2022 Nissan Rogue First Drive Review: Finally, More Power

The Rogue is no scoundrel in Nissan’s eyes. The Nissan Rogue compact SUV is the automaker’s bread and better, as honest and mainstream a vehicle as they come. Introduced in 2007, the Rogue is a best-seller, the mainstay that helps fund the lineup’s less popular models, making it an extremely upstanding citizen.

The improperly named SUV is a priority for the company, which is why the 2022 Nissan Rogue gets a new powertrain only a year after the all-new third-generation 2021 Nissan Rogue hit the market. Swapping the sole powertrain in the second model year is a response to customer feedback that asked for more competitive power, especially for passing other vehicles.

About the Engine

Indeed, the 181-hp 2.5-liter naturally aspirated I-4 in the outgoing 2021 model left many people eying the innovative VC Turbo under the hood of Nissan’s Altima. Nissan responded by replacing the Rogue’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a VC Turbo engine—but a new one with a smaller displacement. The Rogue now premieres the new 1.5-liter VC-Turbo, a variable-compression turbocharged three-cylinder engine that is standard for the 2022 Rogue.

You might recall Nissan introduced variable-compression turbo technology with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder VC Turbo that went into the 2019 Infiniti QX50 and then into the 2019 Nissan Altima. The Rogue is the first vehicle to get the new 1.5-liter VC Turbo, which will be built at Nissan’s plant in Decherd, Tennessee. These types of engines vary the compression ratio, making the combustion chamber larger or smaller to balance power and efficiency. The turbocharger is active at the high compression ratio and not at the low ratio and can also be anywhere in between the two extremes.

With no plans to electrify the third-generation Rogue—the Nissan Ariya electric crossover is roughly the same size—engineers concentrated on a more efficient gasoline engine with more power.

A Deeper Look

Nissan took the wraps off the 2022 Rogue on the eve of the L.A. Auto Show, and we hopped into a Platinum-trim model for a short drive ahead of the public unveiling. The Rogue comes in S, SV, SL, and Platinum, with premium packages offered for SL and SV. The top-end Platinum comes standard with all the bells and whistles.

The 2022 Rogue’s appearance is unchanged, so the upgrade is all about the new engine. Engineers insist the smaller VC Turbo is not the 2.0-liter with a cylinder chopped off, and Nissan says it improved this engine by upgrading its cooling efficiency and reducing friction thanks to new textured valve lifters. The engine also has a new high-pressure direct fuel-injection system and a variable oil pump.

The Rogue also introduces a third generation CVT with a wider “gear” spread to feel like actual gears were added at each end of the speed spectrum. The goal: better low-gear acceleration and better fuel economy at cruising speeds.

The tiny engine is in fact the most powerful the Rogue has ever had, improving horsepower by 11 percent and torque by 24 percent. Estimated fuel economy of 30/37/33 mpg city/highway/combined is an improvement of 3 mpg; EPA figures are not yet available.

Nissan says the Rogue’s 225 lb-ft of torque means it has the most standard torque of any vehicle in its class. The figure compares with the Honda CR-V at 190 lb-ft and the Toyota RAV4 at 203 lb-ft. The Rogue’s 201 hp falls between the 190-hp CR-V and 203-hp RAV4.

First Drive

The wider torque band helps the 2022 Nissan Rogue in everyday driving and is more than adequate for running errands and commuting. But this is still a small-displacement, three-cylinder engine, and it can feel overwhelmed when you ask too much of it. It can take some time to get up to speed, and the engine sounds a bit angry getting there. But it’s in keeping with the segment and is fine for normal driving, exhibiting no buzz or whine when you aren’t flogging it.

Shifts are also smoothest when driven in a civilized manner. And yes, there is more power to pass, but again, this is still a small-engine compact SUV, so allow a little patience and runway to complete your overtake.

Early criticism of the 2.0-liter VC Turbo said the transmission limited the engine’s performance, but Nissan engineers now think they have addressed the issues. The engine still feels like it has more to give than the CVT allows, but both feel like they are more in sync than before. Nissan may be trying to give us the wrong white wine with fish, but at least it isn’t pouring us a glass of red anymore. It’s worth noting that the steering and braking setups are unchanged from the 2021 model.

Same Interior

The 2022 Nissan Rogue keeps the upgraded interior that made its debut with last year’s model. The Zero Gravity seats are covered in quilted leather, a look spreading across the Nissan lineup and a welcome upgrade that makes the interior appear warmer and more premium. The look is enhanced further with lighting under the console, stitching on the instrument panel, and a two-tone dash that’s a nice break from miles of black plastic.

Drivers have a 12.3-inch configurable display, optional 10.8-inch head-up display, and an available 9.0-inch center display. Most of today’s must-have amenities are here, including Android Auto compatibility and available wireless Apple CarPlay as well as wireless phone charging, a Wi-Fi hotspot, and USB A and C ports.

Safety and Price

Nissan still claims the most safety tech in its class with its Safety Shield 360 bundling of technology to warn, brake, accelerate, and steer when necessary to avoid collisions. The jewel is the available ProPilot Assist, a driver assist system that is easy to engage and use. Last year’s Nissan Rogue earned a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS, and the 2022 model should retain the high rating.

The 2022 Nissan Rogue goes on sale early in 2022. Pricing starts at $27,875 for the front-drive S, $29,565 for the SV, $34,225 for the SL, and $37,665 for the Platinum. Add $1,500 for AWD. Nissan product planners had expected SL and Platinum to account for about 30 percent of total sales for the 2021 model, but instead 45 percent of customers choose the top trims. That fact appears to validate the cost and effort of updating the model, and if the only quibble was not enough power, buyers of the 2022 Nissan Rogue should be even more satisfied.

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