Of all the small SUVs in the world, the Nissan Rogue, well, it’s been one of them.
The compact crossover market today is murderously overcrowded and hyper competitive, it takes a lot to stand out.
Which is why I’m excited to drive this new third gen 2021 Nissan Rogue.
It’s got a sharper look, a brand new platform, and loads of new tech.
Before we hop in, let’s poke around a little bit.
Then we’ll go for a drive.
And I’ll tell you what I think.
Now when you think of a rogue, at least the positive meaning of the word, you probably think about someone or something that cuts against the grain, a free thinker.
To this point at least, that hasn’t really been how I described this model’s predecessors.
First, that’s why I’m glad to see that this new Rogue, has a much more expressive look.
Yes, you’ll still find a version of Nissan’s V-motion grille, but it’s different and those split element headlamps that flare off from it are something new too.
Those LED daytime running lamps give the front end a welcome bit of aggression.
The profile is pretty standard fare for crossovers these days Though this Platinum model has some tasteful chrome trim around the windows, and some sleazy bits underlying the rockers Outback.
The look is contemporary but not mold breaking.
Overall, I think this new Nissan Rogue looks more modern, more edgy and more premium than what came before it.
In fact, I think it looks a lot more assertive than a bunch of other things in this class.
Models like the Chevy Equinox, Subaru Forester, and Honda CRV, it’s got a lot more personality than those guys.
Even a cursory look around will tell you that this new rocks cabin is a big step up from last year’s model.
These are only digs and it shows, my top shelf Platinum, a new trim this year.
Has snazzy features like a reconfigurable digital gauge cluster, a head up display and quilted leather seats.
I particularly like how well thought out the switch gear is and how the new larger nine inch infotainment screen is easy to reach and still offers simple volume and tuning knobs.
Past Nissan infotainment systems have looked a little bit dated, but with crisper graphics.
This one seems more modern So I hate to start this review off with a negative before we even get going, but Nissan has forced my hand.
Literally, this car features a new electronic gearshift lever, which is fine in concept and actually frees up a whole bunch of space underneath.
The problem is the execution in both the way it looks and the way it feels.
This is a little bit cheap.
It’s actually even a little bit loose and it’s got this faux leather covering on it that’s not very convincing.
But the worst part is the side button which you need to push to get it into gear.
The action on it kind of feels like I’m spraying a Windex bottle.
Automakers need to get a lot better about this.
Shifters are a car’s handshake, it doesn’t take that much to get it right.
They just need to spend a little bit more time and a little bit more money.
So the first thing I noticed, is actually what I don’t noticed.
And that is the transmission.
That is very good news because Nissan uses continuously variable transmissions which most of the time I really don’t enjoy.
These pulleys style infinite ratio gearboxes are great for fuel economy, less great for enthusiastic driving, and they produce some odd sounds sometimes like the clutch is slipping or.
That motorboat sound where it goes, [SOUND] This gearbox doesn’t do that.
Nissan has actually instituted some sort of false step points and fake gear ratios basically, and behaves more or less like a normal transmission.
So I really appreciate that.
The one benefit of cvts more than anything else is good fuel economy and this one still delivers.
More on that in a minute.
One thing that’s not all new here is the engine.
This Tennessee built rogue is still powered by a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated four cylinder and it is fine.
Horsepower is up 11 to 181 and torque nudges to the same value 181 with that responsive CBT and just me in here, performance isn’t exhilarating, but it’s totally acceptable.
Fill up with kids and cargo though and I think I might want a turbo or a hybrid option like a number of competitors offer, but it’s still quite enough and does the job handling is also better than before.
This rogue sits on a new chassis that uses a lot more ultra high strength steel than last year.
As a result, the chassis is stiffer and the kinematic bits have been retooled as well.
With everything from a new multilink rear suspension with additional mounting points, along with double piston shocks, steering is better to with a new rack mounted electric power steering setup that improves accuracy.
But steering feel is pretty much the same as the rest of this class which is to say numb.
Listen, compact SUVs like this are not about corner carving.
Instead they’re about keeping your family safe and about keeping your ungrateful little snowflakes back there from staging a backseat revolt.
Good news on that front, there’s plenty of room back there and there are dedicated temperature controls and sunshades on this Platinum Plus with available Wi Fi and wireless Apple CarPlay.
Your kids can even play DJ if you’re brave enough, and when it comes time to cram all of their toys and sports gear in the back, the rogue has one of the biggest cargo holds in the segment two.
So there’s good news on the safety front as well.
Nissan already has one of the best affordable intelligent cruise control systems with lane centering on the market.
And for 2021 it’s even better hardware upgrades included.
With new radar and camera units to deliver quicker and smoother reactions to keep you centred and at a safe distance from everything else out there, plus on freeways, pro pilot now works with the navigation system to help you slow down proactively four corners.
The steering wheel can seem a little busy moving this way and that to keep you centred, probably more than you would do yourself, but it does seem to work well overall I also wish the haptic feedback steering wheel didn’t buzz so loudly when the lane departure warning went off.
The driver should be alerted but nobody else.
There’s not much to complain about and that includes efficiency.
Nissan says that the 2021 road can get up to 35 miles per gallon on the freeway.
Heavier all wheel drive models like this loaded Platinum are said to get 32 miles per gallon on the freeway and 25 around town.
But I’ve been driving this thing pretty hard and I’m still getting over 31 miles per gallon.
Maybe you will too.
As an added bonus, this road it drives way better than it did last year.
Plus it’s more luxurious inside.
Overall, I’m not sure this new Nissan’s performance stands out in any particular way.
Some rivals are more powerful while others have sharper handling.
But as far as features per dollar go, Rogue is actually a really solid value compared to the RAV4 and CRV.
And those were the only two competitors that outsold this Nissan last year.
Base front drivers start at around 26 and a half grand delivered, with loaded platinum all wheel drives like this one going all the way up to 38.
Comparably equipped, you’ll likely still spend more with Toyota or Honda.
I get it, safety and value.
Well, they’re not the sexiest things to hang your hat on.
But in this segment, which doesn’t reward Bovis, it makes a lot of sense.
You’ve got young families and cost conscious consumers and that is what they pay attention to more than anything else.
Unfortunately for Nissan, that doesn’t feel terribly roguish, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a smart bet.