One of the biggest automotive surprises of the last 12 months has been the significantly improved 2021 Nissan Rogue, which impressed us time and time again with its spacious interior, well-integrated technology, and efficient powertrain. Replacing an adequate-but-unimpressive entry in the small crossover segment, the new Rogue definitely improves on its predecessor, giving shoppers a wonderful new option.
We’ve experienced the affordable Roguein a few different configurations, trim levels, and drivetrain types, and each encounter left us pleasantly surprised. How could a small crossover, long a bastion of enthusiast mediocrity, earn so much adulation from the Motor1.com team? Simple. It does almost everything very well. Sure, we have a few complaints, but overall, the 2021 Nissan Rogue is a great option for anyone looking for space, comfort, technology, and efficiency.
Brandon Turkus, Managing Editor
- Favorite Thing: Cabin Is All-Around Great
- Least Favorite Thing: Exterior Is Meh
The Rogue is chock-full of smart touches that make it a convenient family hauler. The wide-opening doors are an inspired piece of design that feels like the product of a frustrated engineer’s real-world experience. Swinging to nearly 90 degrees, second-row ingress/egress is exemplary, which should ease parental stress when installing a car seat or loading up for carpool. We hope Nissan fits these doors to all its crossovers going forward.
Once inside, the Rogue impresses with a cavernous cabin. Second-row legroom is up to 38.5 inches, an improvement of six-tenths over last year’s model. That makes the rear bench a roomy place for a pair of adults on a long journey. Material quality feels high throughout the interior, while Nissan’s trademark zero-gravity seats provide plenty of cushion for the lucky pair up front.
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The tech suite sees substantial improvement, too, with a new digital instrument cluster and a huge head-up display headlining range-topping models, while lesser trims still benefit from an improvement to the infotainment system and its hardware. None of this stuff is blow-you-out-of-the-water advanced, but it’s more than enough to help the Rogue stand out in a crowded and incredibly popular segment.
Less thrilling in my eyes is the exterior. I haven’t loved Nissan’s design language for a minute and many of the Rogue’s styling elements simply feel forced. I enjoy the car’s upright profile – it’s good to see crossovers take on more SUV-like proportions again – but the V-Motion grille feels tired and overdone, while Nissan seemingly traded an attractive tail for a huge tailgate (which isn’t necessarily a bad bargain). The styling back there is derivative, too. In general, the Rogue looks fine, but fine won’t do in such competitive segments.
Brett Evans, Senior Editor
- Favorite Thing: Avant-Garde Styling
- Least Favorite Thing: Uninspiring Powertrain
The 2021 Nissan Rogue is a complete about-face for the company’s popular small crossover. Where it once languished as a lowest-common-denominator option that appealed to many but enthralled few, the new Rogue is now an attractive, tech-forward, and comfortable machine. Although its risky styling is a love-it-or-hate-it affair, Nissan is banking on a spacious cabin and clever family-hauling features to appeal to those who fall in the latter camp.
I am not one of those, as I think the Rogue is far and away the most handsome vehicle in its class. Echoing Brandon, I appreciate its upright, traditional greenhouse, which reduces claustrophobia and creates abundant cargo room. But unlike my managing editor friend, I think the V-Motion design language feels fresh and modern on the Rogue. Thin, angular front lighting, crisply flared wheel arches, and unusual bodyside detailing give this Nissan an almost Gallic appearance, looking a bit like Peugeot’s 3008.
The 2021 Nissan Rogue is a complete about-face for the company’s popular small crossover.
The cabin, meanwhile, boasts abundant space for both people and things, with huge door pockets that can accommodate 32-ounce water bottles, a double-decker center console with open storage down low, and Nissan’s Divide-N-Hide reconfigurable rear cargo floor. And the front and rear seats are good for long trips, even for five passengers. The Rogue can point to exceptional seat support and a wide, airy interior for proof of its people-hauling skills.
The only thing missing is a powertrain that’s as dashing as the styling. While no one expects a Rogue to light up the dragstrip, Nissan could have thrown enthusiasts a bone by giving it more power, perhaps via the Altima’s variable-compression turbocharged engine. And while the well-tuned CVT doles out the engine’s meager 181 horsepower in a smooth and buzz-free fashion, no one will mistake it for the crisp and efficient automatic transmissions found in Mazda crossovers. At least the Rogue offers safe, composed handling and a smooth ride to distract the driver from a slight lack of punch underhood.
Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
- Favorite Thing: ProPilot Safety System
- Least Favorite Thing: Some Flimsy Materials
There's a reason the 2021 Nissan Rogue is one of America's best-selling crossovers: Simply put, it’s a great family SUV. Even though this latest generation looks a little funky, it maintains the characteristics that made the crossover such a success in the first place. This new Rogue is still nice to drive, spacious, and comfortable, and it now comes with more tech like a bigger touchscreen and a head-up display, while the brand's ProPilot active safety suite carries over.
ProPilot is one of our favorite driver-assist systems on sale today, not just in the Rogue, but throughout the entire Nissan lineup. On the highway during our test, ProPilot worked faultlessly. The system kept the car perfectly centered in the lane with continuous steering inputs, and automatic braking was smooth all the way down to zero. ProPilot Assist makes long-distance cruising in the Rogue an absolute breeze.
Alongside ProPilot were the Rogue's equally good new seats. The charcoal black buckets on our Platinum tester wore quilted leather that felt super high-quality and nice to the touch. They weren't exactly cushy, but they were extremely form-fitting and the electric adjustability allowed us to find the absolute perfect seating position. If there's a vehicle out there that has a better seating position than the Rogue, we haven't driven it.
Unfortunately, while the inside of the new Rogue looks nice and the seats are great, once you start laying hands on the many buttons and dials, it's evident that some of the fixtures are flimsy. And we're not knocking the Rogue for hard plastics or other cheap materials, as is common in this class; the gear shift lever was wobbly, the climate control knobs were too – like they might come off in your hand if you tug too hard at them – and the touchscreen didn't respond well to inputs. But those are minor complaints to an otherwise all-around great crossover.
Clint Simone, Director of Video
- Favorite Thing: Tech For Days
- Least Favorite Thing: Average Build Quality
My colleagues nailed the staples of the new Rogue. It’s a huge step up from the prior model and a genuinely pleasant crossover to live with from day to day. I took an hours-long road trip in the Rogue to visit the new Frontier at Nissan Design America and felt the little crossover’s charm take over.
I’m so impressed with the tech package – it’s easy to work with, looks great, and doesn’t cost crazy money in the grand scheme of things. My Platinum test car had the lot: a 10.1-inch touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a head-up display, and the aforementioned ProPilot safety system. The digital gauges are one of the best setups I’ve experienced in a while. The screen is easily reconfigurable, showing all sorts of information with gorgeous animations and colors. More Nissan products will adopt the display over the coming years (including the Z) and that’s a great thing.
Such a well-rounded tech suite makes the Rogue one of the best compact crossovers in the game today.
The touchscreen features similarly crisp graphics to the digital cluster, with fast response time to inputs. Wireless Carplay was mostly problem-free, though the system failed to connect at least twice. Finally, the ProPilot system makes modern Nissans much more complete vehicles. The adaptive cruise control is disciplined and straightforward, while the steering assist feature keeps the car centered in the lane without much protest. Such a well-rounded tech suite makes the Rogue one of the best compact crossovers in the game today.
I’ll try not to echo the above thoughts too much regarding build quality, but the other editors are right. Although the Rogue’s interior looks phenomenal on paper and even in person, it’s somewhat surface level. Bang on a door panel or wiggle the shifter and things don’t feel as solid as they could. While I appreciate the material choice in the cabin and nothing stands out as cheap, it doesn’t give the impression that it will last for years of ownership.
Gallery: 2021 Nissan Rogue: Drive Notes
2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum