With a new generation debuting this year, the 2021 Nissan Rogue SV AWD figures to be a relatively important road test for the Daddy’s Digest Reviews section. Compact crossover sport utility vehicles now comprise a significant part of the car market, and young families tend to love them for their balance of cost, practicality, and efficiency. While it may seem so, they’re not all built equally, and so we were happy to get a chance to drive one for a week courtesy of Nissan Canada.
While the base “S” trim level starts at $28,798 with front-wheel drive, the all-wheel drive SV middle trim is $34,598, and will likely be the volume seller as the best bang for the buck. At the bottom end, the S is still reasonably well equipped and gets standard features such as LED headlights and taillights, heated front seats, heated mirrors with turn signal indicators, rear privacy glass, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. The SV adds roof rails, a dual-panel panoramic moonroof, a remote engine starter system, a power driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment, NissanConnect telematics service capability, and extra USB-C ports.
Nissan Canada’s test car was equipped with the SV AWD’s $2,200 Premium Package, which adds a power rear liftgate, retractable sunshades for each rear door, leatherette seating surfaces, and heated rear seats. $300 for Pearl White paint rounded out the options list, bringing the as-tested total to $37,098. For those looking for even more features, the Platinum AWD comes in at $40,798 and adds quilted semi-aniline leather seating surfaces with driver’s seat memory, 19-inch wheels, tri-zone climate control, Bose audio, wireless phone charging, a head-up display, and a fully digital gauge cluster.
Inside, the 2021 Rogue is a mighty practical environment for families with one or two children. Rear seat legroom is plentiful enough to accommodate rear-facing child seats or fully-grown adults, and the rear cargo area accommodates travel system strollers with room to spare. Against its peers, it is very comparable with the Toyota RAV4 and has considerably more space than a Mazda CX-5. The Nissan’s interior design is much improved against the previous-generation Rogue, although a few elements – namely around the shifter and centre console - still look and feel cheaper than the Toyota, Honda, and Mazda.
Across all Rogue trim levels, various driver safety assist systems are standard equipment. These include forward-collision warning with automatic braking and pedestrian detection, lane departure warning (with lane-keeping intervention on the SV and Platinum), rear cross-traffic alert, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Over the S, the SV also gets a 360-degree camera that’s useful for parking, and the Platinum trim gets navigation integration for the adaptive cruise control, a front and side sonar system, and traffic sign recognition.
For all Rogues, other than the choice of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, there’s only one engine and transmission option: a 2.5-litre gasoline four-cylinder engine makes 181 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, and is paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). While these are not chart-topping numbers, the CVT makes the absolute most of the available engine power, and there’s very little need to put the pedal to the metal in everyday driving. Even though the Nissan makes less peak power than the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda CX-5, it feels like it has more grunt off the line. In other words, the Rogue loses on paper but wins in practice. Refinement is also very good, with very little vibration and harshness entering the cabin, and fuel efficiency is more or less in line with the competition.
In the ride and handling department, the 2021 Nissan Rogue got the job done with a fairly smooth and quiet ride, and the suspension got upset on only the roughest of roads. It very much handled like a traditional sedan and not like an SUV, and aside from the higher seating position, drivers might be hard-pressed to tell if they were piloting a Rogue or an Altima. Refinement and the overall driving experience was historically one of the weaker points with older models, but we are happy to report that the Rogue is now among the top of the list.
Overall, the 2021 Nissan Rogue SV AWD is a very competitive player in its compact crossover SUV class. While the beauty is in the eye of the beholder with the front end’s double-decker light assemblies, the overall shape and design is clean and modern. A much-improved interior design and increased level of refinement add to excellent packaging, and the end result is a new product Nissan can be proud of. Buyers will likely be proud to have one in their driveway, too.
Jerry Vo cut his teeth in writing as an automotive journalist and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Having reviewed cars since 2015, he takes pride in providing relevant and technically savvy consumer advice, and is extending that over into reviews in various other categories at Daddy's Digest. He is a proud dad of one and is letting the wonderful journey of parenthood teach him new things every day.