Nissan is on a mission to up their game, and the all-new 2021 Rogue is a significant play in the heavily contested compact crossover category. There’s no question that the redesigned 2021 Rogue is a vast improvement over the previous generation, but how does it measure up to the latest Honda CR-V, a class competitor with sales second only to the Toyota RAV4?
We get behind the wheel of both the 2021 Honda CR-V and the 2021 Nissan Rogue for a head-to-head comparison review.
2021 Honda CR-V: A Little Bit Country
The Honda CR-V has a comfortable and familiar feel that resonates with many people, which is why it’s consistently a top seller in the compact SUV segment. The CR-V’s size and car-like drive quality make it a practical utility vehicle just right for small families or empty-nesters. Factor in Honda‘s reputation for reliability, workmanship, and low-maintenance cost—and its appeal becomes stronger.
The current generation CR-V started with the 2017 model-year, which received a minor refresh in 2019 and eliminated the 2.4-liter non-turbocharged engine. In addition to the facelift, Honda added a hybrid version of the CR-V to the line-up. For 2021, the Honda CR-V carries forward from 2020 with no changes.
2021 Nissan Rogue: A Little Bit Rock ‘N Roll
In the highly contested compact crossover category, the Nissan Rogue has struggled to remain competitive among the many offerings that look more stylish, have better quality interior materials, and deliver a distinctly better driving experience. The second-generation Rogue, which started with the 2014 model-year, simply became outdated over the years as the top tier players introduced new designs that had a lot more pizzaz.
The 2021 Nissan Rogue leaves behind its dowdy image and hits the market with a well-tailored redesign that’s fundamentally a powerful leap over the second-gen Rogue. Balance that with a handsome interior, and the result is a compelling choice for anyone shopping for a compact crossover.
2021 Honda CR-V vs. 2021 Nissan Rogue
The Balance of Economy & Power
There are a couple of powertrain commonalities shared between these two Japanese crossovers. Both use 4-cylinder engines and CVT transmissions that get favorable fuel economy numbers. However, it’s how the power is utilized that sets them distinctly apart.
2021 Honda CR-V
The standard mill for the CR-V is a 1.5L, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine good for 190 hp and 179 lb.-ft. of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) delivers power to the front wheels. Unless you opt for Honda’s Real-Time 4WD system, which sends up to 40% of the power to the rear wheels for extra traction, according to Honda. Acceleration is hampered by turbo lag and the CVT, and it tends to be loud when pressed for more. Not to mention, the auto stop/start action is harsh and unrefined.
The EPA estimates for the CR-V are 30 mpg in combined driving for the front-wheel-drive model and 29 mpg for all-wheel-drive. My AWD test vehicle recorded 28 mpg after more than 250-miles of mixed driving conditions.
2021 Nissan CR-V
In contrast, Nissan opted to use a 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine and their Xtronic CVT transmission. Despite having 10-less ponies than the CR-V, power delivery is smooth, and the CVT does an excellent job of staying in the sweet spot of the powerband without the need for downshifting. For the most part, the drone from the transmission was barely noticeable and not an issue during my time with the Rogue.
The Rogue’s fuel economy ratings are right in line with many competitors’ numbers. The EPA estimate is 30 mpg for the front-wheel-drive model and 28 mpg with the AWD model. I recorded 31 mpg in the FWD model after more than 300-miles of mixed driving, which I accomplished without resorting to hypermiling techniques.
Loaded With Safety Features
Safety is a major factor when contemplating the next vehicle purchase, and Honda emphasizes making their advanced safety technology available to the masses. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Honda Sensing suite of active safety features is standard on all CR-V trims.
This package includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, another system that will actively assist in keeping you on the road, and a lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist. Starting with the EX trim level, you will get the blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.
Additionally, the CR-V proves itself when it comes to protecting its passengers in a crash. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) deems it a “Top Safety Pick.”
The 2021 Rogue presents an assemblage of driver aids grouped under Nissan Safety Shield 360, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, high beam assist, and lane departure warning. Couple with Nissan’s Intelligent Driver Alertness technology and rear door alert as standard equipment on all trims, the new Rogue proves that safety is a priority.
Available is ProPILOT Assist with Navi-link that combines adaptive cruise control as part of the system. Essentially, it helps keep you centered in your lane and maintain a preset distance from the vehicle ahead. When used in heavy traffic, it will bring the car to a full stop and resume back up to speed when traffic starts moving again.
Nissan is up to version 2.0 with ProPILOT Assist, but I didn’t have the best experience using it. The system works fine in favorable weather conditions and when there are clear lane markings. I found out it has trouble staying within the lane markers and can’t negotiate mild bends in the road too well. Although, it was good at adjusting speed and maintaining a set distance from the car ahead of me.
Since the 2021 Rogue underwent a full redesign, IIHS and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) haven’t posted their test results yet.
Interior Design & Features
The placement of a minivan-style shift lever below the dashboard on the CR-V leaves space for a clever center console with a large device bin to the front, a sliding armrest, and a configurable console bin. The compartment has a self-storing tray/separator that allows multiple spaces with the tray in place, or it can open to swallow a medium-size purse or tablet.
Giving away the CR-V’s dated design is the 7-inch electrostatic touchscreen. It’s not totally behind the times, as the infotainment system features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In the cabin are four USB ports total, two up front and two for the second row, that keep your electronic devices charged.
If you look around the 2021 Honda CR-V’s cabin, you’ll notice the unconvincing fake wood grain trim on the doors and across the dashboard above the glove box. Door pockets could be a little larger. While the black leather interior won’t usher any gushing comments, it works well with the overall interior design.
Cabin aesthetics aside, the CR-V boasts an easy step-in height, which is often a crucial factor in the shopping process. Overall, the CR-V’s interior layout feels spacious and has plenty of legroom for back seat passengers.
If you’re a fan of lots of natural light in the cabin, the Rogue has an available panoramic sunroof, whereas the CR-V does not.
Step inside the Rogue and immediately take in the premium-looking cabin design. The dashboard flows nicely to the centerpiece that sports a smart-looking touchscreen. Standard is an 8-inch touchscreen, however, the Platinum trim gets a best-in-class 9-inch touchscreen. The large display area makes it easier to view the details when activating Nissan’s Intelligent Around View camera views. And that is just one of three digital-displays.
The other two are a 10.8-inch head-up display (HUD) and a 12.3-inch configurable digital gauge cluster. The background graphics, image quality, and contrast combine for a sharp instrument display for the driver, unlike the Honda’s digital display, which has a lower resolution, bland graphics, and limited colors.
Although I’m not a fan of the square-ish shape of the grip, the new electronic gear selector has created storage space underneath for small items. Underneath the center armrest is a split-folding door that opens to another storage compartment.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are now standard features in today’s modern cars. What’s not so common is wireless Apple CarPlay. The Rogue has Wi-Fi enabled Apple CarPlay, making it much simpler to get in and go without having to pull out your iPhone and connect it to a cable.
Seating & Cargo Space
Both compact crossovers will seat 5-adults comfortably, but there a few notable differences. The Honda CR-V has a shorter wheelbase by almost 2-inches, yet it has more cargo space than the Rogue. Behind the second row of the CR-V is 39.2 cubic feet compared to the Rogue’s 36.5 cubic feet.
Fold the back seats down, and the CR-V opens up to 75.8 cubic feet, versus the Rogue’s 74.1 cubic feet, of cargo area. All of this means the Honda CR-V has one of the biggest capacity measurements in the compact SUV category. My one nit-pick is that the rear cargo floor—when fully extended—is uneven.
Despite the larger cargo area, back seat comfort isn’t compromised. Passengers in the Honda enjoy nearly 2-inches of extra legroom in the rear. 40.4-inches in the CR-V in contrast to the Rogue’s 38.5-inches.
Access to the second row is a breeze as the doors open to near 90 degrees on both models.
Child Seat Compatability
LATCH child seat anchors are in place for two seating positions across the back row in the 2021 Honda CR-V. The middle location only has a single lower tether anchor and must borrow the second anchor from the left or right position.
The child seat tether anchors in the 2021 Rogue have the same setup as the CR-V. If a child seat is installed in the back row’s middle position, it must borrow a LATCH point from one of the outboard seating positions. The good news is that someone can sit to either the left or right of the child seat, and the right seatback can fold flat for baggage.
Surprisingly, for a compact crossover, the CR-V has a sporty feel to it. The steering is quick, precise, and has relatively good feedback. Be that as it may, don’t expect the sportscar feel of a Civic Si as there is body lean, a soft suspension setup, and way too much understeer. On the positive side, the 2021 Honda CR-V is easy to drive, all-around visibility is outstanding, and it has comfortable ride quality.
In the redesigned Rogue, I found the drive quality is excellent, and all-around visibility is pretty darn good. The cabin remains quiet at freeway speeds, which adds to its premium feel. The on-center steering feel is a little vague, but feels fine driving around town. Quibbles aside, the new 2021 Nissan Rogue delivers a pleasant driving experience, especially if you remember to turn off the Driving Assist feature.
A Little Bit Country or A Little Bit Rock ‘N Roll?
The Honda CR-V doesn’t conquer the compact crossover category. However, it does well as a great, all-around family car offering incredible value, good fuel economy, functional utility, and a strong reputation for reliability. That is why so many Americans buy the CR-V in large quantities every year and keep them in service for many more years.
The all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue fixes many shortcomings of the previous generation and goes well beyond that to become a top contender in a heavily contested market. It looks sharp inside and out, drives remarkably well, and is outfitted with the latest tech. Moreover, it represents a complete departure from earlier Nissan vehicles and is a downright pleasant place to be wherever the road takes you.
|2021 Honda CR-V Touring AWD
|2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD**
|Price As Tested
|1.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder
|2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder
|190 hp @ 5600 rpm
|181 hp @ 6000 rpm
|179 lb-ft @ 2000-5000 rpm
|181 lb-ft @ 3600 rpm
|EPA Combined w/AWD
|Longitudinally-mounted front-engine, all-wheel drive
|Transverse-mounted front-engine, all-wheel drive
|Front: MacPherson strut
Rear: Multi-link double wishbone
|Front: Independent strut w/coil springs
Rear: Independent multi-link
|Power-assisted four-wheeled discs w/electric parking brake
|Four-wheel disc with ABS and electric parking brake
|Dimensions (length x width x height)
|182.1 / 73.0 / 66.5 inches
|183 / 72.4 / 66.5 inches
|8.2 inches (unladen)
|18.9 / 23.1 degrees
|19.0 / 23.6 degrees
|38.0 / 39.1 inches
|39.2 / 37.8 inches w/moonroof
|55.1 / 49.5 inches
|54.1 / 53.4 inches
|41.3 / 40.4 inches
|41.5 / 38.5 inches
|Shoulder Room (front/rear)
|57.9 / 55.6 inches
|57.1 / 55.9 inches
|102.9 cu. ft.
|105.4 cu. ft.
|Cargo Capacity Behind 2nd row
|39.2 cu. ft.
|36.5 cu. ft.
|Max Cargo Capacity (rear seat folded)
|75.8 cu. ft.
|74.1 cu. ft.
** The Rogue FWD was tested for this review. The AWD model is listed in the specs table for the purpose of comparison.