2021 Nissan Rogue Review

2021 Nissan Rogue - Ready to step up to the plate and show off.


Fourteen years ago, Nissan debuted the Rogue as an entry-level crossover starting just under $20k. It jumped into the pool with big players such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape which already had a significant number of fans. At the time, one might not have thought twice about the rookie Rogue, but fast-forward to 2021 and this all-new Rogue has grown up significantly. As Nissan's top-selling vehicle, they took a chance on breaking the mold and I think it will pay off. The new Rogue is all-new with a fresh exterior, updated interior, new technology and improved performance. Rogue now has an expanded lineup that includes four trim levels known as S, SV, SL, and Platinum (new for 2021).

Prices start at $25,650 for the base FWD S and climb to a starting price of $36,830 for an AWD Platinum model. For purposes of this review, my test vehicle was a top-of-the-line AWD Platinum model with options that included external ground lighting, two-tone paint, illuminated kick plates, and interior accent lighting that totaled to $39,685 with destination charges. There was a bit of initial sticker shock seeing nearly $40,000 for a Nissan Rogue, however, that thought quickly drifted as got behind the wheel. The Rogue is no longer Nissan's entry-level option... two models now sit below the Rogue in the line-up to fill those shoes, the Nissan Kicks and Rogue Sport.

Starting with the exterior, the Rogue is captivating with a tough-looking front end and edges all around that looks good from all angles. Nissan's V-motion grille has evolved from its small badge-like integration around the emblem to an entire grille that is flanked with stacked lighting. The top lights feature an LED daytime running light signature while the ones integrated into the bumper are the actual LED low & high-beam headlights. The Platinum model also featured a set of LED fog lights tucked down low within the front fascia.

The side profile differs from the competition with a character line across the bottom of the doors that is accentuated with a strip of chrome that matches the trim around the windows. The proportions are well-balanced giving the Rogue a strong and grounded presence. Around back, Nissan designers have sculpted the tailgate and utilized different materials in the bumper to give it a contemporary appearance with ROGUE spelled out across the center in an updated and larger font. The LED taillights finish off the back like icing on a cake, the lights illuminate with an LED signature that wraps around to the side.

Open the doors and climb into a space that was clearly designed with the passengers in mind. Nissan created a perfect blend of comfort, luxury, and utility. Drivers will face either a standard 7" or an available 12.3" digital gauge cluster that is fully customizable. Previous generations offered a 5" display. An available full-color 10.8" head-up display projected onto the windshield with clarity that wasn't intrusive to driving. Like most head-up display units, this can be customized or turned off if it's not a feature you prefer. The system can be easily adjusted through steering wheel controls.

The primary infotainment screen come standard at 8 inches but a larger 9-inch screen is also available The screen rises above the top of the dash like many others and includes audio and tuning knobs. Separated by the dash trim are the climate controls which are very user friendly. Available heated seats and heated steering wheel are nice options during the cold Chicago winters. The heated seat option extends to the rear passengers on Platinum models. The infotainment system is very user friendly and features tap, swipe, and pinch controls. The system integrates with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. New for 2021 is the availability of wireless device charging and wireless Apple CarPlay integration. It was refreshing leaving the cords at home and still getting all of the function of my phone and ability to charge it while commuting. The location of the charging pad is behind the electronic shifter and appears large enough to accommodate most phones. The space is also home to both USB Type-C and Type-A charging ports.

Nissan sticks with a modern interpretation of the gear shifter. It has a lower profile and gears are selected by either pushing it forward or backward. I personally liked this shifter over the push buttons or dials found in other vehicles. The shifter is placed on the center console next to twin cupholders and in front of a parking brake button and a dial to control the various drive modes. All of the materials were high quality and could have easily been transferred to a luxury brand. Within the center console, the Rogue also features a hidden storage tray underneath the electronic shifter that can hold a wallet, keys, face masks, or even a can of tire shine. Additional storage is available with a compartment that has a "butterfly" opening that doesn't block access from rear seat passengers.

The Rogue was more spacious than I expected it to be. Three kids comfortably fit in the back seat which included one car seat. The rear door openings are extra wide and open to a nearly 90-degree angle making buckling toddlers in car seats slightly less stressful. Not only does the larger door opening give ample room for getting in & out, but it was especially helpful for the install of the car seat as well. Nissan incorporates the latch system in all three seats in back. The seats in the Rogue were quite comfortable as Nissan offers Zero Gravity seating which offer additional spinal support. Also adding to the comfort factor, for the first time ever the Rogue is offered with a tri-climate zone. A third zone was added for rear passengers to set their own climate preference. This Rogue is primed and ready for a comfortable road trip.

As a compact crossover, expectations for exciting driving dynamics are minimal. The Rogue comes standard with a single engine offering, a 2.5L DOHC inline 4-cylinder that generates 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. The horsepower is increased by 11 from the previous generation. Despite its increase, it still falls behind competitors such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV, and Mazda CX5 which all offer more horsepower. The Rogue performed as expected with reasonable power off the line and enough passing punch on the highways. The ride was smooth and it proved to be quite capable amidst a winter snow storm in Chicago.

Rogue is offered with five drive modes within the AWD models. The five modes, Off-Road, Snow, Standard, Eco, and Sport can all be selected using a dial knob on the center console. The intelligent AWD system uses a new elctro-hydraulic controlled clutch which can control torque more accurately and quickly to predict wheel slippage and in turn making the Rogue more responsive. With nearly a foot of snow hitting Chicagoland while I had the Rogue, it had no problems when in snow mode maintaining traction. I was quite impressed with how smoothly it handled and felt in complete control of the vehicle at all speeds. When in Sport mode, it had a bit more pep in handling at highway speeds.

Arriving with a full tank of regular grade fuel, the Rogue offered a range of nearly 400 miles on a full tank. Fuel economy is rated at 25 MPG city / 32 Highway / 28 Combined for the AWD and 26 MPG City / 34 Highway / 29 Combined for the FWD version. During my week in the Rogue Platinum AWD I averaged 24 MPG in primarily suburban commuting and with a significant amount of time in AWD snow mode.

Nissan stepped up the technology factor in the 2021 Rogue with an enhanced ProPILOT Assist and standard Nissan Safety Shield 360. Nissan Safety Shield 360 includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist and rear automatic braking. In addition to these standard features, Nissan also adds intelligent driver alertness (warnings will go off if your hands are off the steering wheel) and rear door alert to all trim levels.

The aforementioned ProPILOTt Assist, along with blind spot intervention and traffic sign recognition are also available as upgrades. The ProPILOT Assist is an intelligent cruise control that will identify your Rogue's speed and location relevant to other vehicles at the touch of a button. The system will not only adjust speeds up & down amidst traffic but will also keep the Rogue centered in the lane between road markings. If road markings are non-existent or faded, the vehicle will notify the driver that this function is inactive. The system is easy to use via steering wheel controls and the information is visible in the digital instrument cluster. The Rogue seamlessly maintained appropriate distances and speeds and guided the vehicle around turns (drivers are required to maintain hands on the steering wheel for it to function)

The Nissan Rogue was a pleasant surprise. The new model suits up to offer a well-rounded vehicle for just about anyone. The all-new Platinum trim level offers luxury vehicle amenities at a sub-$40k price. My test vehicle could have worn Infiniti badges and it would have fit in well as an entry-level luxury crossover. The overall fit and finish is well put together with quality materials and a modern design approach that is missing in some competition (Ford Escape). Prices can get up there, especially with the AWD Platinum model so spend time building one out at www.Nissanusa.com to fit your needs.

The Rogue looks great in a variety of colors, but I must call out the color combo on my test vehicle. The two-tone Champagne Silver Metallic with Super Black looked great...even when covered in salt. Shopping online, Champagne would not be a color I considered, but after spending a week with this color, it popped in an unexpected way with the combo of black and chrome accents. It gave the Rogue a luxurious yet sporty vibe. If you haven't driven a Nissan Rogue, add this to your list for consideration as Nissan has built a vehicle that challenges competition like the Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester and Ford Escape. This segment continues to be hot so be sure to do your homework as almost every brand has one (and in some cases two) vehicles in this class.

Jim OBrill

Jim is Director of Marketing for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association and Chicago Auto Show and a co-host of Drive Chicago Radio on WLS 890 AM Chicago. His passion for cars started young and he’s often referred to as the ‘car-guy’ among family and friends. As a former auto detailer, he has an eye for identifying solid used cars and tags along on many car buying adventures. Early in his career he worked at several car dealerships in various areas of the business. As a co-host on Drive Chicago and member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, Jim has had opportunities to attend track school and drive vehicles on multiple circuits such as Road America and Gingerman Raceway. With a background in photography, taking pictures of vehicles has always been a hobby.

Jim also enjoys the trails and taking trucks like his 4Runner off road. He has a special appreciation for older cars and can often be found spending free time at cruise nights or home washing one his four vehicles. Jim resides in the northwest suburbs with his wife and three kids. Follow Jim on Instagram at @jpcars22 for new vehicle content or @forgotten_survivors.312 for shots of older cars still on the streets of Chicagoland.