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The 2021 Nissan Rogue sees plenty of improvements, but the value proposition is still its strength

The 2021 Nissan Rogue’s most compelling offering remains the value proposition in its lower-priced trims. Postmedia News
The 2021 Nissan Rogue’s most compelling offering remains the value proposition in its lower-priced trims. - POSTMEDIA

STEPHANIE WALLCRAFT

The more things change, the more they stay the same: while the 2021 Nissan Rogue is hitting the market with a new design, new engine, new platform, new chassis, and new feature packaging, its most compelling offering remains the value proposition in its lower-priced trims.

Consider the updated design, for example. The more squared-off and upright cabin layout gives the new Rogue a masculine look that’s in line with its contemporaries, and it also happens to improve second-row head room. But despite this, thanks to additions like active grille shutters and forward air vents – which are functional and aren’t just pretty plastic panels – the Rogue enters its third generation with a lower co-efficient of drag. (For the nerds, that figure is 0.331, which isn’t the best in the segment but is still pretty darned good for a boxy SUV.) It’s important to note that no matter which grade of Rogue you buy, you’ll benefit from these updates. Take note: this is going become a theme.

The same goes for the engine. While the number of cylinders and the displacement remain the same, the 2.5-litre four-cylinder equipped here is one of Nissan’s newer direct-injected engines, helping to improve both performance and fuel efficiency. The good news is that the 181 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque mark improvements of six and three per cent respectively over the outgoing version. Since this is the only engine available, you’ll also gain these improvements no matter which Rogue you choose.

The bad news is that there are still compact SUVs out there with better figures both in power and fuel economy. The quick solution to this would be to give us a Rogue Hybrid; electrification improves torque, especially at zero-to-lower revs, and it also helps to reduce fuel consumption. Unfortunately, while Rogue is launching with a hybrid iteration in the United States, it won’t initially be available in Canada. Is there simply not enough inventory to supply us, or do buyers here need to make noise and start asking for it for Nissan to believe it’s sufficiently wanted? The answer isn’t clear, but one would think the six-plus month wait for delivery on a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid in this country would speak for itself.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, heated front seats, steering wheel, and exterior mirrors are all included regardless of which grade of Rogue you choose. - POSTMEDIA
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, heated front seats, steering wheel, and exterior mirrors are all included regardless of which grade of Rogue you choose. - POSTMEDIA

 

The new Rogue’s overall handling is also significantly improved over the previous generation. Through a combination of a 27 per cent improvement in torsional rigidity and a 40-kilogram weight savings thanks to an updated platform and chassis, reduced motion in the rear end due to a revamped multi-link rear suspension, and an updated set of stability control systems, the new Rogue feels very planted and stable on the road and demonstrates very little pitch or roll. The same thing applies here, though: all of those updates apply to every 2021 Rogue, so you don’t need to spend more to see those benefits.

What about a cabin that’s three decibels quieter on average? Rear doors that open to 85 degrees, dramatically improving access to the second row? Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite that includes forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear emergency braking, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, and high beam assist? Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity? Heated front seats, steering wheel, and exterior mirrors? These attributes are all included regardless of which grade of Rogue you choose — and on the S model, you can throw in 17-inch alloy wheels to start for good measure. For a starting price of $28,498 – that’s $1,000 more than the previous generation (plus all-wheel drive is $2,300 more on the S and SV grades) – that’s a whole lot of content packed in.

The more squared-off and upright cabin layout improves second-row head room. - POSTMEDIA
The more squared-off and upright cabin layout improves second-row head room. - POSTMEDIA

 

Once we start moving up the grade walk, though, I’m less sold that the extra spend is worthwhile. There’s still some solid value in the SV trim, which starts at an MSRP of $31,998 for the front-wheel-drive version and includes Nissan’s 360-degree Around View Monitor, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, and 18-inch wheels, while the premium package ($2,200) adds leatherette upholstery, rear window sunshades, and a power liftgate. It’s easy to envision people with some play in their budgets deciding to spring for those features.

But by the time we’re at the top-line Platinum grade at $39,998 (available only with AWD), I’m starting to feel the drawbacks of the powertrain while not finding as much value from the added options. Heated outboard rear seats and a wireless phone charging pad could sway some people, and the 19-inch wheels and 10.8-inch heads-up display look nice. But the 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster doesn’t have a mode that makes it anything less than visually noisy. I’m sure wireless Apple CarPlay is a useful feature for iPhone users, but I’m not one, so it doesn’t sway me in the least.

The 2021 Nissan Rogue boasts a power liftgate. - POSTMEDIA
The 2021 Nissan Rogue boasts a power liftgate. - POSTMEDIA

 

And the redesigned Divide and Hide cargo system available on the Premium grade may elicit some opinions. Nissan’s designers found that people weren’t really using the topmost shelf setting, so it’s no longer equipped. However, it’s still possible to position one of the panels vertically, and it’s now set on a rail system rather than depending on straps. It’s a little fiddly to reposition, but it’s solid once it’s there. The rest of the system amounts to a roughly two-inch difference in the height of the load floor, an offset that’s readily available in several competitors. And the rear seat now comes only in a 60/40 split, not the 40/20/40 that was part of the Divide and Hide configuration in the previous Rogue.

So, with a lack of powertrain options and room for improvement on execution of premium features, the strengths in the 2021 Nissan Rogue are still for those working with a sub-$30,000 budget. For that subset of buyers, though – on first impression, at least – the appeal in this next generation of Rogue remains as strong as ever.

The 2.5-litre four-cylinder is one of Nissan’s newer direct-injected engines, helping to improve both performance and fuel efficiency. - POSTMEDIA
The 2.5-litre four-cylinder is one of Nissan’s newer direct-injected engines, helping to improve both performance and fuel efficiency. - POSTMEDIA

 

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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