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2022 Nissan Rogue first drive review: Heart transplant

This small utility vehicle may have lost a cylinder and a liter of engine displacement for the new model year, but it gains so much more.

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The Rogue -- Nissan's best-selling vehicle -- was completely redesigned for 2021. But there's a big new update for 2022, and while it's mostly invisible, it's something you'll notice every time you drive.

The old 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine has been replaced by a standard 1.5-liter turbo-three. It may be significantly smaller than its predecessor, but this engine is mighty, delivering 201 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque, enough to make the 2022 model the most powerful Rogue ever. Not only that, this updated drivetrain is far more efficient, with its combined fuel-economy rating hitting an estimated 33 mpg. Not only is that 3 more than before, it's 3 more than some of the Rogue's main competitors, including the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape.

2022 Nissan Rogue: Exactly the same, but better

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Essentially a derivative of Nissan and Infiniti's lovely 2.0-liter variable-compression four-cylinder with one bore lopped off, this dynamo is loaded with fuel-saving technology, from its stepless variable-displacement oil pump and new high-pressure fuel-injection system to its camshafts that run on roller bearings and textured valve lifters that hold more lubricant to reduce friction. And yes, this odd-cylinder marvel can also vary its compression ratio between 8:1 and 14:1, just like its big brother, running more boost and a lower squeeze when power is needed and tightening things up to increase efficiency while cruising.

Off the line, this new three-cylinder is as eager as a Labrador puppy, almost feeling jumpy as you roll on the accelerator. This verve addresses a complaint with the outgoing powertrain, mostly that it was a bit on the soft side. The 2022 Rogue hits hard at lower speeds, though this fervor fades noticeably anywhere above 3,500 rpm. Still, the acceleration is comparable to any other SUV in its class, and around town, from stoplight to stoplight, this Nissan might outrun its rivals.  

Give it some exercise and this new 1.5-turbo sounds like one of Nissan's acclaimed VQ V6s, with a distinct warble to its exhaust note. Despite the odd number of cylinders, this new engine is extremely smooth, with none of the grittiness or chop some other three-bangers are known for. Larger hydraulic powertrain mounts and external balancing of the engine itself contribute to this unexpected smoothness. From refinement, performance and efficiency standpoints, this powerplant is a winner, but it's not the whole story.

2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD - engine
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2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD - engine

This is it, the Rogue's spicy new turbo-three.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Helping give the 2022 Rogue its impressive scoot is a new gearbox. Of course, Nissan didn't do anything radical -- it's still a continuously variable transmission. However, the ratio spread is 17% wider -- both lower on the bottom and higher up top -- for improved performance and economy. Beyond that, this third-gen CVT has a whopping 32% less internal friction, something that's enabled by a twin-pump hydraulic system and new control valves. Overall, this transmission is perfectly fine, making the most of the engine's output while saving fuel. If you have an irrational hatred of CVTs, you probably won't like it, but 98% of drivers won't notice a thing.

Unlike Nissan's 2.0-liter variable-compression engine, the drivetrain combination in the 2022 Rogue is more linear in its power delivery. There are far fewer lumps, surges and sags during acceleration, issues that are quite noticeable -- and annoying -- in vehicles that feature the 2.0-liter variant, like the Nissan Altima and Infiniti QX55.

Aside from these crucial powertrain updates, the rest of the Rogue remains basically unchanged from the overhauled 2021 model. A couple tiny tweaks were made to the trim levels and this SUV is graced with Nissan's updated logo, but that's it for alterations. This means you still get the same well-rounded interior as before, with plenty of passenger comfort and space. The cargo area remains one of the most versatile in the business and there's plenty of standard tech.

2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD - interior
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2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD - interior

It may not be a best-in-class cabin, but the 2022 Rogue's interior is still excellent. 

Nissan

The pinnacle Platinum trim offers loads of soft plastics and contrasting colors. For added pizzazz, the seats are embellished with a diamond-stitch pattern and perforations, though the electronic gear selector is still flimsy and cheap. This top-shelf model also includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a 9-inch center display that's home to a utilitarian-looking but speedy and easy-to-use infotainment system, and a wireless charging pad. ProPilot Assist, Nissan's ever-effective version of adaptive cruise control with lane centering is included, too, though you can get this feature in lower trim levels, which is great news.

In comparison, the base S model comes with full LED head- and taillamps, 17-inch alloy wheels and even an 8-inch infotainment display. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are included across the Rogue range, though in Platinum models, the latter smartphone-mirroring system can also connect wirelessly. Nissan Safety Shield 360, a suite of six advanced driver-assistance technologies is standard equipment, too. This includes things like blind-spot monitoring, automatic high beams, rear cross-traffic alert and more.

2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD - rear
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2022 Nissan Rogue Platinum AWD - rear

Aside from the updated Nissan logo, there are no changes at the back for 2022.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

What does all this crossover goodness cost? Well, not much more than 2021. The front-wheel-drive S model starts at $27,875 including $1,175 in destination fees. If you want four powered wheels, it's an extra $1,500. Grab a top-shelf Platinum version with all-wheel drive and you'll be spending just about 40 grand. These prices have barely changed from last year, with front-drive models increasing by just $650 and all-wheel-drive examples by $750.

With a new heart that delivers more performance and efficiency, in addition to its generous standard technology and comfortable interior, there's no reason this updated SUV won't continue to be Nissan's best-selling nameplate. Look for the 2022 Rogue at dealerships this winter, possibly in December if ongoing supply-chain issues don't derail the automaker's plans.