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Nissan Rogue compact crossover gets a major makeover for 2021

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George (Chambers) Williams III

Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in the U.S, market, the Tennessee-built Rogue compact crossover, moves into a new generation for 2021 after setting numerous records with the previous generation.

The 2021 Rogue comes on all-new underpinnings with enhanced driver-assistance and safety technologies and a fresh new exterior design.

Don’t expect radical styling changes, though, as this newest version is still instantly recognizable as a Rogue. That makes sense, because the previous generation was good enough to break the Rogue out of the crowded field of compact crossovers and vault it into its position at the top of Nissan’s lineup.

Overall, the new Rogue is 1.5 inches shorter and 0.2 inches lower than the previous generation. The new body is more aerodynamic, with what Nissan calls a “floating roof” design and a new “V-motion” grille. There are new multi-level LED headlights with wider beams, and the body sides have “U”-shaped highlights.

Also helping to improve aerodynamics are new 3-D tire deflectors in the lower front fascia, active grill shutters, special A-pillar shaping, underbody covers, and air curtains that help direct air along and under the body.

For 2021, the Rogue comes in four trim levels, all with a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, continuously variable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. But the Rogue is also available across the board with all-wheel drive for an additional $1,400.

The 2.5-liter engine has 181 horsepower and 181 foot-pounds of torque, up 11 horsepower from last year. It’s a double-overhead-cam inline design with direct fuel injection. EPA fuel economy ratings are 26 mpg city/34 highway/29 combined for front-drive models, except for the base S, which is rated at 27/35/30.

Rogue prices start at $25,650 (plus $1,095 freight) for the S model with front-wheel drive, or $27,050 with all-wheel drive.

The other trims are the SV ($27,340, front drive; $28,740, AWD); SL ($32,000, front drive; $33,400, AWD); and Platinum ($35,430, front-drive; $36,830, AWD).

Factory-installed options include the SV Premium Package ($2,660) and SL Premium Package ($1,320).

Nissan says the new “family hub” interior was designed for utility and comfort, and makes use of premium materials that help give the Rogue a luxury feel.

Available amenities include tri-zone climate control, a four-door Intelligent Key system, and the enhanced ProPilot Assist with Navi-link.

The Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of features is standard. They include Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, High Beam Assist and Rear Automatic Braking.

Rogue also has 10 standard air bags and extended crumple zones to help protect occupants in the event of an accident.

Wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity are part of the available Nissan Intelligent Mobility technologies.

Exterior colors include five two-tone combinations with a $350 upcharge (body and roof are separate colors), or $695 for two-tone combinations with premium paint. Premium paint without the two-tone scheme is $395 extra.

As the top of the line, the Platinum model comes with just about everything available on the new Rogue, including quilted semi-aniline leather seats, heated rear seats, ambient lighting, the wireless charging pad and the new wireless Apple CarPlay, the enhanced ProPilot Assist with Navi-link, a Bose premium audio system and more.

Our test vehicle was the front-drive SV model with the Gun Metallic exterior color and charcoal cloth interior, with pinstripes on the seat inserts and the door panels. Among standard features were LED headlights, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, rear air vents, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, satellite radio, and two front USB ports.

Rogue wheels come in 17-, 18- and 19-inch aluminum-alloy designs, depending on the model or package chosen. Standard on our SV model were 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels with machined faces and gray pockets.

Standard on all models are Nissan’s Intelligent Driver Alertness technology and Rear Door Alert. My tester included Remote Engine Start with dual-zone Intelligent Climate Control to heat or cool the interior before entering, a six-speaker audio system, two rear charge-only USB ports, and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Also available are Blind Spot Intervention and Traffic Sign Recognition. Intelligent Cruise Control is included as part of the available ProPilot Assist system.

Up front, there is a new center console between the bucket seats with a “butterfly” opening.

The Rogue has seating for up to five, along with a generous cargo area with up to 36.5 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row, expanding to 74.1 cubic feet with the second-row seatback folded down.

Rear doors open extra wide — nearly 90 degrees – for easier entry and exit, and child safety-seat tethers and anchors are available in all three rear seating positions.

NASA-inspired Zero Gravity low-fatigue seats are standard front and rear.

The rear cargo area has a large opening, and there is an available motion-activated power tailgate. The redesigned Divide-n-Hide cargo system helps arrange cargo, and there is a hidden, secure storage area for valuables.

A cargo bin on the right side behind the wheel arch is perfect for securing loose items, groceries or a gallon of milk.

In the cockpit, there is a full-color 10.8-inch head-up display; a 12.3-inch Digital Dashboard gauge cluster with specially designed background graphics; and a “floating” nine-inch touch screen featuring apps and controls for various vehicle functions.

There is plenty of leg and knee room for second-row passengers, although it can get a bit cramped in the middle for an adult sitting between two other adults.

Rogue comes with four-wheel independent suspension, electronic stability control with traction control, and Hill Start Assist. There is a new electric power steering system.

The new electronic shifter design eliminates the need for equipment under the shifter, Nissan says, which allows for extra storage space under the “floating” center console.

Rogue’s optional all-wheel drive system comes with Hill Descent Control. While not intended for serious off-road use, as it does not have low-range gearing, the four-wheel drive is good enough for beach and limited dirt-road driving.

Safety features include front seat-mounted side air bags; roof-mounted side-curtain air bags with rollover sensors front and rear; child-safe rear door locks; an anti-theft alarm; and tire-pressure monitoring with Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert system.

The CVT has an Eco mode to help drivers improve their fuel economy. It’s designed to change acceleration pedal feel, and it includes an icon on the dash to show that the vehicle is in Eco mode.

With the 2.5-liter engine, we had plenty of power for our everyday driving. The transmission shifted smoothly with a minimum of engine run-up that’s often noticeable with such transmissions. It seems more like a conventional transmission with defined shift points.

Even at highway speeds, the Rogue’s cabin is quiet. The electric power steering was tight and responsive, and with the four-wheel antilock disc brakes, braking was safe and confident.

The only option on our 2021 Rogue SV tester was the Cargo Area Protector and Floor Mat Package ($385). Total sticker price was $28,820, including freight.

The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @gchambers3.

2021 Nissan Rogue

The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, front- or all-wheel-drive, four-cylinder, gasoline-powered, crossover utility vehicle.

Advantages: Nissan’s compact crossover got a complete makeover for 2021, with new exterior and interior styling, along with new safety and driver-assist technologies.

Negatives: No engine upgrade offered for those who want more power.

Engine: 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder, normally aspirated.

Transmission: Continuously variable automatic.

Power/torque: 181 HP./181 foot-pounds.

Length: 183.0 inches.

Curb weight range: 3,371-3,613 pounds.

Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.

Side air bags: Front seat-mounted; side-curtain for both rows.

Electronic stability control: Standard.

Cargo volume: 31.6 cubic feet (behind second row); 74.1 cubic feet (rear seatback folded).

Towing capacity: 1,350 pounds.

Fuel capacity/type: 14.5 gallons/unleaded regular.

EPA fuel economy: 26 mpg city/34 highway/29 combined (SV, SL, Platinum, front-wheel drive); 27/35/30 (S, front-drive); 25/32/28 (SV, SL, Platinum, all-wheel drive); 26/33/29 (S, SWD).

Major competitors: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Outback, Jeep Cherokee, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5.

Base price range: $25,650-$35,430, plus $1,095 freight (front-drive models; add $1,400 for AWD).

Price as tested: $28,820, including freight and options (SV front-wheel drive).

On the Road rating: 9.2 (of a possible 10).

Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.