2021 Nissan Rogue Review

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Oct 05, 2020

Introduction

More people buy a Nissan Rogue than any other model in the company's lineup. The reason why is easy to understand: It's a compact crossover SUV, and that's what consumers want to own. Despite the model's popularity, last year's Rogue had been on the road for seven years without a full redesign. Now, the all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue arrives, fully prepared to defend its lofty position on the best-seller charts.

Derived from the same recipe that made its predecessor a success, but with a thorough slate of improvements, the all-new 2021 Rogue comes in S, SV, SL, and new Platinum trim levels. Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive a $1,400 option. Prices range from $25,650 for the S with FWD to $36,830 for the Platinum with AWD, not including the $1,095 destination charge.

Few factory options are available. The Rogue SV and SL offer a Premium option package that adds desirable upgrades, and some paint colors cost extra. Dealers offer numerous accessories for the new Rogue.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum Red Front Quarter View

For this review, J.D. Power evaluated a Rogue SL equipped with FWD, the Premium Package, a set of floor mats, cargo area protection, and extra-cost paint. The price came to $35,195, including the $1,095 destination charge.

What Owners Say…

Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the redesigned 2021 Rogue, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous-generation version of this compact SUV, and what they liked most and least about their vehicles.

According to J.D. Power data, 51% of Nissan Rogue owners are female (vs. 49% for the segment), and the median age of a Rogue owner is 59 years, matching the segment.

Owners say their favorite things about the previous Rogue were (in descending order) the exterior styling, driving feel, feeling of safety, getting in and out, and setting up and starting. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle ranked highest in comparison to the compact SUV segment:

  • Getting in and out of the front seats
  • Getting vehicle set up
  • Getting in and out of the second row
  • Operating vehicle remotely
  • Using voice assistance

Owners indicate their least favorite things about the outgoing Rogue were (in descending order) the interior design, driving comfort, infotainment system, powertrain, and fuel economy. Specifically, these five things about the vehicle ranked lowest in comparison to the compact SUV segment:

  • Exterior styling in a tie with power of engine/motor
  • Vehicle protection
  • Ride comfort
  • Interior styling
  • Smoothness of engine/motor

In the J.D Power 2020 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, the previous-generation Rogue ranked 8th out of 15 compact SUVs

What Our Expert Says… 

In the sections that follow, our independent expert provides his perceptions about how the 2021 Nissan Rogue measures up in each of the ten categories that comprise the APEAL Study.

Exterior

Thanks to its sizeable V-Motion grille design, the new 2021 Rogue won't be mistaken for anything but a Nissan. And thanks to its front and rear simulated skid plates and gray lower body trim, it won't be mistaken for anything but an SUV.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum Red Rear Quarter View

Overall, the new Rogue looks good and features standard front and rear LED lighting elements. All trims have aluminum wheels, ranging in size from 17 inches to 19 inches in diameter. Black painted windshield pillars are supposed to give the SUV a floating roof effect, but a lack of front glass tint combined with chrome trim around the front windows detracts from the desired result.

However, you can get a two-tone paint scheme with a black roof and black side mirror caps, which more successfully delivers a distinctive appearance.

Interior

The appealing design continues on the inside of the new 2021 Rogue, which Nissan developed around what it calls a "Family Hub" concept. Storage, space, and connectivity are all present and are sure to please Rogue buyers.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum Dashboard

A new electronic shifter means Nissan can provide extra storage space on and below the center console. The front middle armrest is split butterfly-style for improved utility, and the door pockets are designed to hold 32-ounce water bottles.

Simple, smart design governs the control layout, and the SL test vehicle had leather upholstery and appealing materials and details throughout the cabin. A panoramic sunroof is also standard starting with SL trim.

Platinum trim upgrades the Rogue with premium semi-aniline leather in a quilted pattern, contrast stitching, ambient cabin lighting, and more. You'll also want Platinum trim for the 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display and the 10.8-inch head-up display.

Getting In and Out

One thing people like about crossover SUVs is how easy they are to get into and out of. This is because they sit higher off the pavement, which means you easily slide into and out of them.

That's true of the 2021 Nissan Rogue, too, and this year the company makes it easier to load passengers thanks to rear doors that open to a nearly 90-degree angle. Nissan also adds child safety seat LATCH anchor points in the middle rear seating position, so now three youngsters can sit in the back seat.

Cargo space measures up to 36.5 cubic feet behind the second-row seat. Fold it down to access a maximum volume of 74.1 cubic feet. These figures are on par with the previous Rogue, a little smaller behind the back seat, and a little bigger when its folded down. In any case, the measurements make it among the roomiest vehicles in its segment.

Nissan says it has improved the Rogue's Divide-N-Hide cargo management system, and it has added storage wells on either side that can hold one-gallon jugs of milk or water. Starting with SL trim, a hands-free power tailgate is standard.

Setting Up and Starting

Get into the new Rogue, push the engine start button, and the 4-cylinder engine comes to life. Before setting off for the first time, though, you'll want to go through all of the configurable settings within the driver information center and the infotainment system.

It took a good 15 minutes to investigate all of the menus and make various selections, but the process is intuitive. You won't need the owner's manual unless you wish to read up on a specific feature or function. You'll also discover unusual details about the Rogue, such as a setting that instructs the navigation system to predictively suggest destinations that it learns you travel to often.

Infotainment System

A NissanConnect infotainment system is standard in every 2021 Rogue, sitting high on the dashboard and equipped with stereo knobs and handy shortcut buttons. Neither the knobs nor the buttons appear easy to use while wearing gloves.

In its most basic format, the infotainment system has an 8-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming, hands-free text messaging support, SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Nissan also includes a CD player for old-school types and a 6-month trial period of Nissan Concierge Personal Assistant services. With SV and SL trim, the infotainment system adds a Wi-Fi hotspot and NissanConnect services, including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration.

Get the Premium Package for the Rogue SL, and the SUV comes with a larger 9-inch touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay, a door-to-door navigation system that provides directions via smartphone app if you need to walk the last part of your journey, SiriusXM traffic data, and one-shot voice recognition technology that works reasonably well. Platinum trim also adds a wireless smartphone charging pad.

Additionally, SL Premium and Platinum versions of the Rogue feature a Bose premium sound system. It can sound characteristically brassy at times, but the overall audio quality was decent for this vehicle type.

Keeping You Safe

Nissan says safety is a top concern of Rogue customers. As such, the company claims it offers more standard safety technology than any of its competitors.

Support for that boast starts with Safety Shield 360, Nissan's collection of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). It includes forward-collision warning, a pedestrian and cyclist detection system, automatic front and rear emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning that vibrates the steering wheel, and automatic high-beam headlights. Essentially, this package includes everything you need in terms of helpful accident avoidance technologies.

Beyond this, the 2021 Rogue also includes ten standard airbags, a driver monitoring system, a rear-seat reminder system, and, as a first in the compact SUV segment, rear seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters. Note that the Rogue Platinum also includes a center front-seat airbag, a rare and unusual feature regardless of vehicle class, let alone a compact SUV.

Choose the Rogue SV, and both a surround-view camera system and Nissan's ProPilot Assist technology are standard. ProPilot Assist includes adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability and lane-centering assistance, and it qualifies as a Level 2 driving assistance technology.

For 2021, Nissan upgrades ProPilot Assist with a next-generation radar unit and a new camera, resulting in smoother and more accurate operation. Also, in traffic, the Rogue can automatically resume forward travel for up to 30 seconds after it comes to a halt. Previously, the delay was just three seconds.

Versions of the Rogue that have navigation get ProPilot Assist with Navi-link. This means navigation map data and GPS positioning add a layer of intelligence to how the adaptive cruise control works. The system automatically reduces speed for upcoming curves, freeway junctions, and exit ramps.

Overall, ProPilot Assist works better than it did before. Unlike the previous iteration of the technology, you're not immediately inspired to turn off this version. But the non-stop dinging and boop-boop-booping, unaccompanied by messages on the driver information display or the infotainment screen to explain their meaning, quickly becomes tiresome.

Powertrain

Every 2021 Nissan Rogue has a new 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine with direct fuel injection. Output measures 181 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 181 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,600 rpm.

It pairs with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters that Nissan says will deliver better acceleration, responsiveness, and fuel economy. Standard, Eco, and Sport driving modes govern drivetrain behavior, and with the optional all-wheel-drive system, drivers can also choose Snow and Off-Road modes.

Weighing 3,490 pounds, the front-drive test vehicle supplied adequate acceleration. Programmed ratios make the CVT sound and feel more natural, and most people won't identify any droning unless they're wringing the engine for all the power it can produce. Expectedly, Sport mode quickens responsiveness while Eco mode discourages unnecessary use of fuel.

Thinking about how SUVs are used, such as for road trips to the mountains, and knowing that in places like Denver, the thinner atmosphere at elevation takes a toll on the performance of normally aspirated engines, I asked a Nissan representative if the company considered adding a turbocharged engine option to address these kinds of buyers.

The response was, essentially, "stay tuned." And yes, the variable-compression 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder currently used in the Nissan Altima would be a perfect solution.

Fuel Economy

According to the EPA, the 2021 Nissan Rogue SL with FWD should get 29 mpg in combined driving. On the driving loop, the SUV averaged 27.5 mpg with the drivetrain in Normal mode most of the time. Based on the SUV's 14.5-gallon fuel tank, this means you can travel nearly 400 miles before running the tank dry. Since you won't do that, expect to visit the gas station every 350 miles or so.

Driving Comfort 

In the 2021 Rogue, Nissan's comfortable Zero Gravity seat designs offer a greater range of adjustment and improved support in a cabin that boasts added rear-seat legroom and headroom. All Rogues offer driver's seat height adjustment, and while this same function is unavailable for the front passenger, the seat nevertheless sits high enough off of the floor that proper leg support is not a problem.

Starting with SV trim, the Rogue supplies an 8-way power driver's seat adjustment. Nissan's Quick Comfort heated front seats are available for the SV and standard with SL and Platinum trim. The SL also has a heated steering wheel, while the Platinum offers heated rear seats. Front seat ventilation is not available, and on a warm Southern California day, it would have been nice to have.

Overall, the Rogue is very comfortable, and Nissan pads the places where your arms and legs are likely to come into contact with the cabin. All models have air conditioning, including vents for rear passengers. Dual-zone automatic climate control is standard with SV trim, while the SL and Platinum offer a triple-zone system. Rear side window sunshades are also standard with the SL and Platinum versions of the SUV.

With the redesign, Nissan strived to reduce interior noise. In addition to a thicker dashboard insulator, greater suspension isolation, and acoustic front glass, the Rogue is more aerodynamic and creates less wind noise. The result is impressive, and on the highway, the primary source of noise came from the rear of the cabin.

Driving Feel

Nissan says it benchmarked entry-luxury SUVs while tuning the new Rogue's ride and handling, and it shows.

Starting with a platform constructed of 35% high-strength steel (vs. 19% in the previous model), Nissan bolts on a strut-type front and new multi-link rear suspension with double-piston shock absorbers. Additionally, the new Rogue benefits from a rack-mounted electric steering system with a quicker steering ratio.

As was true before, the Rogue offers brake-induced Intelligent Trace Control, which tucks the front-end tighter into turns, and Active Ride Control provides a smoother ride over bumps. Vehicle Motion Control (VMC) is new for 2021. It sounds somewhat like Nissan's version of Mazda G-Vectoring Control, working subtly to predict and control unwanted ride motions.

"This is technology that does what a human can't," said Chris Reed, senior vice president, Research and Development, Nissan Technical Center North America. "The all-new Vehicle Motion Control predicts what the driver is trying to do to do by monitoring steering, acceleration and braking. It can then step in and help to smooth things out."

Dynamically, the result is impressive. The Rogue feels more substantial, is enjoyable to drive on various roads, and the steering is dramatically improved. In the previous Rogue, it felt heavy and wooden, making the SUV dull to drive. That sensation is gone, replaced with a newfound vivaciousness that won't make every trip seem like a chore.

One thing is worth noting, however. At higher freeway speeds, both of the test vehicle's side mirrors suffered from a subtle vibration that made it hard to identify objects within them. Perhaps this was due to the pre-production status of the test vehicle.

Final Impressions

The Nissan Rogue is one of the most popular vehicles in America, and nothing about the redesigned 2021 model should change that. In fact, with its newly refined styling and interior, added comfort and convenience, upgraded safety and infotainment technology, and dramatically improved driving dynamics, all that's missing here is more power.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals. 

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2021 J.D. Power

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