First Drive: Nissan Rogue 2021

Road Tests & New Launches

After more than a decade in design wilderness, Nissan returns to elegance with the new Rogue. It has the multiple lighting units that are the latest styling trend, and the front end looks more coherent than many new vehicles.

In October 2020, Nissan held one of the few in-person, hands-on-the-wheel vehicle media launches in the era of COVID-19. The event celebrating the new 2021, third-generation Rogue, began at Nissan Canada’s headquarters near Pearson airport, with a comprehensive and socially-distanced presentation outlining various aspects of the new model. A perennial best-seller, the Rogue is an important vehicle in the Nissan Canada’s range. Unlike pre-COVID launch events, where manufacturers would team up journalists for the ride-and-drive portion of the launch, each media person drove solo and could set their own itinerary, with the sole proviso being that the car be returned to Nissan by 5:00 p.m.

After at least a decade of near terminal mediocrity, Nissan appears to be regaining its focus and the new Rogue is further evidence that the company is going through a design renaissance. The new Rogue maintains its previous footprint but has adopted a fresh, contemporary and elegant look. With an aluminum hood and doors and a resin tailgate, the new Rogue is also lighter.

Vehicle driven2021 Nissan Rogue AWD Platinum
Body styleFour-door crossover
Engine2.5L-4 (181 horsepower)
TransmissionContinuously variable transmission (CVT)
Base MSRP$28,498
Price as tested$39,998
NRCan combined fuel economy rating8.3L/100 km
TFT guage package on the Platinum trim is multi-configurable

The driver of the top Rogue faces a large-format transistor-film-technology (TFT) configurable gauge cluster that resides in a clean-lined dashboard with a strong horizontal bias. Lower trim levels feature crisply-marked conventional gauges. Like many contemporary vehicles, a free-standing infotainment screen takes pride of place at the top centre of the instrument panel. The infotainment screen incorporates physical adjustment knobs and the climate controls located below the screen are straightforward. The electronic gear selector in the new Rogue, which is similar to those in German-branded cars like BMW, lacks a physical connection to the transmission but liberates storage space under the “flying bridge” that contains the gear selector. Heated seats, steering wheel and exterior mirrors are standard. All Rogues will be equipped with the iOS-Android cellphone interface and wireless Apple CarPlay as well. Wireless cellphone charging will be fitted to premium models. Type A and Type C USB ports are included. A head-up display is new on the Platinum trim for 2021.

The cabin of the Platinum model features supple leather, contrasting stitching and soft-touch surfaces. Comfortable seats and plenty of legroom welcome occupants

The cabin of the range-topping Platinum model driven is particularly well turned out. The transistor-film-technology (TFT) gauge package features crisp graphics and is multi-configurable. There are copious soft-touch surfaces, premium aniline leather seating and matte finishes. Nissan’s Zero-Gravity plush seat foam that debuted with the previous-generation Altima are featured on not just the front seats but on the rear seats as well. The front seats were very comfortable on a long run and the rear seat also feels supportive. Legroom is ample front and rear and equal to the best of the competition. The substantial cargo area is well finished

Rear legroom is class competitive
The large, regularly-shaped cargo area is nicely finished  
Nissan says the 2.5L normally-aspirated four powering the Rogue is fundamentally new

The Rogue’s engine is still a normally-aspirated 2.5L four but Nissan states the engine is fundamentally new. The engine now has direct injection and features an integrated exhaust manifold and a variable-speed oil pump. Power increased from 170 to 181 hp, and torque is marginally higher. All Rogues feature a Continuously Variable Transmision (CVT).

Front-wheel drive is standard, with all-wheel drive optional. The all-wheel drive system has a default front-wheel-drive mode with the rear wheels activated by an electro-hydraulic clutch which is new for 2021. The all-wheel drive system offers Off-road, Snow, Standard, Eco and Sport settings.

Nissan Safety Shield 360, with autonomous emergency braking, including for pedestrians and in reverse, blind spot, rear cross traffic and lane departure warnings, is standard — that’s a high level of included collision avoidance gear for this class. Blind spot intervention, traffic sign recognition, active cruise control and ProPilot, a rudimentary self driving system, are featured on fancier trims.

On the road

For the APA, which has been disappointed with the driving dynamics of several Nissan vehicles in the last decade, the new Rogue a revelation. The revised 2.5L four is smooth and flexible in normal driving. Only when pushed really hard, does the big four become vocal; with the noise being more enthusiastic than annoying. Performance is equal to that of major competitors.

The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is programmed to mimic the shift points of a conventional hydraulic automatic and, unless maximum revs are requested, it avoids the rubber-banding sound profile typical of earlier Nissan CVTs.

The suspension is very absorbent on a variety of surfaces; it reflects hard work on Nissan’s part, and is one of the best features of this new crossover. Handling is sound and predictable, with a bit more lean in corners than is usual in this segment. That said, over the last 20 years vehicles have been set up more to deliver a “sportier” feel, especially noticeable on short test drives, to the detriment of ride comfort. The composure of the new Rogue will appeal to more buyers than super-crisp turn-in on corners.

The steering lacks road feel and is lighter than some would prefer, but it is precise, nicely geared and maintains its line on the highway. Braking is reassuring, without excessive pedal travel and firm pedal feel.

Unlike some Nissans that exhibited uneven fit and finish, and rattles and squeaks, the new Rogue appears to be well-assembled. Nissan says that significant effort was made to quieten the new Rogue, including double-pane front door windows, and it is three decibels (50%) quieter than its predecessor. The new Rogue did seem quieter than the old one in APA’s brief trial, and it’s certainly quieter than some competitors.

Visibility is class-competitive and the Bose-branded audio system delivered pleasing sound. The climate control worked well enough in early fall conditions, and the heated front seats and steering wheel warm up quickly.


All-wheel drive, standard on the SV Premium and Platinum trims, is a $2300 option on the S and SV models. With alloy wheels, a comprehensive active safety suite, heated front seats, heated steering wheel and privacy glass, the base S trim is very nicely equipped. The SV upgrade, which adds a dual-pane glass sunroof, a power driver’s seat, the Pro-Pilot Assist rudimentary self-driving system and active cruise control, among other things, is a bargain. Compared with the SV, the SV Premium model is expensive for what is essentially just a heated rear seat, a power liftgate and rear door sunshades. The additional features of the Platinum, including leather seating, navigation, a TFT gauge cluster, a larger infotainment screen and a heads-up display system, represent excellent value and deliver an expensive looking and feeling vehicle for the price point.

The new Rogue looks very upscale


Along with the Kicks, Altima and Sentra, the new Rogue signals a design renaissance for Nissan, after a long time in a styling desert. It’s exterior is clean, uncluttered and purposeful and lacks the distracting superfluous detailing that mars the exteriors of many new vehicles. The cabin, at least on the top-end Platinum model driven, is luxuriously finished, fully-featured, as well as roomy and comfortable. The cabin appearance of the Platinum trim rivals some luxury brand vehicles. With predictable handling, a very absorbent ride, good all-around performance, and sufficient refinement for this class, the Rogue is a pleasant drive.

The big question: Will it be reliable and durable in the long run? Premature CVT failures and many complaints from Nissan owners regarding the short life of suspension components are common. Time will tell if the apparent excellence of the new Rogue will translate into durability that will rescue Nissan from the back of the pack of Japanese-branded cars.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay up-to-date with our latest news.