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Front Page - Friday, January 15, 2021

Small SUV showdown: Nissan Rogue vs. Mazda CX-5

The immense popularity of small SUVs means that every manufacturer competing in this space has to bring its A-game.

To that end, Nissan is hitting the reset button with its fully redesigned 2021 Rogue, built in Smyrna. Boasting bolder styling and greater emphasis on technology and interior appointments, this overhauled Rogue improves upon its predecessor in almost every way. But can it run toe-to-toe with the best that the class has to offer?

To answer that question, Edmunds’ experts compared the redesigned Rogue against one of their top-ranked small SUVs, the Mazda CX-5. The CX-5 is the perfect benchmark for the Rogue since it’s also a sharply styled crossover SUV with a premium interior.

Comfort, refinement

Pampering passengers is one of the Rogue’s strong suits. Its front seats have soft cushioning and ample support for road trips. The Rogue also has a composed ride quality and offers an available tri-zone climate control system that rear-seat passengers can use to dial in their preferred temperature.

The CX-5’s sportier suspension tuning makes for a ride that is a little firmer than others in this class. The front seats are well shaped, though the rear bench is relatively flat, which may cause some discomfort on a longer drive. The CX-5’s cabin is a little quieter on the highway, but the Rogue does everything else just a bit better.

Winner: Rogue

Interior accommodations

The Rogue’s controls are an appealing mix of analog and digital. It’s a clean interior design that isn’t overly reliant on physical or virtual buttons. The CX-5’s layout is similarly impressive and looks and feels more upscale than the vehicle price suggests.

Another high point for the CX-5 is its wide range of adjustability for the driver’s seat, which enables pilots of just about any size to dial in the perfect position.

Both vehicles have plenty of headroom in both rows. The Rogue has superior legroom measurements on paper, but Edmunds’ experts found it a little easier to fit taller passengers in the back of the CX-5.

For hauling stuff, however, the Rogue counters with more available cargo space. Their respective strengths cater to different needs, so we don’t think there’s a clear-cut winner here.

Winner: Tie

Infotainment, driving aids

You’ll find new infotainment systems in both SUVs. The Rogue’s interface looks similar to the previous model’s, but a larger touch screen frees up some virtual real estate and makes the buttons easier to press.

The CX-5 is also equipped with a new system this year that consists of a larger display with a revised interface. The display screen doesn’t have touch screen functionality; instead, you use a dial-like knob controller to make infotainment inputs.

This setup is a little less convenient to operate than a touch screen, but it can help you keep your eyes on the road while driving and making inputs.

Advanced driver safety features, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and lane keeping assist, are plentiful on each SUV. The Rogue gains an edge with its available ProPilot Assist system. Among its functions is a feature that keeps the Rogue centered in its lane, even in sweeping highway curves.

It isn’t a hands-free driving system, but it definitely reduces some of the driving effort on long trips.

Winner: Rogue

Driving performance

Mazda retired its “Zoom-Zoom” tagline long ago, but the automaker is still strongly associated with performance. The CX-5’s standard 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine performs well in this class and helps it accelerate a half-second quicker to 60 mph than the 181-horsepower Rogue.

On top of that, Mazda offers an optional turbocharged engine that can generate 250 hp when running on 93 octane gas.

Around turns, the CX-5 feels poised and stable for a small SUV. The Rogue, on the other hand, has a more relaxed demeanor. Although it feels more athletic than the previous-generation model, the new Rogue is more at home on urban streets or the highway than serpentine mountain roads.

Winner: CX-5

Value proposition

Both SUVs start around $26,000 and remain competitive as you climb their respective trim ladders.

A fully loaded Rogue will have a few unique features, such as quilted leather seats and wireless functionality for Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. A top-tier CX-5 counters with its strong turbocharged engine, near-luxury cabin materials and tight build quality.

Winner: CX-5

Edmunds says

The redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue is vastly improved and holds appeal beyond its promise of a lot of features for the money. It also has more cargo space and a more comfortable ride than the CX-5.

However, the CX-5 isn’t far behind and offers a superior driving experience and more passenger room. Ultimately, Edmunds gives the nod to the 2021 Mazda CX-5.

Cameron Rogers is a news and reviews editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @_crogers.