Nissan's best-selling vehicle, the Rogue, gets a full makeover for 2021. Still a compact crossover with a 4-door wagon body style, Rogue gets fresh interior and exterior styling, additional safety and tech features and a new range-topping Platinum trim. The 5-passenger Rogue is offered with front- or all-wheel drive. Overall length is down 1.5 inches, but wheelbase and weight remain the same. Competitors include the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Rogue is offered in S, SV, SL and new range-topping Platinum trim. All get a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are up from 170 and 175 in last year's model. Sole transmission offering is a continuously variable automatic. Maximum towing capacity when properly equipped is 1,350 pounds.
All models come standard with Nissan Safety Shield, which consists for forward-collision warning with mitigation, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-passenger safe exit system and rear automatic braking. The Rogue S starts at $27,310 and includes 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto and two USB ports. The $30,290 SV adds S 18-inch wheels, remote engine start, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, power driver seat, upgraded audio system, adaptive cruise control and 360-degree camera system.
The SL starts at $34,575 and adds to the SV 19-inch wheels, heated mirrors, hands-free lift gate, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, tri-zone climate control, power passenger seat and leather upholstery. A Premium Package on the SL adds navigation system, 9-inch touchscreen, Bose audio system, wireless Apple Car Play, voice controls and front and rear parking sensors. Finally, the new top-tier Platinum trim starts at $38,010 and adds to the SL digital instrument panel, head-up display, heated rear seats, upgraded leather upholstery and wireless charging pad.
About the only thing that isn't new on the 2021 Rogue is the engine, as the new model gets the naturally aspirated 181-horsepower four-pot mill from the 2020 model, albeit with some upgrades to bump horsepower by 11 and torque by 6. The engine also teams with the same continuously variable automatic transmission. While not underpowered, this combo isn't the best or most refined in the class. For most trim levels, that's OK, but in the new top-tier Platinum, it is a bit out of place -- both from a refinement and power perspective.
When pressed, the 2.5-liter four will push the Rogue from 0 to 60 MPH in a lackluster 8.2 seconds. That's better than last year, but still mid-pack in the compact crossover class. Pickup off the line is somewhat blunted by the slushy CVT automatic and passing response is mediocre at best. The engine does cruise quietly and promises to provide potentially lower maintenance and service costs than higher-strung turbocharged engines in competitors.
EPA estimates have the front-drive Rogue at 27 MPG city and 25 MPG highway. All-wheel drive models are rated at up to 26 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. Those numbers fare well against most competitors and are an improvement over last year's model. Routine suburban commuting will net an easy 30 MPG overall if you drive with a light throttle foot. Nissan says the Rogue will run fine on regular-grade gasoline and the 14.5-gallon fuel tank is good for about 430 miles of range on the highway.
Rogue's all-wheel-drive system does not have a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use. It does, however, offer several driver-selected modes including Off-road, Snow, Standard, Eco and Sport. Front-wheel drive models get a switch on the console that controls three drive modes: Sport, Standard and Eco. As is the case with most crossovers, a quality set of all-season tires are just as important, if not more so, as having all-wheel drive.
Dynamically, the 2021 Rogue sees a nice improvement in overall ride quality with the refresh. Though carryover in design, the revised suspension combines with a stiffer body structure and new electric power steering system to impart a more solid and refined on-road presence. Body motions are nicely kept in check and there's plenty of absorption in the suspension. Where the outgoing Rogue felt mushy rounding fast corners, the new model feels more confident and planted.
Still, Rogue isn't sporty in the traditional sense. The suspension can get overwhelmed in quick transitions and the tallish build tends to create a tippy feel in sudden changes of direction. The electric power steering, direct from the new Nissan Sentra, has a natural feeling and proves to be quick enough at parking speeds. Brakes have good stopping power but are prone to rear lockup in hard stops.
Rogue cruises quietly, both around town and on the highway. But dip into the throttle and the engine revs up with a groan and just stays there while the continuously variable automatic does its thing. The coarseness is really only out of place in the top-of-the-line Platinum models, as most competitors offer more potent and refined powertrain combos in top-trim models.
New styling and improved performance aside, the biggest change to the 2021 Rogue can be found inside. Nissan designers crafted a modern and fresh interior that's attractive and functional. Across the model lineup materials are a cut above the class norm. Most impressive are upscale touches in the Platinum, including the digital instrument cluster, head-up display, heated rear seats, upgraded leather upholstery with quilted stitching and wireless charging pad. Rogue also offers premium-luxury items like rear-seat sun shades, heated steering wheel and butterfly center console cover. Combined, they lend an upscale air to the interior in a class where form often follows a distant second to function.
Nissan has been touting its zero-gravity seats for a while now and they are clearly a step above what's offered in most competitors when it comes to comfort and support. In addition, head and leg room are quite good. If you had to choose a compact crossover on front-seat comfort alone, the obvious winner would be the Rogue. The same can be said for the rear seats, which are both roomy and comfortable. In addition, the rear seats slide fore and aft to create more leg room or additional cargo capacity.
On the tech side, Rogue is bringing a howitzer to a knife fight and it's almost not fair. In addition to the available 12.3-inch digital dashboard, 10.8-inch head-up display and 9-inch touchscreen display, Rogue offers Google Maps and Waze integration as well as support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Also offered is Nissan's ProPILOT Assist, which provides all-speed adaptive cruise control with lane centering. Of course, forward-collision warning with brake mitigation, blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert and rear door alert are also available.
When it comes to storage, Rogue finds itself mid-pack. Rear seats up it offers a mediocre 36.5 cubic feet of capacity. But fold the rear seats and that number jumps to 74.1 cubic feet, among the class leaders. In addition, a unique height-adjustable cargo floor provides lots of secure small item storage. Up front there are numerous bins and cubbies. Nissan's new compact shifter also saves some space in the center console and strikes a nice balance between ease of operation and condensed design.
Bottom Line -- Nissan made all the right moves with its redesigned Rogue. The new model is more polished, offers class-leading comfort and is loaded with tech and safety features. In addition, prices are very reasonable. Letdowns are limited to its milquetoast and unrefined powertrain. Of course, there are an awful lot of players in this class, many with similar merits. It should be noted that Rogue likely offers the best combination of features, comfort, utility and price.