Smaller, yet larger. Here’s a magic trick: the 2021 Nissan Rogue is smaller than the previous generation, but it’s roomier inside. Nissan’s compact crossover is lower and 1.5 inches shorter, but it gains more than 4.1 cubic feet of space.

That brings total cargo capacity up to 74.1 cubic, with 39.3 behind the seats. That’s good for the class, better than titans like the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.

The Rogue makes clever use of its space, too. The floor of the trunk has an extra 3 inches of storage space underneath, and the panels can be arranged into tiers and dividers in various configurations. Up front, a deep center console has multiple levels, which helps keep belongings close to hand.

Interior materials are generally good quality. We don’t love the gear selector or the seats on the base S trim, but otherwise it’s hard to fault the Rogue from the inside.

Improved ride, unimproved acceleration. Another improvement to the Rogue comes in the chassis. This year’s car uses an entirely new platform, one it'll likely share with the next versions of the Nissan Altima and Nissan Pathfinder.

The change pays off. The cabin is quieter, and the ride is more refined. The Rogue is no sports car, but it handles with reasonable confidence, and the independent rear suspension does a good job soaking up bumps.

What’s under the hood hasn’t changed much, and we’re less enthusiastic about it. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine now makes 181 horsepower, which is still less than most competitors. The motor is shared with the Altima sedan, but the Rogue has a few hundred pounds of extra bulk.

This year’s continuously variable transmission is better than the last, but it’s not enough to hide the Rogue’s sluggish acceleration. It’s fine for bumbling around town, but don’t expect to beat anyone off the line.

Nissan Rogue

Superlative safety. Nissan has quietly become an industry leader in the safety department. The Rogue gets one of the most comprehensive safety suites on the road: blind-spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, front and rear automatic emergency braking … you name it, the Rogue probably has it.

The only feature that remains optional is adaptive cruise control, but it’s standard on all but the base trim. Nissan’s system is fairly sophisticated, and it’s capable of stopping for up to 30 seconds in traffic without driver intervention.

The rest of the Rogue’s tech isn’t bad, either. Every model gets an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, including smartphone compatibility. Move up the trim ladder, and you’re rewarded with a larger touchscreen, a head-up display, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Our favorite trim is the midrange SV, but most Rogues get a good kit for a mainstream crossover.

Trying to stand out. The Rogue is Nissan’s best seller, and compact crossovers are one of the hottest segments on the market. That’s all well and good, but it means that the Rogue’s competition includes favorites like the RAV4, CR-V, and Mazda CX-5.

Nissan has clearly made an effort to set the Rogue apart, starting with the exterior. The Rogue’s blacked-out pillars and extended chrome brow are a nod to floating roofs, and the sculpted lines are distinctive without being too distracting. We’re less sold on the new tiered headlights, which remind us of the polarizing Nissan Juke.

But there’s one area where the Rogue can’t keep up with the times, and it’s fuel economy. The RAV4, CR-V, and Ford Escape all offer hybrid powertrains that are astonishingly thrifty. At up to an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon combined, the Rogue isn’t terrible, but it’s no longer exceptional.

Final thoughts. The 2021 Nissan Rogue is a respectable addition to the ever-growing ranks of compact crossovers. We’re especially impressed with Nissan’s clever packaging, which makes the most of the available space.

The Rogue could benefit from a stronger powertrain (especially a hybrid), and its styling may not be for everyone, but it’s worth a look for many buyers.

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