Nissan debuted the Rogue Hybrid in January of this year and, by the time it recently arrived in the Roadshow HQ garage, I’d totally forgotten about it. With only a 5 or 6 mpg advantage over the standard Rogue (and only 2 mpg better on the highway), it doesn’t look very exciting on paper and is, honestly, a fairly forgettable and mild boost that easily got lost amidst a larger midcycle styling upgrade.
Then again, theis actually a pretty good starting point with pretty good performance, cargo area, efficiency and tech. It’s not my favorite choice in the class, but it’s still a very solid pick. So, even a mild bump in performance and efficiency should leave the Rogue Hybrid in a pretty good place, even better considering our 2017.5 Nissan Rogue Hybrid SV is only $1,000 more than the non-hybrid SV AWD model.
Electrifying the Rogue
The biggest change that comes to the Rogue Hybrid happens under the hood, where the 2.5-liter standard engine has been replaced with a smaller 2.0-liter mill that makes 141 horsepower and 144 pound-feet of torque. The smaller engine is mated with an electric motor that adds 30 kW to the party (about 40 hp) and 118 pound-feet of torque.
The hybrid system’s combined peak output of 176 horsepower is 6 ponies more than the larger standard gasoline engine, but it feels less torquey. Since, Nissan doesn’t state peak combined hybrid torque — hybrid math isn’t as simple as adding the pound-feet — I can’t confirm my suspicions. I noted that the Hybrid feels less responsive off of the line than the standard Rogue, but I’m not sure if the power train or the extra weight (about 200 pounds) is to blame.
In the initial instant of acceleration from a stop — when the e-motor operates alone — the Hybrid feels sort of wimpy and hesitant. Only when the gasoline engine kicks in does the SUV start to feel alive and willing to get up and go. What really tweaks me about this power train is the inconsistent throttle feel around town. Starting with not enough pedal off the line and ending up with a hair too much throttle when the gasoline engine kicks in, resulting in a sudden lurch of acceleration. It’s mildly annoying, but not the end of the world and with much patience I eventually learned where the Hybrid’s sweet spots were.
Like the standard Rogue, the Hybrid is based on a front-wheel drive architecture, but is available with an optional all-wheel drive system. Checking that box brings the FWD Hybrid’s EPA fuel economy estimates of 34 city, 33 highway and 35 combined mpg down to 31 city, 34 highway and 33 combined — about a 2 mpg drop across the board. That said, I ended my relaxed week of testing at a disappointing average of about 26 combined mpg.
Regardless of the chosen power train, all Rogue models feature Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which eschews fixed gear ratios in favor of infinitely variable ratios. Nissan has proven that it can build a good CVT with the standard Rogue and it’s just as good here on the hybrid, with none of the hunting and rubber banding that tend to plague this lesser examples of this drivetrain.
A bit less cargo capacity
The standard Rogue is a fairly spacious little SUV. So spacious that there’s even an option for a third-row seat. The Hybrid model, not so much, thanks to its lithium-ion battery pack.
The bank of batteries lives beneath the floor of the rear cargo area where the standard model’s Divide-N-Hide (rolls eyes) storage space would be. This means that the Hybrid loses about 12 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity and can’t be equipped with the Family Package third-row seating option. It’s still got a very respectable 27 cubic feet of trunk for your junk behind the second row, so it’s not a total loss, and the rest of the cabin is just as spacious as the non-hybrid.
Speaking of the rest of the cabin, I’ve got one small nitpick with the Rogue Hybrid’s ergonomics. Overall, it’s a comfortable place to sit, but Nissan has tucked most of the buttons for the all-wheel drive system, liftgate, drive modes and driver aid systems beneath the dashboard at the driver’s left knee. They’re nigh impossible for me to see down there without craning my neck, which is fine for most of them. I’m not going to be opening the liftgate on the highway. However, I just didn’t understand why at least the drive mode buttons — which are meant to be pressed while driving — weren’t on the center console where they could be reached without looking too long away from the road.