Crossovers have become most automakers’ bread and butter. While usually not the fastest or sexiest model in a lineup, crossovers are many times a manufacturer’s top seller—a staple of the lineup. That’s the case with Nissan and its Rogue compact CUV. Selling 350,447 units in 2019, the Rogue is Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S., even outselling the steadfast Altima sedan by a whopping 141,264 units. But in the hyper-competitive crossover segment, you’ve got to stay relevant and fresh; your bread and butter better be good. The all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue is now out and Nissan needs it to continue to provide big sales. But is it good enough to stay Nissan’s top dog and take on the wide array of crossover competitors?
2021 Nissan Rogue Review
The 2021 Nissan Rogue has a lot riding on it. Nissan needs the CUV to be a success. Nissan has faced some challenging times recently, so this staple vehicle needs to be a winner. Fortunately for the Japanese automaker, the ‘21 Rogue has a lot going for it.
We got the chance to have one in the driveway for a week and put the new vehicle through the paces. Here are our first impressions of the 2021 Nissan Rogue.
The new Rogue’s exterior is more masculine than previous Rogue models with angular lines and a muscular shape without being boxy. I’d go as far as to say the 2021 Nissan Rogue is a handsome machine. The nose features the corporate U-shaped grille treatment and edgy LED headlamps. The contoured rocker panels with cladding give way to a backside with minimal rear overhang. This helps to provide that athletic look. Add to it 18-wheels with 235/60R18 Bridgestone tires, and the Rogue no longer looks like a rent-a-car special. While it’s not a GT-R, it is an attractive automobile for what it is.
Our tester was an SV model, and frankly, is a one-of-a-kind. What makes it so unique? Our review vehicle is a prototype and wears Monarch Orange paint. However, this color isn’t available on production Rogues. If you want orange, you’ll have to step up to the SL or Premium trim level and the color is two-tone Sunset Drift ChromaFlair/Super Black. We think Nissan was on to something with this tester’s trim and color, so hopefully, we’ll see this combo in the future.
The 2021 Nissan Rogue has an interior that feels solidly built with high-quality materials throughout. The two-tone soft-touch dash has a subtle black and dark-brown motif with white stitching and hints of silver. The center console houses the gear shift, a hollowed-out area under it for storage, and an armrest with a butterfly-style opening. There’s plenty of room for stashing stuff.
The NissanConnect 8” touchscreen display is easy to use and easy to read. Our tester was equipped with Sirius XM satellite radio, and I found sound from its six-speaker audio system to be adequate, but not much more. Platinum trim packages offer a Bose sound system, however. The Rogue’s climate control had a combination of dials and buttons and didn’t require an engineering degree to use.
The SV package also includes the HD Intelligent Around View Monitor (I-AVM), one of my favorite features. This provides a birds-eye camera view that makes parking simple. The camera system works very well. Additionally, there are USB A and USB C ports for both front and rear passengers. A 12-volt outlet sits in the dash, as well as in the rear cargo area.
Speaking of, if there’s one thing crossovers have going for them is cargo- and people-carrying ability. There’s plenty of space for cargo—and passengers—inside this CUV. Our tester had an easy-to-use power rear liftgate, and scads of room behind the rear passenger seats. In fact, Nissan even included a gallon jug of water in our test vehicle to show how the rear cubby areas can hold all sorts of stuff, including groceries.
We found the front seats to be mostly comfortable, but not as supportive as we wanted on longer trips. The back seats have a ludicrous amount of legroom—38.5” to be exact. To put that in perspective, a new BMW 8 series has 29.5”. I’m fairly certain any NBA player could be comfortable back there for long trips.
Our Rogue had the Premium Package, and that nets you interior niceties including a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel, heated seats, second-row sunshades, PirmaTex seats (e.g. leatherette), and a panoramic moonroof. This will set you back $2,660 but is worth it for those heated amenities, especially if you live in a cooler climate.
Showcase on Safety
In addition to all of the typical safety bits found on new cars, the 2021 Nissan Rogue SV includes ProPILOT assist. ProPILOT Assist is a driver assist system that combines the intelligent cruise control and steering assist technologies and includes a stop and hold function that can bring the vehicle to a full stop, hold in place, and can bring you back up to speed when traffic starts moving again. The system worked well on our 200-mile road trip to the Oregon coast. However, the steering assistance proved to be a bit more overactive than I prefer. Other safety bits included blind-spot protection and the company’s Intelligent Lane Intervention. This will vibrate the steering wheel if you get too close to the line on the shoulder or road’s center. I found it to be a bit overactive. Either that or I was riding the line more than I knew.
Not Fast But Frugal
The 2021 Nissan Rogue has only one engine and transmission available. The naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine makes 181 hp and 181 lb.-ft. of torque put down through the company’s XTRONIC CVT. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of CVTs. That being said, the one in the Rogue is one of the best I’ve driven. Under steady acceleration or when passing, the transmission was smoother and more refined than many others I’ve experienced. You didn’t get that sound like someone had the hairdryer on the high setting during acceleration.
There are steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters should you want to pretend to downshift or upshift. As baffling as a shiftable CVT is, this feature does give you the ability to hold a gear on steep grades. One note: There’s a bit of a learning curve with the gear selector. It isn’t your traditional PRNDL. There’s a button for park, you have to move the shifter up while pressing the side button to go into reverse, and “drive” is straight back. It took a bit to get used to it. And yes, there’s an electric parking brake.
The direct-injected engine isn’t a rocketship, but I found power to be adequate with its sweet spot being between 50 and 70 MPH when passing. What it doesn’t have in gusto, it makes up for in fuel economy. During my days with the front-wheel-drive Rogue, I managed 36.1 MPG over about 220-miles. This is much better than the 26 city, 34 highway, and 29 combined fuel economy rating by the EPA for the 2021 Rogue. Most of the time I was in the car’s Eco or Standard drive modes. I did play around with the Sport mode a bit, but figured Sport wasn’t all that useful cruising on Oregon’s highways.
Better Than Expected Handling
While the fuel economy was great, the most pleasant surprise was the Rogue’s handling. The steering feel was excellent not only for a CUV but for any car. It was tight, excellently weighted, and surprisingly quick. The taut suspension puts the 3,411 lb CUV on the sporty side of suspension tuning. Despite this, I never found the ride harsh. While I’m not about to go enter an autocross with it, it is not a wallowing, rolly-polly crossover. Wind and road noise was minimal, and we didn’t hear hardly a rattle in the vehicle, sans one tiny noise in the cargo area.
2021 Nissan Rogue: A Solid Choice
Like I said at the beginning of this article, Nissan needs the new Rogue to be a hit. And after my time with it, I’d say it’s a very competent crossover. It has a lot going for it. It does a lot of things very well and delivers above-average fuel economy and handling. What it won’t do is provide loads of thrust.
Our 2021 Nissan Rogue SV with Premium Package has an MSRP of $31,875 including destination. This is a bit more expensive than a FWD 2021 Mazda CX-5 Touring and on par with a FWD 2021 Toyota RAV4 XLE Premium.
The new Rogue is a very solid choice, and that’s a great thing for Nissan. The compact crossover segment has a seemingly endless amount of choices, many of which aren’t the epitome of excitement. Heck, some are down-right boring. And while the Rogue isn’t going to blow you away with bombast, pavement scorching thrust, or sexy-time styling, it is a very good choice in this segment. Again, this has to be a bread and butter vehicle. Luckily, Nissan’s bread and butter just got better.
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