The 2021 Nissan Rogue dethroned the two-time champion Volkswagen Tiguan in our test to find the best compact SUV, and it came from the back of the pack to do so. Redesigned for 2021, the Nissan Rogue passed models like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson to take the lead versus our 2019 test where the Rogue finished behind those four and two others. The Rogue’s redesign is clearly a successful one, and in addition to improving where it failed before, the Rogue capitalized on others whose redesigns and updates were more controversial.
Three judges scored 17 categories to find the best compact SUV in a variety of driving, comfort, value, safety and cargo tests that totaled a maximum possible 540 points. The Rogue took top marks in four categories, including rear seat comfort and features, vehicle user interface (how users interact with the vehicle’s controls), multimedia (media feature offerings) and in-cabin storage — and scored well in many others.
Our test vehicle, the top Rogue Platinum trim level, had a very family-friendly backseat. The Rogue’s rear automatic climate control — instead of passive vents — was one of two in the test with the feature, and it was the only one in the test with sunshades built into its rear doors, a coveted convenience feature if you’re carrying children. These features, in addition to the backseat’s roominess, sealed the deal in this category.
In addition to offering unique features, the Rogue nailed the important user interface category, which covers how easy it is to use the climate controls, multimedia system, steering wheel controls, gear selector, and other vehicle controls and settings. Basically, if you hear “You just have to get used to it” when describing how to use a car, run away. Others in the test, including the Tiguan and Tucson, tried to fix something that wasn’t broken with touch-sensitive controls that replace traditional buttons and dials. The Rogue doesn’t take any “getting used to” with its intuitive and easy-to-use control systems, both in its physical controls with a volume and tuning knob and conventional climate control buttons, as well as how easy it is to navigate the onscreen menus.
The Rogue’s multimedia system also took top marks for including a variety of features, such as wireless Apple CarPlay (but only wired Android Auto) and USB integration that provides both USB Type A and Type C ports, meaning no adapters required: The Rogue handles both popular types of USB plugs. It can also handle a lot of gear considering its cavernous in-cabin storage. Where it received higher marks than the similar Mitsubishi Outlander — one of the many areas, in fact, between these two SUVs that share componentry — is the Rogue’s large center console storage underneath the gear selector that gives enough room for a large purse or bag.
The Rogue tied for first place in the powertrain category along with the Tucson, and had a four-way, first-place tie in driver-assistance technology with the Tucson, Outlander and Forester. Its luxury-like interior quality is also of note, finishing just a point behind the best in the test Forester. Many of these wins and near-wins are where the Rogue improved with its redesign, because in our 2019 comparison we scored the Rogue last in interior quality, in-cabin storage and powertrain.
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The Rogue was the only SUV that didn’t finish last in any category, which is one way to win one of our Challenges: Don’t do anything stupid! And while a win is a win, the Rogue took the top spot over the Tucson by only 4 points (387 to 383 points) out of 540, so the overall theme of this test is that all of these compact SUVs are pretty dang good. The spread from last to first was one of the smallest we’ve observed in our years of multi-car comparison tests.
The Rogue did the least well in our cargo testing that measures overall space as well as supporting features, where it was just above the last-place Subaru Forester. The Rogue lost points for not having a sliding backseat, and its overall cargo volume was mid-pack. It also had a poor showing in ride quality where judges observed a stiff ride and harsh impacts over rough roads, though these traits have never been enough to put off the top sellers in the class including the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
In the end, though, the Rogue simply doesn’t do anything controversial to tank any of its scores, which can’t be said for all contenders in this highly competitive class of SUVs. To read more about this comparison, including impressions from the judges on each of the above categories, see the full results of our Compact SUV Challenge.
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