Thursday, February 2, 2023
Reviews 2021 Nissan Rogue Review: Sprucing Up A Star

2021 Nissan Rogue Review: Sprucing Up A Star

The 2021 Nissan Rogue returns with a more premium outlook but the main ingredients are unchanged

  • Base price in Canada for the 2021 Nissan Rogue is $28,498 in Canada, $25,650 in The US.

  • The Rogue is Nissan’s best-selling vehicle.

  • The 2021 model is all-new and extremely important for Nissan.

Reaching the top spot is always difficult. But, as you may already know, holding on to this position is even more challenging. For Nissan, the Rogue best-seller title is significant. More importantly, Nissan cannot afford to lose any sales in this segment as, as we know, the Japanese automaker has suffered shrinking market shares and decreasing sales but they’ve not thrown in the towel.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Depending on the selected search criteria, the Nissan Rogue has either been in the top 5 or top 10 (or close to) best-selling nameplates in Canada for the last few years. Why this is can be explained simply enough: The Nissan Rogue has, since 2008 when it was first introduced on our market, delivered the goods for families looking for a product to fit their lives.

Beefed up for good measure

In truth, the Rogue is a no-compromise compact SUV which is why a consumer, not focused on handling, performance, refinement, or efficiency, will never be disappointed in the Rogue. As negative as this may sound, it’s actually a brilliant business-minded approach. And sales results speak for themselves. Why, then, is it not the best-seller in the segment? Because the competition is that good.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

For 2021, the Rogue is new from the ground up and visually, it’s obvious. The new small-not-so-small SUV is visually beefed up, taller, broader, and more SUV-like than ever before – quite a far cry from the first-generation vehicle. If the front fascia takes a moment to sort out, every other angle reveal a handsome and purpose-designed vehicle meant to seduce.

Premium plus

Nowhere is this more evident than when opening the doors. It could be said that my tested Platinum is cheating with its beautiful Nappa leather surfaces but even so, the dashboard’s design, general layout and ergonomics match and best, at least in my opinion, Infiniti’s latest efforts. Even the lower trims with the smaller 8-inch touchscreen display (vs. 9-in in the SL) have a lovely layered-effect dashboard that is functional and attractive.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The cabin is impressively roomy. There’s a fair amount of storage upfront, especially below the centre console, and the rear bench provides loads of space for three adults, or two baby seats with room to spare. Impressively, the rear doors open a solid 90 degrees making kid transfer in and out of their seats a breeze. Nissan rates the trunk at 1,028 litres (36 cubic feet) or about 30 litres shy of the Toyota RAV4. To my eye, the difference is far greater.

Details like flat-surfaced window controls, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and butterfly-opening centre armrest storage bin provides users with a sense that this is more than just an affordable SUV. On the subject of affordability, the 2021 Nissan Rogue is priced in the very middle of the segment. The sweet spot within the lineup is the SV AWD at $34,298.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

In my opinion though, the really smart money is on the $30,798 S AWD. Here, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, satellite radio, a heated steering wheel with paddle shifters, and heated front seats, as well as 17-inch wheels, and quite the battery of active safety features. Here, it bests the likes of the almighty Toyota RAV4.

Still ok to drive

Based on presentation alone, both inside and out, the new 2021 Nissan Rogue has evolved beyond expectations. However, the air is let out of the balloon, so to speak, after spending time behind the wheel. Honestly, the only reason why this is has to do with the now boosted expectations following the old walkaround. Truth is, the new Rogue is the old Rogue with a few extra ponies and driving options.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

The standard-for-all-trims naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine is upgraded to produce 181 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque. The Xtronic CVT is offered on all versions equipped with the optional Intelligent AWD or with FWD. The driving options come from the drive modes which include Terrain, Snow, Eco, Sport, and the default auto mode.

The AWD system is also updated for 2021 with a new electro-hydraulic controlled clutch which engages the rear axle when needed. Competent though it may be, it’s not as responsive as the recently reviewed Qashqai’s version of Intelligent AWD. The best way to make good use of the system in deep snow, which we finally got, is by using the Terrain mode which delivers immediate AWD traction.

Still haunted by the CVT

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Despite the new Rogue weighing in at about the same or less than the 2020 model year version, and being slightly more powerful, the 2021 iteration doesn’t feel any more spritely. And as always, the Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) comes in and punches a hole in the driving experience. For me, once more, it’s a deal-breaker. It does not improve performance, fuel-efficiency, reliability, it drags my appreciation for the new Rogue in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, the 2.5-litre engine is reasonably quiet even when revving. The 2021’s ride quality is improved over the previous Rogue but it does not set any benchmarks nor do the brakes or steering. The good news is that in spite of the presence of the CVT, the drive is better than decent.

Still middle of the pack where it shines brightest

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

This means that the new 2021 Nissan Rogue will carry the torch passed on by the previous model and satisfy a great number of consumers. With more visual and tactile content, the new Rogue’s appeal increases which will certainly help in all respects.

In this segment, the go-to is still the Toyota RAV4 followed by, in no particular order, the Subaru Forester and Mazda CX-5. Overall, it’s a more compelling offering than the Honda CR-V, Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as the American and Korean alternatives for the 2021 model year.

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD | Photo: Olivier Delorme

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai


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