This is the vehicle Nissan needed.
It took a while, but the 2021 Nissan Rogue arrived after months of teasing, revealing, and advanced social media marketing. The COVID-19 pandemic has something to do with this wait. As we know over the years, some things are definitely worth the wait.
Well…spoiler alert…the 2021 Rogue is worth the wait.
First off, Nissan did a lot of work to make their best-selling compact SUV a class leader. It is also the first salvo served by their Nissan Next corporate and vehicle strategy. Essentially, this vehicle remained on Nissan’s CMF-CD platform with similar dimensions. Nissan work on a new body, new interior, and lots of updates from the front subframe onwards – including a new engine.
The stage was set to drive with this extremely important vehicle for a brand whose reputation had taken some hits in the past few years. Obviously, a lot is riding on the 2021 Rogue.
Setting aside all of the preambles and cliches, let’s dive in!
First off, the 2021 Rogue looks much, much better than before. The upright design gives the impression of a more mature and useful SUV than its previous iterations. The front end follows brand signatures, with the mid-height headlamps, driving lamps above them, and a more prominent V-Motion grille. The rear end is more modern with sleeker taillamp units.
My SV tester had a set of handsome 18-inch alloy wheels to finish off the mid-range model's look. It just looks like a high value SUV that attracts the right clientele – practically everyone. In all, the overall exterior design is much better than ever before – which is always the goal for any manufacturer. In this case, Nissan made their Rogue better by several CAD entries.
The same is said about the Rogue’s interior. The instrument cluster features two larger dials with an equally large information screen in-between them. Everything is easier to read and comprehend on the fly. The new steering wheel also features controls have been updated from previous Nissan models. They follow the same logic as before, but better executed using more modern switches.
One thing that surprised me was how easy the shift-by-wire transmission controller was to use. Perhaps it took many tries at similar shifters to manage this off the bat. Yet, it is good to the touch and should not intimidate anyone from driving the 2021 Rogue at all. Just in case you need to change gears or to reduce the stress on the engine, there are paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel.
NissanConnect drives the 8-inch touchscreen that sits on top of the center stack. It is very easy to use and extremely quick to connect to anything. Smartphone integration is on-point and can utilize either a regular USB or a USB-C connection. There are six well-balanced speakers that provide sound throughout the cabin. And don't forget the available on-board W-Fi hot spot.
Front seating was also improved. I found better support and bolstering to keep me engaged behind the wheel. The materials in this SV tester felt better to the touch and feel, including its cloth upholstery. You can definitely fit up to five adults front and back comfortably.
A nice feature you will find is the split-opening cover to the center console compartment. That is something you would find on a few luxury models – now available in a mainstream SUV.
Overall space has improved with a better back seat area and a larger cargo hold. Folding the rear seat will give you up to 74.1 cubic feet of holiday shopping capacity.
Powering the 2021 Rogue is an all-new 2.5-liter engine. The PR25DD unit now has 181 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. The power is smooth and much quieter than before. An Xtronic continuously variable transmission is paired to this engine. Overall performance has improved, but I found that I had to use the paddles to keep the revs down through the CVT. Anyone who had a Rogue in the past will appreciate the improved performance in the new one,
My SV tester came with Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive. This is enhanced with a set of drive modes found on a dial in the center console. I found that Snow mode helped a lot as I navigated the snowed and iced up side streets around my neighborhood.
As for fuel economy, the EPA states that you would average a combined 28 MPG, with a highway average of 32 MPG with this model.
There was a sense that Nissan also worked on the Rogue’s driving manners. It rode very smoothly and took on the curves with confidence. The steering system is very good offering a tighter turning radius with ease. I found that on-center feel is quite solid. As for braking, pedal feel is very good and stopping power felt strong.
However, if you are not convinced that the 2021 Nissan Rogue is worth a look – there are two features to consider for your hard-earned money. One, is the Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of standard driver assistance features. The other is the available ProPILOT Assist enhanced system. Put them together, and you have a more advanced entry into this hotly contested segment.
This 2021 Rogue SV AWD tester came with a sticker price of $30,570. It is worth noting that this price is actually on par with its direct competitors based on a mid or lower-mid (i.e. “popular”) trim level. The entire 2021 Rogue lineup starts at $25,650.
Nissan needed this shot of redemption. This is their volume selling product and it has to engage with consumers right off the bat. It certainly got my attention, as I believe this class of vehicle needs a new benchmark. Even as the competition starts to really heat up in this popular vehicle class, Nissan created a hit vehicle for its lineup.
It has to. Consider some of the vehicles I had the chance to drive in its class. The bar has been set so high that nothing short of great doesn't count – especially when you're asking customers to fork over $30,000 for one. Nissan knew this when they crafted this new Rogue. Believe me, they did a good job at making it better than before by adding more power, more space, and a more mature design into the mix.
For now, let me conclude by saying this: The 2021 Nissan Rogue was worth the wait. It is exactly what Nissan needs right now.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Walser Nissan Wayzata, Wayzata, MN
All photos by Randy Stern