Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: January 25, 2021
The Nissan Rogue was never one of our top contenders in the compact SUV field despite it being the best selling product in the brand’s portfolio. The rivaling Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V were superior road companions with their more refined powertrains, better pieced together cabins, and transmissions that didn’t endlessly whine under meager throttle application. Still, the Rogue blended well with traffic with its inoffensive but anonymous styling, demonstrated adequate road manners, and didn’t break the bank. The new, third-generation 2021 model aims to shake things up.
Right off the bat, you can tell that the Rogue means business from its sleek new sheetmetal. In our eyes, this is the most handsome iteration since its inception back in 2008, retaining the signature floating roof and V-shaped grille, but with new LED headlights and an injection of youth. The rear isn’t as bold as the front but the soft lines remain easy on the eyes. Look closely and you will notice a new active grill shutter that opens or closes to account for airflow into the engine compartment.
Inside gets a significant makeover as well, and isn’t a drabby little dungeon marred with unconvincing black plastics anymore. There’s some sense to the styling, the switchgear placement is ergonomically sound, and there are enough dressings and garnish to never make you feel like you skimped out on options. There are many design cues borrowed from the Altima and Sentra like the new gear shifter, wide touchscreen that remains clutter-free and easy to use, and the skinny D-shaped steering wheel. For those of you wondering why the bottom is flat, it is so that the driver’s knees don’t get in the way of the wheel under rotation. And it looks sporty.
The Nissan Rogue comes in three trims: S ($28,498), SV ($31,998), and Platinum ($39,998), with the latter trim on test. As such, our Rogue was dressed up with soft semi-aniline leather on the seats and center console, though it isn’t nearly as soft and slippery as the ones you find in top-end Infiniti models. Material quality is a major improvement and we enjoyed the spacious front cabin and large cupholders, and though it lacks the clever storage solutions of the CR-V, the under-reliance on haptic-touch or touch-sensitive buttons like in the new Venza is a breath of fresh air.
An 8-inch touchscreen serves as standard fare for the base S model, but the SL and Platinum trims receive a larger 9-inch screen loaded up with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and everything you would expect from a modern-day vehicle. Platinum models come further equipped with a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, head-up display, and wireless phone charging pad. Nissan have also beefed up their suite of driver assistance features called ProPILOT Assist, and have refined the cameras, radars, and systems to provide a more seamless semi-autonomous drive with better and quicker detection.
Despite its chic new looks, the Rogue continues to lag behind the competition in driving dynamics and user enjoyment. Under the hood remains a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre inline-four that delivers 181 hp and 181 lb-ft through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive comes standard on S and SV models, with optional all-wheel drive. Platinum models are AWD only. But the problem doesn’t lie with singular factors alone like the acceleration, gear tuning, or power delivery, rather it’s how the Rogue tries to blend them all together into one cohesive package that it fails to stand out from the crowd.
The engine enjoys a slight 11-hp power bump from the previous model but the drive remains a drab affair. It just isn’t as vigorous or as eager as the RAV4’s 2.5-litre, and it quickly runs out of breath the moment you hit 5,000 rpm. Acceleration is far from being a strong suit, and itchy right foots will spend the majority of their time flat on the floor. Furthermore, the CVT tuning doesn’t seem to want to engage the driver in any sort of way, and it lacks that key low-speed refinement that makes the RAV4 such a joy and pleasure to whisk around town. But we were happily surprised but how much more refined it has become over the outgoing model. It no longer thrashes and whines in the mid-to-high RPMs, even when the engine is running cold. Of course, we can attribute the better cabin insulation on top of that as well, which results in one of the quieter cabins in its segment, even when going triple digit speeds on the highway.
The Rogue's road mannerisms are adequate but the ride feels busy and brittle when trying to negotiate its way over bumps and pockmarked roads. On smooth roads and highways, the dampening is near perfect, even though it lacks the road agility of the Volkswagen Tiguan. That mainly comes down to the steering and gas pedal feeling a tad overboosted. Bringing it down a level or two in sensitivity would make it friendlier and gentler at both low and high speeds.
We wouldn’t call the new Nissan Rogue a game changer or the best in its class, but it is a significant improvement over its predecessor. From the handsome new looks to the genuinely comfortable interior, these positive revisions should strengthen its sales. We still prefer the RAV4’s calmer ride and more polished interior, the CR-V’s more eager powertrain, and the Tiguan’s athleticism, but there’s no denying that Nissan has finally found a way to piece together its strengths and amalgamate them into one competitive package.
Model: 2021 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD
Paint Type: Gun Metallic
Base Price: $39,998
Price as Tested: $40,133
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,648 / 1,840 / 1,689
Curb weight (kg): 1,653
Engine: 2.5-litre inline-four
Horsepower: 181 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 9.2 / 7.2 / 8.3
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 10.6