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2021 Nissan Rogue: First Drive

Nissan's top-selling vehicle gets a top-to-bottom refresh.

Oct 5, 2020
Photographers: Manufacturer
Nissan recently introduced us to its all-new third-generation 2021 Rogue. This new Rogue is but one piece of a much larger product line refresh aimed at launching Nissan into the next decade and beyond. For the 2021 model year the Rogue receives an all-new look, chassis, engine, interior, and loads of standard safety and technology.
Most importantly, Nissan has taken a family-first approach when it came to reimagining this midsize SUV. The rear seat is expansive, and gone is the optional third row. Getting in and out of the second row is a breeze, with doors that now open to nearly 90 degrees. Child seats work with LATCH anchors for all three rear seats, and there are even optional sunshades on the rear windows of higher trim models. The rear storage area features an improved Divide-N-Hide cargo organizer (now without the upper shelf), and there are new dedicated bins for holding gallon jugs (no more crying over spilled milk). There's also new and class-exclusive tri-zone climate control, meaning rear seat dwellers get their own control.
The driver and front seat passenger aren't left out of the fun, either. Read on for all of the great ways Nissan has improved on the 2021 Rogue.
Photo 2/38   |   2021 Nissan Rogue First Drive 32

Engine Power and Performance

For 2021 the Nissan Rogue is available with just one powertrain option. A new 2.5L I-4 engine is backed by Nissan's familiar Xtronic continuously variable transmission. This new engine, while it shares the same displacement as the outgoing mill, is reported to be 80 percent new and produces 181 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. While not quite earth shattering, this brings the 2021 Rogue more in line with the power output of its closest competition. Our time behind the wheel of the Rogue was split between a good mix of highway, two-lane backroads, twisty mountain roads, and city stop-and-go. What we found was an engine that was plenty powerful for all of our driving needs. No, you're not going to win very many stoplight races, but the new Rogue has more than enough power to pass slower vehicles on the highway, and you'll never be at risk of slowing down traffic in the mountains.
While we don't typically prefer CVT transmissions, Nissan has produced among the best for quite some time. And the Xtronic unit in the 2021 Rogue is no different. With the ability to simulate gear shifts the Rogue feels more like it has a standard automatic transmission than a CVT. There were times when we legitimately forgot the transmission was a CVT as the vehicle was always in the right "gear" for the driving conditions and never gave us that traditional go-kart feel we've gotten used to from CVTs of old.
Photo 3/38   |   2021 Nissan Rogue First Drive 07

Suspension Ride and Handling

Updated for 2021 are the Rogue's chassis and suspension. This third generation of Rogue is based on a highly revised version of Nissan's CMF-C/D platform, which it also shares, in a few regards, with the new Sentra. As part of this switch Nissan has replaced the Rogue's four former rubber isolation mounts for the powertrain and suspension with six rigid mounts. The new electronic steering rack is also rigidly mounted now, as well. The 2021 Rogue also utilizes new twin-tube twin-piston shock absorbers, which use one piston to dampen low-frequency inputs such as bumps and suspension maneuvering and another to tune out high-frequency washboard and rumble strips. Finally, the rear suspension has been reconfigured from a simple semi-trailing arms setup to more of a true multilink, much like the Pathfinder.
What this has created is an on-road ride that's really very good. The Rogue remains calm and composed over all types of cracked, broken, and uneven pavement. Not once did we feel as if the Rogue was trying to change lanes on its own (you all know that feeling) or bounced uncontrollably when the road surface changed (again, we've all experienced it). Steering was easy without the feeling of being overboosted. While the steering wasn't quite sports car heavy, the vehicle had no issues tracking where we wanted it to go. The bottom line is, the improvements that Nissan has done to the 2021 Rogue resulted in a vehicle that is incredibly comfortable to drive on all types of road conditions and highway scenarios.
Photo 4/38   |   2021 Nissan Rogue First Drive 25

Interior Comfort and Technology

While the newly added Platinum trim level certainly brings the wow factor with niceties such as diamond quilted leather, a 10.8-inch head-up display, 12.3-inch digital driver information center, and wireless Apple CarPlay, the SL model we tested did not disappoint, either. The SL's leather seats were quite comfortable with Nissan's Zero Gravity seats now being used for the front seats along with the rear outboard seats. Although we wish all models would receive the wireless Apple CarPlay update, with multiple USB ports within easy reach of the front seats it was hardly a big deal that the SV didn't have it. The new butterfly-opening center console lid is a nice touch, making it easy to access hidden treats and pass them to the rear (parents will surely appreciate this).
During our short spin we found the stereo to be of decent quality, which is quite the selling point (at least for us) for a mid-trim SUV in this lower price tier. And the optional 9.0-inch infotainment screen was easy to navigate and delightful to use. We also found the interior to be exceptionally quiet. Road and wind noise was minimal, which certainly impressed from an SUV in this class. Engine noise was also minimal when cruising at a steady speed, though the engine did create quite the buzz while revving up to speed. This isn't abnormal from a naturally aspirated engine of its type, but we do feel this could be mitigated somewhat with the use of a standard transmission. Even still, the 2021 Rogue is among the quietest compact SUVs we've driven.

Standard Safety

For 2021 Nissan has made its Safety Shield 360 suite of collision prevention technology standard across the Rogue lineup. Safety Shield 360 includes lane departure warning, front and rear automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. All but the lowest trim, SV and above, add ProPilot Assist, which is Nissan's hands-on semi-autonomous driving function. ProPilot Assist combines adaptive cruise control with lane centering to allow the vehicle to navigate within a lane while drivers loosely hold the steering wheel.
We're still on the fence about ProPilot Assist and these semi-autonomous drive programs in general. On one hand, Nissan's ProPilot Assist is incredibly easy to use and for all intents works quite well. When using the system on the highway the vehicle never once tried to veer out of the lane or really even come close to the lines. However, it seems that on our less-than-perfect California roads the Rogue had to keep making minor steering corrections to maintain its centeredness in the lane, which became quite annoying in a hurry. We do love a good adaptive cruise control program and the improved system in the 2021 Rogue works fantastic with smooth braking and acceleration, along with the ability to hold at a stop for 30 seconds and restart on its own once traffic starts moving again.
Platinum models add ProPilot Assist with Navi-link, which uses data from the vehicle's satellite navigation system to predict curves in the upcoming road and slow the vehicle accordingly. We didn't get a chance to try this system on this occasion but hope to in the future.
Photo 5/38   |   2021 Nissan Rogue First Drive 13

Final Thoughts

The 2021 Nissan Rogue is the real deal. Nissan has made the wise decision to place resources where they will be of the most benefit, and a full refresh of the company's best-selling vehicle is a great place to start. Owners will love the 2021 Rogue's comfortable cabin, outstanding ride and handling, and gorgeous good looks. The 2021 Rogue is a great value as well, starting at just $25,650 for a front-wheel drive S model. A top-tier AWD Platinum costs just $36,830.