Remade Nissan Rogue SUV headlines looks, tech while ignoring hybrid

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Nissan introduced a comprehensively redesigned model of its Rogue compact SUV Monday, the second best-selling SUV in America.

The descendent of the stunning X-Motion Concept Car that debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 2018, the Rogue embodies the concept’s ambitions of bold SUV styling with a suite of high-tech innovations. Interestingly, the Rogue eschews the trend toward hybridization that has marked the recent launch of its close competitors, the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and top-selling Toyota RAV4.

The redesigned 2021 Nissan Rogue.

By contrast, the made-in-Tennessee Nissan comes with one engine option, an upgraded version of its reliable, sippy 2.5-liter 4-cylinder. While adding a premium Platinum trim for the first time, Rogue seems intent on pursuing Nissan’s strategy to offer best-in-class value at the cheaper end of the biggest segment in autodom. By contrast, Toyota offers a plug-in hybrid model that starts at nearly $40,000.

The Rogue’s upright, sculpted body is dramatically different from the outgoing 2020 model with its rounder, more potato-shaped lines. The upright grill and big shoulders of the compact ute reflect the X-Motion Concept as well as Americans’ preference for truck-like designs. The RAV4’s recent remake cribbed heavily from its Tacoma pickup.

Nissan Rogue front

Signature Nissan design touches like the V-Motion grille and floating roof are still in evidence, but otherwise the third-gen Rogue is a break from the past. Even the headlights have moved, with the Rogue deploying its peepers in the middle of the front-fascia underneath daytime running lights – a style made popular by Hyundai and the Chevy Blazer.

The Rogue's engine is also offered in the mid-size Altima sedan. Unlike the Altima, however, the Rogue does not offer a more-powerful, turbocharged 2.0-liter. The Rogue is content to see its mill get a 6% bump in power to 181 horses to drive both front-wheel and all-wheel drive models.

A suite of driver-assist systems is standard on the new Nissan Rogue.

The Rogue gets 30 mpg combined EPA fuel economy in front-wheel drive and 29 mpg in all-wheel drive.

Open the doors and Rogue turns up the high-tech.

Rogue cleverly piggy-backed on the "Star Wars" franchise in 2017 to offer a limited “Rogue One: Star Wars Limited Edition” model as well as introduce its ProPilot Assist feature. There will be no "Star Wars" movie to co-brand with this fall when the 2021 Rogue hits dealerships, but the SUV continues to push sci-fi, self-driving capabilities in the family segment.

Nissan Rogue

Standard on the Nissan is a suite of driver-assist systems called Nissan Safety Shield 360 which includes auto high-beams, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency-braking with pedestrian detection, and blind-spot assist. Nissan says its adaptive-cruise ProPilot Assist system has been improved with less abrupt braking.

Taking it up a notch, ProPilot Assist with Navi-link (available on higher trims) will automatically adapt speed to road conditions. When deployed, it uses GPS to slow for curves as well as interstate off-ramps. Adaptive cruise will automatically start driving again after 30 seconds if stopped at a light  – safety technology familiar to high-end luxury cars like Audi and Tesla. Nissan says their Gen Y target audience prizes safety in the SUV class.

Other luxury features like a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and Cadillac-like head-up display will also be available.

Passengers can enjoy these treats encased in a roomier cabin made quieter by acoustic front glass and underbody panels. Headroom, rear-seat legroom, and cargo space are all enhanced even as the Rogue’s length has contracted slightly.

Nissan Rogue roof

The dash is crowned by a tablet infotainment screen with 9.0-inch option available. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. The center console has been remade with a Nissan-first electronic shifter that opens room for sub-console storage as well a rotary terrain-mode selector. Again mimicking luxury cars, the console storage box features a “butterfly” door so internal USB ports can better be connected to backseat passengers.

Backseat occupants get their own amenities like reclining and heated seats as well as  tri-zone climate control. Leave anything in the back seats and a Rear Door Alert reminder sounds. This latest feature was innovated by GMC a few years back, but Rogue is not shy in adopting useful innovations pioneered by others.

Nissan Rogue shifter

Like the Honda CR-V, Rogue’s rear doors open to nearly 90 degrees for better ingress and egress. And, borrowing from the Ford Escape, the rear tailgate can be kicked open as an option on upper trims. More cleverness abounds in the cargo area where has placed a tray to store milk cartons so they don’t tumble under aggressive driving.

Likely starting around $26,000 when it hits dealer lots, the 2021 Nissan Rogue will be aiming for the 411,000-unit record it sold in 2019.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.