Test drive: The 2021 Nissan Rogue is a civilized SUV

All-new crossover is in it to win it

The Nissan Rogue has gone straight.

That is to say, the 2021 version of the compact crossover is aimed straight at the best-selling Toyota Rav4. Nissan is so confident it can compete that it’s encouraging its dealers to offer customers test drives … in the Rav4.

(Nissan)

The all-new Rogue has seriously upped its game compared to the outgoing model and is packed with a ton of safety and comfort features to help it stand out in the most competitive automobile segment today.

The Rogue sports a new look that combines a front end punctuated by split front lighting with a boxy and upright style that echoes the latest Volvos. The overall effect is both sharp and upscale.

(Nissan)

The Rogue is available with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive, with both versions powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 181 horsepower, an increase from 170 hp in the outgoing model. A CVT transmission is the only one available, and fuel economy is also improved from 29 mpg combined to 30 mpg in front-wheel-drive models and from 27 mpg to 29 mpg with all-wheel-drive.

(Nissan)

The 2021 Rogue is slightly smaller than the 2020 model but is still plenty roomy inside and its cargo area is just a hair smaller than the Rav4’s cavernous space. The rear doors open 90 degrees, making them very easy to enter, and a foot-operated powered tailgate is included on some models.

The Rogue feels a lot like the Rav4 on the move, with similar ride and handling characteristics. Neither delivers the kind of driver engagement that the Honda CR-V does, but they are composed and capable.

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The Rogue brings a lot of tech to the game, including Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 package of automatic emergency brakes, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and other driver aids, which is standard. It can also be equipped with the ProPilot Assist system, which self-steers the vehicle within a highway lane while the driver keeps their hands on the wheel. Top models add a feature that uses the navigation system to determine what the local speed limit is and automatically adjust to it.

(Nissan)

The Rogue’s interior is a little fancier than the Rav4’s and much more so if you go for the new Platinum model, which features quilted leather upholstery that flirts with the luxury segment. It also gets a head-up display, digital instrument cluster, 360-degree parking camera, tri-zone climate control, wireless charging pad, an excellent Bose audio system and a new infotainment setup with wireless Apple CarPlay integration.

An all-wheel-drive Platinum will cost you $37,925, but there are four trim levels to choose from starting with the Rogue S at $26,745, which undercuts the cheapest Rav4 by $480.

I recently rented one of those, just like the Nissan dealers will, and the Rogue is definitely on target.

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2021 Nissan Rogue

Price: $26,745 - $37,925

Type: 4-door, 5-passenger front- or all-wheel-drive SUV

Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder 

Power: 181 hp, 181 lb-ft

Transmission: CVT automatic

MPG: 25-27 city/32-35 hwy