The 2021 Nissan Rogue First Test: Impressive Fundamentals

Honesty is the best policy. That’s a good motto to live by and even better to keep in mind when building cars in a saturated market. This is also why the redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue is a refreshing change from some of the more niche compact SUVs in its segment that lack a clear identity. For once, an automaker has taken the fundamentals and built on it without losing focus of the vehicle’s primary mission. Will that be enough to put Nissan’s best-selling SUV on your shopping list? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

How does the 2021 Nissan Rogue drive?

Getting behind the wheel of the new Rogue revealed a crossover that’s pleasantly easy to drive. The Rogue doesn’t float or wallow when you go over road imperfections. Staffers found the Rogue’s ride agreeable for daily driving despite being on the stiff side (likely due to our Rogue Platinum’s upsized wheels). “It’s definitely firmer and less forgiving than it should be for a family crossover,” features editor Christian Seabaugh said. The trade-off for a slight hit in compliance is better body control. No, the Rogue isn’t lively like the Mazda CX-5, but it won’t flop around like a hot mess on a winding road either. At the track, the Rogue generated 0.84 g on the skidpad and lapped the figure eight in 27.9 seconds with a 0.59 g average. Those are on par with competitors such as the Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4.

Straight-line speed is the 2021 Rogue’s weakest point. The updated 181-hp 2.5-liter I-4’s output is barely adequate for the vehicle’s size. “The engine doesn’t so much deliver power as it slowly spills it out,” Seabaugh added. An improved CVT does hero’s work, eking every bit of  motive power out of the four-pot. Just don’t ask for too much because you’ll get more noise than momentum. At the drag strip, the Rogue hit 60 mph in 8.1 seconds and the quarter-mile in 16.3 seconds at 86.0 mph, putting its acceleration mid-pack. The turbocharged Honda CR-V is 0.5 seconds quicker to 60 mph and at least 0.4 seconds speedier to the quarter-mile. At least the Rogue brakes well, taking 114 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is on par with the Honda.

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How big is the Nissan Rogue inside?

The outgoing Nissan Rogue was one of the roomiest vehicles in its segment. That doesn’t change for the latest iteration; spacious front and rear seats ensure plenty of comfort on long drives. A big squared-off cargo area featuring a two-piece reconfigurable floor adds flexibility and even lets you create a box to hide your belongings. Nissan also added clever storage spots for purses and mobile devices, so no need to stuff phones into cupholders or strap small bags into the front seats. Other neat touches are the rear passenger doors that open nearly 90 degrees, allowing for easy passenger entry and extra versatility when you’re hauling bulky items.

Perhaps the highlight on the 2021 Rogue is its premium feel. Our Platinum-trim test vehicle’s fit and finish are light years ahead of the old car; it’s now one of the best. “You don’t get something this nice in a CR-V,” features editor Scott Evans said. Nearly everything you interact with feels well-built, and the cheaper bits have been moved away from touchpoints. The quilted leather seats in our example elevate the Rogue’s interior, resulting in a class above ambiance. The superior material selection even led senior features editor Jonny Lieberman to proclaim that the Rogue’s interior quality is better executed than a certain boxy subcompact SUV wearing a three-pointed star. Ouch.

Nissan Rogue safety and technology

Intuitive multimedia and safety technologies are key selling points for compact SUVs because most serve as family cars. All 2021 Rogue models get Nissan’s latest multimedia system. Our test car came with the optional 9.0-inch touchscreen (an 8.0-inch unit is standard) that’s quick and responsive. Although the controls are user-friendly, Evans pointed out that certain frequently used functions did not have redundant physical controls. Nissan’s 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster adds a modern techy feel; unfortunately, it’s not as configurable as Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit on the rival Tiguan. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration work as advertised, but the former’s graphics are grainy on the larger 9.0-inch infotainment display. The available Bose audio system is clear, but we wish it distributed sound more evenly throughout the cabin.

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Nissan should be applauded for making collision prevention technology standard. Every 2021 Rogue gets forward collision warning, lane departure warning, front and rear automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Higher trims add ProPilot Assist, Nissan’s hands-on semi-autonomous driving aid that combines adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and traffic jam assist. The system works fine in most situations; however, some staffers experienced inconsistent operation. Others complained that the system’s lane centering component “didn’t,” rather it ping-ponged the car between the lane lines. In some instances, ProPilot Assist deactivated because it deemed an oncoming turn too tight. It was at its best when used as-designed: on a highway.

Now Among the Best?

The latest Nissan Rogue sheds its predecessor’s vanilla image in favor of a cool, new head-turning look. Offering swanky interiors on upper trims also brings some much-needed desirability, something the Rogue has lacked since the original one debuted as a 2008 model. The fact that prices barely crept up strengthens the Rogue’s value proposition. At $26,745 for a base FWD S trim, the Rogue is a pretty good value thanks to its long standard features list. Even the range-topping AWD Platinum trim, similar to our test vehicle, barely crosses over $38,000 and feels nicer than an equally equipped, yet pricier competitor (cough, cough Toyota RAV4). The Rogue impresses with its blend of practicality, quality, and value. No gimmicks here, just a solid, honest family SUV.

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