2022 Nissan Rogue First Drive | New turbo engine is better late than never

Usually when an all-new model launches, it'll be a few years before it sees any new updates. After all, if you just changed everything, why would you mess with it even more right away? But sometimes the development of cars and their engines do not align, which is why last year's otherwise all-new Rogue debuted with only a mildly updated version of the last-gen engine. It's also why the 2022 Nissan Rogue, which otherwise carries over unchanged, welcomes an all-new standard engine under its hood. And yes, standard engine, not another option. The good news is, it's a good engine, and makes the Rogue even better than before.

So what is this new engine? Instead of the outgoing naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder, the 2022 Rogue gets a turbocharged, variable-compression 1.5-liter three-cylinder. It has the same adjusting compression ratio system that's been used on the turbo four-cylinder introduced in the Infiniti QX50 and offered in the Nissan Altima. In fact, it's basically that engine, but with one fewer cylinder. It also gets some detail upgrades such as roller-bearing camshafts and textured valve lifters for reduced friction in the engine (the textured surface holds more oil), plus an updated CVT with lower and higher ratios, and various friction improvements.

2022 Nissan Rogue
2022 Nissan Rogue

The result of all these changes is a more powerful and efficient SUV. The new model makes 20 more horsepower at 201, and 44 more pound-feet of torque at 225 – profound upgrades that take the Rogue from one of the weaker entries in its segment to one of the strongest. Fuel economy will improve, too. Final numbers aren't in, but Nissan is estimating 33 mpg combined versus the current model's best of 30 mpg. It's a win-win.


And the good news is that the improvements are noticeable behind the wheel, not just on paper. One of the big surprises is that the engine actually sounds smoother than the four-cylinder from which it's derived. Power delivery is mighty smooth, too. The turbo spools up fast and gives you easy-to-use down-low torque. As such, it'll zip from light to light confidently, and with low revs for a quiet experience.

Like many other small turbo engines, the tradeoff is that the Rogue's three-cylinder feels like it falls flat when it revs out. When heading up an on-ramp, it takes off strong, but loses some steam toward the top after you've passed the huge lump of early torque. It's ironic considering peak power does come close to the 6,000-rpm redline. When pushing the engine hard, it gets a little buzzy, but no rougher.

As for the CVT, it's still not particularly impressive, but does the job fine. It's programmed to act like a conventional automatic transmission, and ratio changes are silky. It doesn't react quickly, though, such as when you ask for a kick-down for passing or hitting an onramp.

2022 Nissan Rogue
2022 Nissan Rogue

The rest of the 2022 Nissan Rogue is unchanged, since again, it was completely new last year. You can get more detail on the interior, ride and handling in our full Rogue review. But to sum up, the Rogue has a vastly improved interior that's very upscale on higher trims. It's smaller on the outside, but larger on the inside, and it has very comfortable seats. It's not particularly fun to drive, but it's a vast dynamic improvement over its depressing predecessor and also comfortable enough to cruise in.

Another perk of the 2022 Rogue is that the price barely increases over last year. Base price for the Rogue S with front-wheel drive is $27,875, an increase of $650. Add all-wheel drive, and the base price is $29,375. That's $750 more than the outgoing one.

So after vastly improving the Nissan Rogue with the redesign last year, Nissan has made it better yet for its second year on the market. We're not quite ready to call it a segment leader, but it's definitely worth your consideration for its spunky engine, impressive fuel economy and stylish cabin.

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