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2015 Nissan Rogue vs 2015 Toyota RAV4 - which is really more sensible?

After a week in both the 2015 Nissan Rogue and the 2015 Toyota RAV4, it became clear which was the better family machine.

The Nissan Rogue and Toyota RAV4 are direct competitors in the small crossover market. Where the Nissan offers more versatility, the RAV4 offers a prettier interior. In everyday, family use, which is the better choice might depend on what you want out of a crossover, of course, but we feel that most will find the Rogue to be the better of the two.

Why? Simple. It offers more versatility, better family ergonomics, and higher fuel economy. Both vehicles were redesigned a couple of years ago and have now had most of the kinks of a new design worked out of them. Looking at several sources, we can see that their reliability ratings are about the same as well. So how do they compare on day-to-day points of use? Let’s look.

Powertrain and Fuel Economy
We begin with one of the leading factors in purchase decisions: fuel economy. The 2015 Rogue utilizes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission (Nissan calls this the Xtronic). Output is 170 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque in front-wheel or optional all-wheel drive. We drove the AWD model. The EPA rates this configuration at 28 mpg combined. We found that this estimate is a bit high for the real world, which returned closer to 25 mpg combined in the AWD model.

The 2015 RAV4 has a similar powertrain with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel or AWD. These produce 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. The EPA rates the AWD model at 25 mpg combined. Our real-world returns in the AWD RAV4 gave us about 23 mpg overall, so it too is a bit lower than the government rates it.

In both drives, our driving mix was freeway-heavy and involved mixed passenger loads ranging from a solo driver to two adults and two children in child safety seats. Cargo was usually nothing more than a week’s groceries and the various accoutrements that go with driving around with small children.

It’s clear that both on paper and in the real world, the Nissan returns the better economy.

Rogue vs RAV4 in Family Ergonomics
Here’s where things get more subjective and interesting. Given that we used the two vehicles in roughly the same manner for a week a piece, though, it’s as close to scientific as we can get. The results are a mixed bag with points in favor of both the RAV4 and the Rogue. We give it to the Rogue for its higher level of comfort and versatility, but there are things about the RAV4 that might make it a better option for some.

The 2015 Toyota RAV4 seats five with no third row option. It does, however, have a more square-shaped cargo space than does the Rogue, making that more useful for some bulkier items. It’s also a bit easier to get in and out of the second row seating thanks to wide back doors, though tall folks will have to duck more than usual due to the roofline’s taper. The rear seating is roomy and easily folds down to expand cargo space.

The 2015 Nissan Rogue has similar second row issues with entry and egress, but has less headroom once you’re inside. Seating is also a little more complicated to fold in order to expand cargo space. On the plus side, however, are the two cargo area options not available in the RAV4. The two-row Rogue has a cargo area option that allows the user to create shelving and dividers for cargo organization. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. No more jockeying to keep the bread and eggs from being crushed. The Rogue also offers a third row option for extra people hauling, though admittedly that third row is mostly for kids.

So all together, we’re calling this a draw. The Toyota has a more comfortable second row for adults, but the Rogue has more options for overall use.

Road Presence and Safety
Now we come to the daily use item that is most often overlooked in review. How it drives for the short and long haul. The 2015 Rogue has a very well-mannered road presence with a lot of comfort. The RAV4 is more raw in its road feel and a bit noisier. Both have a lack of road feedback to the driver thanks to soft steering, though, so neither the Rogue nor the RAV4 will win any “driver’s choice” awards. Both are comfortable to sit in and ride for the short run, but the Rogue has the clear advantage of Zero Gravity seating for longer stints. Even in the back row. We’re giving the road presence win to the Rogue.

For safety, the choice is a draw. Both have been crash tested by the government and the Insurance Institute. The RAV4 received a lowest-possible “Poor” on its small-overlap frontal-offset test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when it first appeared in this new generation, but has since remedied that issue. The Rogue aced that test. Both have almost identical crash test results from both the IIHS and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and are both Top Safety Picks and 4-Star winners.

Final Notes on 2015 Rogue vs 2015 RAV4
The final comparison comes down to what you need out of a small crossover. For most, we feel that the Rogue will be the better choice. Reliability is about the same, according to both JD Power and Consumer Reports. The Rogue has had one recall whereas the RAV4 has had three (none related to Takata airbags).

Finally, the MSRP for the Rogue is about $3,000 cheaper than it is for the RAV4, even when comparable equipment is installed. The Rogue offers more safety options and technology than does the RAV4 as well. So overall, we feel it’s a better value proposition for the family buyer.


Dee (not verified)    June 25, 2015 - 7:37PM

For those of us typically using the car by ourselves, the rear seat issue is not a major one. I have a 2008 Rav4 which I love and which has brought me safely through a couple of nasty New England winters unscathed. I always liked the distinctive look of the rav4, but now that the rear tire is gone (or so it seems) from the back, it looks almost identical to the Nissan... So for looks I guess now they are pretty much equal for me.

I put lots of mileage on my cars, so which of the two has the better resale value? Also as it is entering it's twilight years, I have spent a small fortune on repairs... Is the new Rav4 better in this respect? Is the Nissan better?

As I mentioned I drive in pretty nasty weather in winter, does one have the edge over the other in this respect. I have the cheapest model which does not have AWD. BTW, what is the comparative fuel efficiency of the non AWD models?

Now that the two look virtually identical, the fact that the rouge is so much cheaper might tip me to buying one of those next, once my trusty Rav4 finally kicks the bucket.

Also, you mentioned the back of the Rogue is lower, I have a kayak and getting it up on top of the Rav is a major workout, hopefully it will be easier with the Rouge? Does it have p reinstalled bars on top like the Rav?

Aaron Turpen    June 28, 2015 - 12:12AM

In reply to by Dee (not verified)

The roof rack is standard equipment on the Rogue with an upgraded version with crossbars being available as optional equipment. The MPG carries over to the FWD models. The Rogue stays the same in either case (FWD or AWD) and the price for all-wheel drive isn't much (about $1,000). I'd recommend that upgrade. I would suspect they're about the same in inclement weather regardless, since they're roughly the same weight and height and have about the same weight distribution. Resale might sit better with the Toyota still, though, as the brand as a whole has higher resale value, but that would be somewhat offset by the lower price point of the Nissan. Most vehicles begin to wear down with age. Even those with the highest reliability expectation.

Ted (not verified)    June 27, 2015 - 2:36AM

I think the comment "The 2015 RAV4 received a lowest-possible “Poor” on its small-overlap frontal-offset test by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)" is a bit misleading, when the Rav4 was redesigned in 2013 it scored "poor" for the overlap test, it also scored "poor" in 2014. But the 2015 scored a Good which is the top score.

Whitney Clark (not verified)    December 10, 2017 - 1:10PM

From the reports I read, the Toyota kills the rouge in reliability rates. How did you find that they are about equal?