Rogue's continuously variable transmission has paddles for semi-manual control, but it adds to the in-cabin noise levels, feels sluggish, and undercuts the natural feedback that comes from its steering and suspension. The Tucson also outpaces the Rogue, slightly, in fuel economy—even with the stronger 2.4-liter version, with available all-wheel drive.

If either of these made your short shopping list, make sure to add one more before you buy: the Tucson's near-twin, the Kia Sportage, which also comes in turbocharged form for a more entertaining drive. Otherwise, unless the Rogue's sleek looks and slightly larger cabin win you over, a 2.4-liter Tucson automatic with front-wheel drive--and cloth seats--is our head-to-head pick.

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