Vehicles don’t change much from year to year. But every few years, automakers significantly refresh major components of each model and engage in a major marketing push. Refreshes don’t always land well. Automakers can miss what consumers want. But sometimes, refreshes result in substantially improved vehicles that provide great value for consumers and profits for their manufacturers. The 2021 Nissan Rogue is the perfect example of when a refresh goes right.
Last year’s Nissan Rogue
To understand what the new Rogue gets right, one should start with what the Rogue looked like in years prior. The 2020 Nissan Rogue is an affordable SUV that looks great, but its powertrain fails to impress. According to Car and Driver, it comes with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that only puts out 170 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque.
Sitting on 17-inch wheels, the Rogue’s steering isn’t the most responsive, and both the engine and transmission are noisy. But the fuel economy is decent at 26 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway for the front-wheel-drive version and 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway for the all-wheel drive version. It also tows just 1,100 pounds, which is 400 pounds less than competing vehicles like the Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester.
The base model S 2020 Rogue, does have a few things going for it. It’s got 70 cubic feet of cargo space with the second row down and 39.3 cubic feet when it’s up. There’s also plenty of legroom with 43 inches in the front and 37.9 in the back. There’s also a reconfigurable cargo area and cubby below the floor of the hold.
But the interior materials feel a bit lackluster, even for an affordable SUV. Entertainment and other controls can be manipulated via a 7-inch touchscreen system compatible with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth. You can listen to music with the standard four-speaker sound system. A rearview camera also comes standard but can optionally be upgraded to a surround-view system.
The higher-level trims also boast some amenities that enhance the 2020 model. The SV adds heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry, push-button start, a power-adjusted driver’s seat, and a six-speaker sound system, among other features. With the top-level SL, you’ll also get built-in navigation, 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, and power adjustments for the passenger seat.
The 2021 Nissan Rogue refresh
According to Car and Driver, the new Rogue comes with a decisive exterior styling, a shorter wheelbase making it easier to maneuver, and a much-improved powertrain. The CVT automatic is now paired with a 2.5-liter I-4 engine that produces 181 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. Such a setup allows you to hit 60 mph in 8.1 seconds.
Though the cargo hold is about three cubic feet smaller, the total cargo space is up this year at 74.1 cubic feet, with the second row down. Legroom remains generous. And the cargo hold retains the extra cargo space under the hold floor from last year’s model. The interior material and styling represent a marked improvement, making this Rogue actually feel fresher than before.
The 2021 model also adds an inch to its touch screen, bringing it to 8 inches. Upgrades will bring you to 9-inches, and you can also opt for built-in navigation. Of course, higher trim levels bring added creature comforts. Rogue SV owners will get 18-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power seat, and Nissan’s semi-autonomous tech package called ProPilot Assist. Pro Pilot Assist adds adaptive cruise control, lane centering, and traffic jam assistance to the many advanced safety features that already come standard.
With the Rogue SL another inch to added to the wheels, as well as leather upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, three-zone climate control, and a hands-free power liftgate. And the top-level Platinum trim provides you with a 10-speaker sound system, built-in navigation, leatherette upholstery, and roof rails, among other add-ons.
How does the new model compare?
The new Rogue is a significant improvement over models from the last few years. Despite the shorter wheelbase, the total cargo space is larger. And because of that shortened wheelbase, the 2021 model handles better. Further, the second-row doors have a wider range of motion, making it easier to get into and out of the car. And the CVT transmission helps the car transition more smoothly than the prior-year model.
The new engine is also an improvement, bringing its performance metrics in line with competitors like Mazda CX-5 and Toyota RAV4. It’s more fuel-efficient than either, with more total cargo room. It does lose to the Honda CR-V in both fuel efficiency and total cargo volume, but not by much. However, the Rogue does boast a sharper interior and better infotainment system than the Honda model.
Unlike many model refreshes, Nissan nailed it with the new Nissan Rogue. If you’re looking for an affordable SUV, start looking at the 2021 model.