The All-New Nissan Rogue Is a Surprising Improvement

We drove Nissan's all new 2021 compact crossover, and it was better than we expected.

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What is it?

Hearing “Rogue” primes the listener to meet a car that is offbeat, disreputable and, perhaps, a little charming because of it. This Rogue, however, is the antithesis of its name. It’s Nissan’s very conventional compact crossover — the best-selling vehicle in the company's lineup, and a rival for cars like the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V.

Is it new?

Yes. The Rogue is all-new for the 2021 model year, with cooler, boxier styling that's based, according to Nissan, on their X-motion SUV concept. We took one for a couple-hour spin at a recent media event.

Why is it special?

Sales volume. Nissan sold more than 350,000 Rogues in 2019 — more than 10 times the number of Titan pickups sold. The Rogue is not as exciting as the new 400Z or the upcoming Ariya electric car, but it’s more important than either — and maybe the most pivotal part of a brand-wide, North American-focused revamp that will see Nissan launch six new or redesigned vehicles before the end of 2021.

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nissan rogue 2021

How does it drive?

Surprisingly well. The previous-gen Rogue had a reputation for sad, dumpy driving dynamics. Nissan made a significant effort to improve that with this car; it has a stiffer chassis for better body control, a new steering system that has a surprising amount of weight in Sport mode, and a Zero Gravity seat that holds you nicely in place for good measure.

It’s not quick, and at no point do you forget you’re driving a compact crossover. But the Rogue felt smooth, quiet and competent on relatively curvy rural roads around Ann Arbor. And the CVT "gearbox" didn't deflate my soul, which is about all you can ask from it.

Of course, the other notable part of the internal combustion Rogue is that it’s the only powertrain choice in 2021, even as Nissan’s aforementioned competitors have focused on hybrids. (Nissan noted that ICE crossovers still comprise 90 percent of the market, however, and did not preclude a Rogue hybrid popping up in the future.)

nissan rogue 2021 interior

What’s it like inside?

Nissan went all-in on luxury and tech, which are not particular strengths for consummate all-rounders like the CR-V and RAV4. The Rogue offers features those cars don’t have: two tiers of real leather seats, three-zone temperature control, wireless Apple CarPlay and heated rear seats among other options. The new Platinum trim has quilted semi-aniline leather, a 12.0-inch digital dashboard, a 9.0-inch touchscreen and Nissan’s new ProPilot Assist tech. I drove the next tier down, the SL model; it had none of those features, but it still felt clean and modern.

While carrying capacity is one of the biggest reasons people choose SUVs, I didn't have the chance to load the Rogue up with cargo. On paper it has 36.5 cubic feet of trunk space, marginally less than the RAV4 — though it has more potential space than the Toyota, 74.1 cubic feet, with the seats folded.

nissan rogue 2021 interior

What’s it cost?

The Rogue starts at $25,650. A little more than half of buyers opt for the second-tier SV trim which starts at $28,740 for the all-wheel-drive. The SL I drove starts at $33,400 for the AWD version,and the Platinum AWD starts at $36,830.

2021 Nissan Rogue SL FWD

Powertrain: 2.5-liter inline four, CVT, front-wheel-drive

Horsepower: 181

Torque: 181 lb-ft

EPA Fuel Economy: 26 mpg city, 34 mpg highway

Seats: Five

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