The compact SUV market is saturated with so many vehicles that you don’t know where to start. For the longest time, I have always recommended the Mazda CX-5 because it’s spacious, drives very well, and has a cabin full of high quality materials. However, it is now 5 years old so can it still keep its crown against the updated Nissan Rogue? The Rogue has more interior space, bold new looks, and packed with more technology than its predecessor. So how do these SUVs stack up?
Engine – The Mazda CX-5 is available with two engines. A naturally aspirated 2.5L 4-cylinder and a turbocharged version of the engine. This Signature CX-5 has the latter and this turbo engine can produce up to 250 hp & 320 lb-ft (186 kW / 434 Nm) with premium fuel. On regular fuel, it produces 227 hp & 310 lb-ft of torque (169 kW / 420 Nm). With this turbo engine, the Mazda CX-5 is still the sportiest compact SUV in this price bracket. Acceleration to 100 km/h takes just over 6 seconds which makes this a very quick compact SUV.
However this engine is not comparable to the engine under the hood of the Nissan Rogue. Instead, a more comparable engine would be the base 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that produces 187 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque (139 kW / 252 Nm). This engine requires a bit more throttle input than the turbo engine because the peak torque figure is at around the 4,000 rpms mark. It’s not going to give you the same punchy acceleration off the line but it is responsive and doesn’t feel as though it’s straining to pull the 1,630 kg (3,593 lbs) body.
By comparison, the Nissan Rogue comes equipped with just one engine for the 2021 model year. A naturally aspirated 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that produces 181 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque (135 kW / 245 Nm). That is a moderate bump in power from the last generation Rogue but it’s still lower than the 2.5L naturally aspirated engine in the Mazda CX-5. But despite the lower power output, the engine never feels as though it is struggling while driving the Nissan Rogue. The crossover accelerates at a moderate rate of speed from a stop and overtaking another vehicle on a highway doesn’t require a long run-up. Sure, the engine’s rpms need to hit the 3,000 mark when accelerating onto a highway but once the Rogue gets up to cruising speeds, the rpms drop to around the 1,500 mark.
The 2022 Nissan Rogue is available with an optional 1.5L turbocharged 3-cylinder engine on all trim levels except for the base S FWD trim. This new engine produces 201 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque (150 kW / 305 Nm).
Fuel Economy – With the 2.5L naturally aspirated engine and AWD, the 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 can achieve 10.2 L/100km (23 MPG) in a city and 8.2 L/100km (28.7 MPG) on a highway. When I test drove the CX-5 with this engine back in 2017, I averaged 9.9 L/100km (23.8 MPG) on a combined cycle.
The 2021 Nissan Rogue is rated for 9.2 L/100km (25.6 MPG) in a city and 7.2 L/100km (32.7 MPG) on a highway. A 0.3 & 0.4 L/100km improvement over the old Rogue. During my time with the SUV, I averaged 8.6 L/100km (27.4 MPG) so it’s not difficult to reach those targets.
Transmission – The 2021 Nissan Rogue’s engine is paired with a CVT automatic. It’s not the most exciting transmission but because Nissan has stuck with it, they refined it over the years to make it one of the best CVTs around. During normal commutes, the transmission behaves like a typical CVT, as in, it will hold the engine’s rpms to a set point until the car is up to speed. If you press down harder on the throttle, it will start to simulate virtual gears.
Swapping cogs in the Mazda CX-5 is a 6-speed automatic transmission regardless of which engine you choose. Since the age of dinosaurs Mazda has continued to use a 6-speed transmission whereas the competitors have moved on to 7, 8, 9, or 10-speed automatics or dual-clutch transmissions. But while Mazda has stayed the course, they have refined this transmission to be the best 6-speed automatic on the market today. It is smooth to change gears but also quick when you need it to be.
Braking – Stopping the Mazda CX-5 are just regular brakes that you’d find on all other SUVs. However, Mazda has managed to make the brake pedal feel like what you’d find in a sports sedan. It doesn’t take much effort to bring the CX-5 to a stop in everyday traffic and it feels firm under harder braking applications. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the 2021.5 Mazda CX-5.
Like many other manufacturers, Nissan vehicles are equipped with forward collision alert & automatic emergency braking as standard; regardless of trim level. The 2021 Rogue is no different. The system didn’t feel overly sensitive nor did it give me any false alerts while I test drove the Rogue. The brakes themselves are adequate for the Rogue. There’s quite a bit more pedal travel than I’d like but in everyday situations, there’s more than enough braking force.
Handling – The way that the Mazda CX-5 goes around corners is what gives it its sporty credentials. Sharp and communicative steering provides feedback that you’d find on a sports car let alone a midsize SUV. Because of this, the CX5 gives you the confidence to drive it around corners at higher speeds than other SUVs.
Speaking of providing grip, The 2021 Nissan Rogue drives much better on twisty roads than the outgoing model. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not a Mazda CX-5. However, this new generation feels more planted and eager to go around a corner. On city streets, the steering is light and effortless making for easy maneuverability.
Ride Comfort – The 2021 Nissan Rogue is arguably one of the most comfortable rides in this class of vehicles. Bumps and road imperfections are very well ironed out by the suspension. It’s not like “driving on clouds” but it’s darn close. Further aiding to the comfort in this top Platinum trim are the quilted leather seats. They are extremely comfortable to sit in for long…. really long periods of time without any back pain.
The CX-5 being a more sporty SUV, the suspension is a bit on the firmer side than its competitors. It’s not so firm that it shakes our teeth but if you value ride comfort above anything else, the Nissan Rogue might be a better choice for you.
Interior Space – The 2021 Rogue – like many new generation vehicles – offers more interior space than the outgoing model. However, the increase in size is not in all axes. Front and rear passenger legroom is greater as is total cargo volume with the rear seats folded. But headroom and cargo capacity with the rear seats up is a tiny bit less than the 2020 Rogue. While the headroom is a few millimeters less than last year’s model, there’s still ample headroom for tall adults like myself at 6’4”. Getting in and out of the Rogue is a breeze, especially in the back row, thanks to the rear doors that open at an almost 90 degree angle.
When it comes to passenger space, the Mazda CX5 provides an ample amount. Front legroom is a bit less than what the Rogue can offer but the CX5 has nearly identical headroom even with the sunroof. In the back, the Mazda has a bit more legroom than the Nissan with plenty of pace for taller adults like myself at 6’4”. Although my knees touch the back of the front seat behind my driving position, there’s an indent in the back of the seat so I don’t feel squished. As well, headroom is very good in the back.
The trunk in the 2021 Nissan Rogue can accommodate 1,028 L (36.3 cu-ft) behind the rear seats and 2,064 L (72.9 cu-ft) with the seats folded. These are specifications with the panoramic moonroof. Without it, the capacities increase by 5 & 34 Liters respectively. Where the Mazda CX-5 lags behind its competitors is cargo volume. With the rear seats up, it can only accommodate 875 L (30.9 cu-ft) of cargo whereas its competitors offer over 1,000 L (35.3 cu-ft) of space. It’s the same story when folding the back seats. The CX5 only has enough room for 1,687 L (59.6 cu-ft) of cargo.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – A refined interior is also one of the biggest changes to the new Nissan Rogue. The cabin is insulated from most outside noises although it’s the engine that you may hear, depending on how hard you press on the accelerator pedal. From idle to around 2,000 rpms (most everyday situations), the engine noise is subdued. But beyond that mark, the noises coming from the engine bay are glaringly obvious in the cabin.
Engine noise is prevalent in the cabin of the Mazda CX-5 but I’m actually Ok with that. The reason is because Mazda engines don’t sound the same as other 4-cylinder engines. They sound as though they actually have power & muscle. The engine noise is not deafening – even when accelerating hard – but it’s always there. On highways, road and wind noise is well subdued.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2021 Nissan Rogue starts at $28,498 CAD ($26,050 USD). The 2022 Nissan Rogue receives a small bump in starting price by $500 CAD. This 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum starts at $39,998 CAD ($35,830 USD) with the 2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum receiving a $2,000 CAD price jump.
The 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 starts at $29,200 CAD ($25,370 USD) for the base GX trim (Sport in USA) with this top spec Signature Mazda CX-5 costing $42,950 CAD ($37,505 USD). So in terms of pricing, the Rogue and the CX-5 are almost identical both in terms of starting and top spec trims.
Gadgets – By now you’re probably wondering what a 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 is. It’s a Canadian-only model year as the American market received these upgrades for the standard 2021 model year. The biggest upgrade is the updated infotainment system. It is now displayed on a new 10.25-inch screen that is controlled exclusively by the rotary knob on the center console. The new infotainment system looks sharp, is faster to respond to inputs, and is easy to navigate around using the rotary knob.
Other features on the 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 Signature include satellite navigation, heated & ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel (though only at the 9 and 3 positions), heated rear seats, a traditional sunroof, power liftgate, head-up display, Nappa leather upholstery, surround view cameras, and a full suite of advanced driver and safety aids which are actually standard across all trim levels.
The Nissan Rogue can be similarly equipped but there are a few differences. It has a touchscreen instead of a rotary controlled screen like in the Mazda but it’s only 9-inches in diameter. The infotainment system is updated with faster response times but it looks similar to the previous generation infotainment system. It has Apple CarPlay & Android Auto integration just like in the CX-5 but unlike the CX-5, the Rogue’s infotainment system allows for wireless CarPlay. Unfortunately not wireless Android Auto. As well, the Nissan Rogue Platinum has wireless phone charging unlike the Mazda CX-5 and a larger panoramic sunroof. However, the Nissan Rogue does not have ventilated front seats like the Mazda.
Other than those differences, the Nissan Rogue has every other gadget that the CX-5 has; heated front & rear seats, heated steering wheel, head-up display, surround view cameras, power liftgate, and a full suite of advanced driver and safety aids as standard. However a difference with the driver aids is the excellent lane centering system in the Nissan. The Mazda system just gently brings you back into your lane if the car drifts to the edge of the lane but the Nissan system will actively keep the car centered in the lane.
Interior Design – Aesthetically, the 2021 Nissan Rogue’s cabin looks more modern but physically, the 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 has better tactile materials. The Nappa leather is just a bit softer in the Mazda, the wood trim is real wood, and the buttons & knobs have more satisfying clicks than those in the Nissan Rogue. The Rogue is a big improvement over the previous generation but even though the CX-5 is now 4 years old, the attention to detail is still noticeable.
Exterior Design – The redesigned Rogue has a bold and rugged exterior look. It took a bit of inspiration from the old Nissan Juke with the thin daytime running lights at the top of the bumper and actual headlights further down. It looks a bit odd to me but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, the design language is instantly recognizable as a Nissan product with newer SUV models, such as the Pathfinder, receiving the same design.
The 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 has pretty much the same design as it did back in 2017. Surprisingly, it still gets some looks especially if it’s in the vibrant Soul Red Crystal Metallic paint. The 2022 Mazda CX-5 will receive slightly restyled headlights, tail lights, and a revised front bumper. Apart from those changes, it remains as part of the 2nd generation CX-5.
Warranty – The 2021 Nissan Rogue is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km new vehicle basic warranty and a 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For USA warranty, click here.
Mazda, on the other hand, offers a very unique auto industry warranty. The Mazda CX-5 is covered by a 3 year / unlimited km basic warranty and a 5 year / unlimited powertrain warranty. Unfortunately this unlimited km warranty is not available in the United States. In the U.S.A, the warranty is more “normal” at 3 year / 36,000 mile basic & 5 year / 60,000 mile powertrain warranties. For more info on Canadian warranty, click here. For more info on U.S.A. warranty, click here.
Conclusion – In all, the 2021 Nissan Rogue is a good compact SUV. It’s not as good to drive as the Mazda CX-5 nor does it have the same quality interior materials, but the Rogue is a tiny bit less expensive and features a lot of the same gadgets & gizmos. Depending on trim, more gadgets than the CX-5. So in a way, you’re getting more value for your money with the Nissan Rogue than other competitor compact SUVs.
While the 2021.5 Mazda CX-5 is the older of the two, the few updates that it has received over the years and will continue to receive until a new generation arrives, has kept it top of mind for shoppers. It is still the best driving compact SUV in this price bracket with premium interior materials. It just goes to show how much time and effort Mazda put in developing the CX-5.
Thank you to Mazda Canada for providing the CX-5. www.Mazda.ca
Thank you to Nissan Canada for providing the Rogue. www.Nissan.ca