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2020 Nissan Rogue

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The 2021 Nissan Rogue, which is arriving in showrooms now, is more expensive than its previous generation. It starts at $28,498, which is a $1,000 increase over the most basic 2020 model, and it rises to $39,998 for the Platinum, which is a $2,000 increase. Even the cost of all-wheel drive, when it’s an option, has gone up by a hundred bucks to $2,300.

The difference in price is even more weighted when you consider the incentives Nissan Canada is currently offering on 2020 models – discounts of at least $4,500 on all but the most basic trim – to clear those older vehicles off the lots.

So is the new Rogue worth the extra money?

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It does offer a lot more. A more powerful and fuel-efficient 2.5-litre engine, shared with the new Altima. A stiffer chassis, lighter by 40 kilograms, with a smoother ride. A quieter cabin, loaded with standard and optional conveniences, and more comfortable seats in front and back. And a safer drive, with Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 driver-assist systems now standard on all trims.

In the battle for the hugely popular compact-SUV class, the pricing is set by whatever the competition sells for. Manufacturers then equip their vehicles with everything they have available within that cost.

The Rogue is Nissan’s best-selling vehicle in both Canada and the United States. “Last year, the small SUV segment was 23 per cent of the Canadian industry, and for us, it’s 30 per cent of our sales,” says Steve Millette, President of Nissan Canada Inc. “There’s nothing that compares to the importance of the Rogue for our company. We have to get it right.”

Fortunately for us north of the border, Canada had a hand in the Rogue’s development. For the first time, Nissan came to Quebec City and Timmins, Ont., in the early months of 2019 for cold-weather testing. The test units were driven in minus-35 degree weather to optimize their winter performance as well as improve the comfort of their cabins.

There was no snow and ice for my recent test drive, but there was plenty of rain, and the heated seats and heated steering wheel were very welcome. I drove only the top-of-the-line Platinum edition, with extra cushy “semi-aniline leather” quilted seats, but the most basic Rogue S includes heated front seats as standard and now a heated leather steering wheel as standard, as well.

The 2021 Rogue is slightly lower and shorter than its predecessor.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

There’s plenty of new stuff that’s standard in every new Rogue: push-button start, dual-zone climate control, full LED lights front and back, and the extra features of the Safety Shield 360, including lane-departure warning and rear intelligent emergency braking.

But how does it drive?

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It’s not exciting, but it’s comfortable. The cabin is quieter thanks to more sound-deadening materials and acoustic glass; Nissan estimates road noise is muted by three decibels compared to the old Rogue. There’ll be less wind noise, too, because the new Rogue is 5 per cent more aerodynamic. Apparently, its drag co-efficient of 0.331 is better than a Lamborghini Murcielago, though it’s still not a patch on a Kia Optima Hybrid or a Tesla Model 3.

Performance, of course, is not a patch on the Lambo. It’s okay, with 11 more horsepower and six more lbs.-ft. of torque than the old Rogue, but the CVT transmission still winds up to speed and the Sport drive mode setting is more optimistic than realistic. However, if you were to line up all the affordable compact SUVs at the lights and then tell them to let it rip, there won’t be much difference between most of them, including the Rogue.

People don’t buy a Rogue for its acceleration, but they do buy it for its practicality, comfort and value. The all-wheel drive version of the new model includes Vehicle Motion Control, which constantly adjusts the brakes, steering and engine to help keep the vehicle’s motion smooth; this sounds a lot like the principle of Mazda’s G-Vectoring system. Certainly, my rainy-day drive was smooth and excitement-free.

Tech specs

  • Base price/As tested: $28,498 / $39,998
  • Engine: 2.5-litre DOHC four-cylinder; 181 hp, 181 lbs.-ft.
  • Transmission/Drive: Continuously Variable Transmission / FWD and AWD
  • Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 8.9 city, 7.0 hwy., 8.1 comb.
  • Alternatives: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Hyundai Santa Fe

Looks

The Rogue's front has been resdesigned for better aerodynamics.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The new Rogue is slightly shorter and lower than before, and the front and rear faces are redesigned for better aerodynamics. It’s an attractive vehicle, but it’s not really going to stand out in a shopping mall parking lot.

Interior

There’s almost the exact same space inside as before, though storage room is improved with larger bottle holders in the doors and a drive-by-wire transmission lever that allows for a useable storage area beneath it. That lever slides back and forth horizontally and is surprisingly satisfying to use; for some, it may be the deciding factor in buying the Rogue over another SUV.

The rear passenger doors now open a little wider for easier access, especially with children’s car seats – 85 degrees instead of the previous 82 degrees – and the optional Divide-N-Hide storage system in the rear cargo area is a little simpler to use.

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The high-end Platinum edition gets a nine-inch centre touch-screen display, as well as a fully digital 12.3-inch instrument display and a 10.8-inch heads-up display that can be easily seen through polarized lenses. All other trims get a standard eight-inch centre display screen with a seven-inch instrument panel.

Performance

It’s good enough and holds flat-ish around the corners. Zzzz. Next question?

Technology

The new Rogue has an impressive suite of drive-assist features, even on the cheapest trim.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

The stuff available these days in even sub-$30,000 vehicles would have boggled the mind a decade ago in six-figure limos. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay – check. Wireless charging and wireless Apple CarPlay – check, in the top-end Platinum. Ten airbags, and an extra airbag in the Platinum between the driver and passenger, to stop heads getting knocked together – check.

It’s just assumed now that new cars will include everything possible for simple connectivity, but the Rogue’s strength is also in its driver-assistance package. The cheapest edition includes high-beam assist, predictive forward-collision warning and driver-alert warning, while the SV trim ($31,998) adds blind-spot intervention and a surround-view camera.

The SV also includes ProPilot Assist, Nissan’s semi-autonomous driving system. Step up to the Platinum, and this system is tied in to the Navigation system, predicting the speeds you’ll need ahead in your programmed drive and preparing for them. It also recognizes speed-limit signs and automatically adjusts, and can pause in traffic for up to 30 seconds before resuming the drive. Sheesh.

Cargo

A false floor in the cargo space offers a bit of additional security.

Mark Richardson/The Globe and Mail

There’s a little more rear headroom and knee-room now, though you probably wouldn’t notice. The rear hatch will open with a simple kick under the bumper, at least on the costlier trims with a power liftgate.

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The cargo area holds up to 1,033 litres, with a shallow false floor for a little extra security beneath. If you want more space, the rear seats fold completely flat and create 2,098 litres of capacity.

The verdict

The new Rogue now offers almost all a driver could want from a compact SUV: comfort, economy, practicality and safety. It’s worth the money compared to its competition. But if you’re not quite so demanding and want to save some cash, seek out the discounts on the 2020 Rogue while you still can.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up today.

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