With the all-new 2021 Rogue, Nissan finally demands that its compact crossover SUV be taken as seriously as its closest competitors. And now it deserves to be.
Until now, it was all too easy to consider the Rogue a "scrappy upstart" — almost as good but not as expensive as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4. That made the Rogue a good value, which buyers recognized, making it Nissan's best-selling vehicle.
I made that argument myself in several reviews of the previous Rogue, noting that it drove well enough, could be ordered with all-wheel-drive, and featured a lot of tech in the lower trim levels. But that rationale began to fade when the Subaru Forester, which had never been as refined as the Rogue, leap frogged past it in design and construction quality two years ago without costing much more. And then Toyota redesigned and upgraded the RAV4 so much last year that the price difference didn't seem to matter as much.
Rising to the challenge, the 2021 Nissan Rogue is now fully qualified to go head-to-head with its rivals on every level. The new styling is bold and boxy, giving the Rogue a much more rugged look than in the past. The interior has been upgraded with a higher center console, more sophisticated dash, and better materials. The infotainment system is the best yet, intuitive and easy to use, even when driving down the road. And the "Zero Gravity" seats are among the most supportive and comfortable of those found in any compact crossover, regardless of price.
Nissan has also improved the Rogue's utility by enlarging the rear side bins enough to hold a standard gallon jug of milk or water. And the door pockets are sized for 32-ounce bottles.
Although the new standard 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine is the same size as last year, it has more punch — 181 horsepower compared to 170 in 2020, and 181 foot-pounds of torque compared to 175 last year. Mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission that is among the best on the market, the new Rogue now feels as strong as its competitors, especially when set in the Sport mode.
One of the best features about the new Rogue is Nissan's Safety Shield 360 suite of safety and assistance features, with is now standard on all trim levels. It includes Blind Spot Intervention, Traffic Sign Recognition, Intelligent Driver Alertness technology and Rear Door Alert. Depending on your trim level, you can also add ProPILOT Assist, which, combined with adaptive cruise control that follows the prevailing speed of traffic with steering assistance, helps keep the Rogue centered in its lane.
But even with all these changes, the Rogue is still a great buy. The base front-wheel-drive Rogue S starts at $25,650. The most affordable All-Wheel-Drive model is the Rogue S AWD starts at just $27,050. If you go for the top of the line Rogue Platinum, you're looking at $36,830. All models carry an extra $1,095 destination and handling fee.
As welcome as they are, the upgrades to the Rogue are just the latest to Nissan's lineup. The company's sedans — the subcompact Versa, compact Sentra, midsize Altima, fullsize Maxima and Leaf EV — have all been completely remodeled and improved in recent years, making them among the best in their classes, too.
No one ever should have felt they had to compromise to buy a Nissan, even if the previous generations were not as refined as some competitors. But the 2021 version fully deserves to be judged solely on its own merits, which are impressive.
2021 Nissan Rogue SV FWD Premium
Base price: $27,340
Price as tested: $31,875
Type: Compact SUV
Engine: 2.5-liter Four-cylinder (181 hp, 181 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 26/34
Overall length: 183 inches
Curb weight: 3,411 pounds
Final assembly: Smyrna, Tennessee
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