Versatility, technology and driving dynamics result in the most capable Nissan Rogue yet.
First introduced in 2007, the Nissan Rogue has established itself as one of the most popular vehicles in Canada as well as the brand’s single best-selling model.
As a result, each redesign aims to build on the strengths of its predecessor and this, the third-generation 2021 model, is no exception.
“In many ways, our second-generation Rogue, introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model was a phenomenal vehicle, with big improvements over its predecessor in terms of aesthetics, performance and fuel economy,” says Steve Pak, Senior Manager, Product Planning, Nissan Canada.
Yet as Pak notes, around the time the second-generation Rogue debuted, the small SUV segment exploded in popularity and with more models vying for a slice of this lucrative sales pie, competition became intensely fierce, As a result, the third-generation Rogue needed to ensure it was ready to battle in this hotly contested market segment.
Completely redesigned, the 2021 Rogue features new architecture and an enhanced powertrain, along with freshened styling and a bevy of comfort, convenience and infotainment features.
The new Rogue is significant, not only as a fresh offering but as representing a new path for Nissan, ushering in a new architecture and a new product philosophy and is the first of five Nissan models to be introduced in the next 12-18 months.
At a glance, the 2021 Rogue looks like an evolution of its predecessor but is in fact, 1.5-inches shorter overall. A new front fascia design features distinctive headlight treatment, with LED lamps available on the top-trim Platinum edition. In a gesture toward fuel economy, the new Rogue incorporates an active grille shutter, as well as unique A-pillar contours and underbody covers, all designed to maximize airflow. There’s also 3D tire deflects in the lower part of the fascia and an “air curtain” that’s designed to push air from the front to the sides of the vehicle.
40 kg weight reduction
The new architecture includes greater use of ultra-high-strength steel, while the use of an aluminum hood, front fenders and doors, attribute to a 40 kg weight reduction over the previous models. Six rigid suspension mounting points, combined with a new electronic power-steering system and multi-link rear suspension are designed to improve overall vehicle dynamics, aided by a 27% increase in torsional rigidity.
All 2021 Rogue models are equipped with a 2.5-litre, Dual Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) four-cylinder engine. Rated at 181 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque (an 11 hp and 6 lb-ft increase of its predecessor), the direct-injected engine features a number of improvements including a lower mounting, an e-VTC intake valve, mirror bore coating, variable displacement oil pump and integrated exhaust manifold.
It’s teamed exclusively with an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that’s also been enhanced with revised tuning to reduce friction and help boost acceleration and fuel economy.
2021 Rogues come with a choice of either front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). A new Vehicle Motion Control feature is standard, which uses a chassis module that’s integrated with the engine, steering and braking to help the driver stay on their intended course. It does this via active technologies such as Corner Brake Assist; Active Understeer Control, Yaw Linearity Enhancement, Bounce Stability Control and Active Engine Braking.
Both front and all-wheel drive models feature a console-mounted selector with different drive modes. On FWD variants there are three modes, Standard, Sport and Eco, while AWD models add Off-road and Snow modes to the roster.
While the Vehicle Motion Control system is actively engaged at all times, according to Nissan it’s particularly advantageous in winter driving conditions when negotiating deep snow or slippery, snowy elevations, as well as dirt roads and even sand.
The AWD system also uses a new electro-hydraulic clutch to more accurately control torque distribution, altering it according to ensure maximum traction at all times.
On the road, the 2021 Rogue is quiet and refined at highway speeds, with the engine barely audible at 100 km/h. In city driving, it performs well, the thrust from the 2.5-litre engine is more than adequate and, in an era where many crossover utilities feel decidedly underpowered, this one has refreshingly, ample reserve.
A particular mention must also be made of the Xtronic CVT transmission, as it is smoother then previous incarnations and feels well-matched to the engine. Press the accelerator and response is instant—the Rogue surges forward with gusto and the Xtronic feels like a well-calibrated six gear transmission, not your typical CVT that sometimes doesn’t know whether to accelerate, decelerate or order Pizza. Overtaking or merging with freeway traffic simply isn’t an issue in the 2021 Rogue. Sport mode adds a bit of additional pep if the driver wants, it while Eco provides gentler calibrations for those who want to maximize fuel economy.
The stiffer structure and revised suspension do a good job in absorbing the shocks from rough pavement typically found in many parts of Canada, but it’s the dynamic behaviour where things really come into play. While nobody would confuse the Rogue with a sports car, the electrically assisted steering feels nicely weighted with a smooth, frictionless feel across the turning spectrum. It’s easy to use when manoeuvring at low speeds and feels steady and assured at highway velocity.
For a crossover utility, handling is surprisingly good, with fairly minimal body roll through the corners and quick directional changes don’t leave the driver feeling like a loss of control is imminent. In wet, slippery conditions, the Vehicle Motion Control and intelligent AWD system come into their own—there’s always ample grip when you need it whether you’re going up or down hills or negotiating a fast corner or two, there’s no question the 2021 Rogue inspires confidence.
Interior ergonomics are good, the steering wheel is nicely contoured and has a good feel to it and all driver controls are logically placed and easy to use.
Ingress/Egress is easy, and the rear doors now swing open to a maximum of 85-degrees for better access, which is particularly helpful when securing smaller children in car seats or placing or removing bulky items. The NASA Zero Gravity Inspired seats both front and back are comfortable and supportive, while legroom is plentiful for both front and rear riders. Expanded storage space both front and back (including behind the rear wheel arches) is welcomed, as is a motion-activated power liftgate.
A pushbutton start is standard in all 2021 Rogues, (including the base S trim level), as is an E-shifter, which frees up extra storage space beneath the top of the centre console. For those of you that aren’t familiar, the E-shifter can take a little time to get used to, particularly when trying to put the vehicle in reverse but after a while, it becomes second nature. There’s also a manual shift mode and steering wheel paddles for those so inclined, which while not truly aping the feel of a manual gearbox, does provide added driving involvement and fun when demanded.
A growing number of vehicles today suffer from infotainment overkill but even with the large 9-inch centre display and the full digital dash, the Rogue doesn’t feel overwhelming in this regard.
The centre display is easy to use and we found using the navigation system on our Platinum edition model a breeze. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus wireless phone charging, moving technology from your home/office to the Rogue and back is easy and seamless, while a built in 10.8-inch Head Up Display allows you to keep your eyes on the road and an available Intelligent Around View Monitor provides maximum visibility when manouvering at both lower and higher speeds.
Nissan’s standard list of assist and warning technologies, grouped under the Safety Shield 360 umbrella provide some very useful features, including high/low beam headlight dipping, automatic front and rear braking via pedestrian/object detection, as well as blind spot, lane departure and rear cross-traffic alert features.
Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist feature has also been notably improved in the Rogue. There’s better lane recognition for triggering a smoother, less aggressive steering assist, while the braking assist feature is also smoother and more progressive than before.
Pricing and trim levels
In terms of pricing and trim levels, Nissan has gone the route of trying to offer as much value as possible for consumers, giving them a good alternative to the likes of the popular Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.
The Base S trim for example, starts at $28,498 and comes with standard heated front seats and steering wheel, pushbutton start, 17-inch alloy wheels, heated exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control, full LED headlights and tail lamps with automatic features, power driver’s seat, rear privacy glass as well as Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 system and 8-inch centre display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The mid-level SV (MSRP $31,998) and top-tier Platinum (MSRP $39,998) also boast a very high-level of standard equipment with 18 and 19-inch standard alloy wheels respectively, as well as items such as Pro PILOT assist, standard heated front and rear seats*, rear door sunshades, panoramic moonroof, standard roof rails, power lift gate* and on the Platinum, wireless phone charging, 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, 9-inch centre screen, Traffic Sign Recognition, upgraded leather seating surfaces with quilting, remote folding rear seat, Divide-n-Hide, Bose Premium sound system, additional air bags, LED foglamps and front and side sonar.
Marcel Guay, Senior Manager, Chief Marketing Management, Nissan Canada, notes that with the 2021 Rogue, “our goal is to be among the top three vehicles in the segment.” As a result, he says it was important to benchmark the likes of the RAV4 and CR-V but offer more content at each trim level and price point.
Based on our observations, there’s no question that the 2021 Rogue appears competitively priced for the segment and delivers a great blend of solid driving dynamics, capability and value.
Vehicle 2021 Nissan Rogue
Base MSRP $28,498
Price As Tested $39,998
Engine / Transmission (as tested) 2.5L four-cylinder /Xtronic CVT
Power/Torque 181 hp @ 6,000 rpm / 181 lb. ft. of torque @ 3,600 rpm
Noteworthy Features / Important Selling Features Responsive 2.5-litre engine, good handling, vehicle dynamics, spacious interior, high-level of equipment per price point
Chief Competition (top 3) Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape