First Drive: 2021 Nissan Rogue - Time To Go Rogue?
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Lets face it, crossovers are here to stay. With automakers from Ford & Chevy to Lamborghini and Rolls Royce making SUVs and crossovers, we are certainly seeing a new era in automobiles. Compact Crossovers are the new family vehicle and the most hotly contested segment in the auto industry now, and with Nissan trying to reinvigorate itself in the eyes of the American consumer, they need a competent entry into this segment. Enter the newly redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue. We were recently blessed with the opportunity to spend some time in Nissan's newest family hauler and we are now wondering, "Is it time to go Rogue?"
Short answer yes.
Let me explain. When you view the Rogue as what it is designed to be, which is a competent family hauler, an appliance of life in America, then this is a winner. The Rogue checks all the boxes:
Inoffensive good looks, check
Comfortable interior, check
Safety tech, double check
Room for all your gear, check
Value for your money, check and check
"The all-new Rogue delivers everything families are looking for today – connectivity, safety, versatility and fun," added Mike Colleran, senior vice president, Nissan U.S. Marketing and Sales. "As our top-selling model, Rogue is our most important launch yet."
Looks Instantly recognizable as a Nissan with the large V-motion grille, the overall design is a clean and tasteful upgrade from the previous, second generation. Bolder, boxier, and more masculine are words we have heard and used when describing the looks of the third-gen Nissan Rogue. We like the design and appreciate that designers scaled back on the floating roof design so prevalent on all of Nissan's other vehicles. It is also smaller than the previous generation, measuring 1.5 inches shorter and 0.2 inches lower.
Interior This is where it's family-first mission excels. Dubbed by Nissan as the "family hub" the interior hosts heated seats all around, heated steering wheel, and heated outside mirrors will help keep you warm and safe in the upcoming winter. Speaking of seats, we loved the Nissan Zero Gravity seats. Granted we were only in the Rogue for over half an hour of drivetime, we can still say that these seats would have served us well on our 5 hour drive home if given the chance. We drove a top-line Platinum model that came with quilted semi-aniline leather, which looked as amazing as they were comfortable. The dash featured the most convincing fake wood trim I have seen in a vehicle, so much so that I had to touch it to confirm that it was indeed imitation. The center console features a butterfly opening that made reaching back to the kids in the back while open. The 2021 Rogue is also the first Nissan to feature their new gear selector, a fully electric unit, freeing up valuable real estate underneath the console for large items and bags.
Dealing with kids, child seats? The designers have your back with wide-opening rear doors. Sit down in the rear seats and you will notice that designers did not skimp on materials in the back. The same faux-wood trim adorns the doors surrounding the window control as well as leather and contrasting stitching. Rear passengers also get manual sunshades, the aforementioned heated seat controls, a temperature control with small display and USB-A and USB-C connectivity. Fold down the center arm rest and you will find two cup holders. Sitting behind myself, I had plenty of room for my knees, but did notice that the rear seats no longer slide forward and back, a strike against the Rogue in an otherwise pleasant rear seat. Gone is the third row. The 2021 Rogue will only bee a two-row five-seat vehicle for the third generation.
This was my favorite feature of the 2021 Nissan Rogue was their standard-on-all-models Nissan Safety Shield® 360 and available ProPILOT Assist with Navi-link.
Nissan Safety Shield 360 is all the driver safety tech we have come to expect from modern family vehicles: automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high beam assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, and rear automatic braking. It is just nice to see these as standard throughout the lineup when competitors make you option up the trim levels to get the latest safety tech (and even some of those are lacking all these features).
A feature I was eager to try out was the new and improved ProPILOT Assist that is now integrated with the navigation system to do things like slow your cruise speed for big turns or highway on/off ramps. adjust speed based on speed limit sign recognition. We were not able to try this out on the highway, but gave it a test run at the press event and were very impressed. The lane keep function of the system also did an astounding job of keeping the vehicle centered in our lane, even on the twisty roads outside of Austin, TX. The system requires the driver to keep their hands on the wheel, but we were able to go small stints of time allowing the car to do the driving while carving corners speaking to the competence of the system for everyday use in highway driving. When the system did step in while we were holding the wheel, it was not obtrusive or too strong like some other systems that make you feel like the steering is broken. All around we say 10/10 would recommend!
Other interior tech delights include the bright and informative Head Up Display on the windshield that lets you know current position in your lane, current speed and speed limit, as well as upcoming maneuvers from the navigation. Below the HUD is a fully configurable, by Nissan's claims, 12.3 inch Digital Dashboard. There are really only two main modes of this screen, so we do not exactly agree with the fully configurable, but it was the perfect size and well laid out in both modes. It too will notify you of all the same information the HUD will as well as alert parents to the status of the seat belt buckles across the entire rear seat, a welcome feature for families.
We mentioned earlier that the Rogue has lost a little of its mass since the refresh, but it remains competitive with its cargo-hauling ability. We will go into more detail about just how livable the rear cargo hold is when we get to spend more time with one of these SUVs, but the Nissan Divide-n-Hide® system can provide hidden and secure storage for essential gear. Also, the inner right side of the cargo area (behind the wheel arch) is intended for securing wider items or groceries like a gallon of milk. Fold flat seats with the pull of a lever make filling up the back with even larger items a breeze.
One issue we had was using the newly available motion-activated tailgate. As you can see from the video below, it took me a few kicks to get the system to recognize me standing there.
Pricing was just announced this week and it is very competitive with its main rivals. We have compiled the 4 Nissan trims in FWD and AWD starting prices against the most closely related Toyota RAV4. Toyota does not actually distinguish their AWD models as a separate trim, just an option of the powertrain of each model. Toyota has more models as well as hybrids that were omitted from this table.
Starting cheaper than the RAV4, you can quickly surpass the MSRP of the Toyota. However, given Nissan's current market position dealers will be quick to offer discounts and incentives. We have also advocated in our podcast that you should NEVER pay MSRP when buying vehicles, which we emphasize even more when you are shopping in such a competitive segment.
Every 2021 Rogue features a standard 2.5-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine with Nissan's Direct Injection Gasoline system. Horsepower is rated at 181, an increase of 11 hp over the outgoing model. Torque is increased by 6 lb.-ft. to 181 lb.-ft. The engine is still mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but we did not feel any "rubber band" effect as it is programmed to mirror an 8-speed automatic.The 2021 Rogue also features a new Rack Electric Power Steering with a quick gear ratio, helping minimize steering corrections. The new suspension design features a rigid mount (six mounting points) and a new multi-link rear. Braking is provided by standard 4-wheel disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System. All this paired together quite well through the twisties when we actually turned off the ProPILOT Assist and did some driving for ourselves. We can say that this is a very confident cruiser and should not disappoint, though we would not call it a sports car by any means. Given our short time together, that is about the best we can communicate with you, but will dive more in-depth when we have more seat time behind the wheel.
Conclusion This is a very capable, very affordable, and technically savvy vehicle that would make any family happy. We hardly found anything wrong with the tester in our short time together, only really knocking it for the lack of sliding second row seats and perhaps the beige paint job, but Nissan promises more new paint colors and some two-tone options to keep things fresh.
If you are in the market for a compact SUV with room for 5, plenty so safety tech, luxury appointments for a solid value we can say it is time to go Rogue.
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