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I recently test drove the all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue, and I completely loved it. It’s attractive, quiet, nimble and connected. But a funny thing happened when I started posting photos and videos to social media. I got a deluge of comments that were some variation of this: Nice SUV, too bad it has the Nissan CVT.

I’m not a fan of a “continuously variable transmission” in any vehicle, so frankly, I hadn’t given Nissan’s version any particular thought. But somewhere around the 100th comment (not exaggerating), I figured this might be something worth digging into.

So, what’s the deal? Is the Nissan CVT really that horrible?

A little background

First, if you aren’t familiar with the term, a CVT is a single-speed or stepless transmission that uses a pulley system to change gear ratios. There are tons (and tons) of videos and animations that demonstration how it operates, and if you want to see it action, you can simply consult the google, but I thought this one did a fairly good job of showing how a CVT operates without going too far into the weeds.

The Nissan CVT, called Xtronic, is currently in its third generation, which debuted in 2011. However, this CVT itself has been around a bit longer than that. According to Nissan’s consumer site, it debuted globally in 1992, but it didn’t make its first U.S. appearance until the 2003 Murano. Since then, it’s been used prolifically throughout the lineup, appearing in Altima, Maxima, Kicks, Rogue, Rogue Sport, Murano, Versa and Sentra. It was also used in the previous-generation Pathfinder – so 2021 and before – as well as the discontinued Juke and Versa Note.

Maybe the better question is: Which vehicles don’t have it? That would be Armada, Pathfinder (2022 and later), Frontier and Titan.

In an FAQ at the bottom of its CVT primer, Nissan stops short of calling the CVT reliable, but it does say it has fewer moving parts, which reduce friction and heat. Thus, it “may” last longer than a traditional transmission.

Where there’s smoke

However, as the sheer volume of comments on my social posts suggest, the Nissan CVT has an incredibly bad reputation.

So, is it justified? Well, kind of.

Looking at sites like CarComplaints.com and ConsumerReports.org, you can see that the Nissan vehicles equipped with older CVTs are plagued with owners complaining of rough shifts, chattering noises, slipping and bucking – among other complaints. In fact, some of those vehicles, such as the 2013-2014 Altima, get a special badge on CarComplaints.com: “Avoid like the plague.”

And then there are the lawsuits.

It looks like the bulk of the lawsuits center around 2013-2014 models, with the primary complaints coming from Altima, Pathfinder and Rogue. But there are slew of other lawsuits covering pretty much every vehicle that has been equipped with Nissan’s CVT. CarComplaints.com gives a fairly comprehensive list on its most recent article regarding a new lawsuit filed on March 26, 2021, which covers 2014-2016 Rogues and 2015-2016 Pathfinders. When we did a quick search for lawsuits pertaining to the Nissan CVT, the newest model year engaged in litigation is the 2018 model year. Part of that could be the continuous improvements Nissan is making to the CVT. Then, it could also be due to the fact that 2019 and newer models are likely still covered by the 5-year/60K-mile warranty.

The future starts now

In terms of the operation of the Nissan CVT in newer vehicles, I haven’t experienced any of the rough shifts and chattering noises, and frankly, I was pretty impressed with its implementation in the new Rogue.

Nissan did try to allay some of the worries early on by extending the warranty to 10 years/120-miles on the CVT in 2003-2010 model years. But, obviously, it’s 2021, so that’s no longer valid.

At this point, it’s kind of a wait-and-see game.

Nissan has been climbing in the overall reliability of its vehicles, according to the JD Power Vehicle Dependability Studies we’ve looked at, but they still typically fall below the industry average. However, our view: Continuous improvement is, well, continuous. Because these studies look at vehicles that are 3- years old, I’ll be super curious to see the results in 2024 because 2021 is a big year for Nissan with its new and refreshed vehicles.

So, again, wait-and-see.

We did out to Nissan to see if they had any insight on the current CVT and any concerns potential buyers might have, and we received the following statement in reply:

“Nissan makes continuous quality improvements in CVT design and production and we are confident in our CVT technology. The all-new Sentra and all-new Rogue are equipped with the latest generation Xtronic transmission that provides good fuel efficiency, a responsive acceleration feel and a strong drive experience.

“We encourage Nissan customers who have any questions or concerns with their vehicle to visit an authorized Nissan dealer or call Nissan Consumer Affairs at 800-647-7261.”

This makes me think the wait-and-see will turn out on the positive side, and I can personally vouch for the “responsive acceleration” and “strong drive experience” portion of the statement.

The bottom line on the Nissan CVT

Concerns about the reliability of the CVT aren’t a reason to avoid buying a new Nissan vehicle with the next-gen Xtronic CVT, IMHO. However, I will point out that CarComplaints.com does say the cost to repair the transmission, once it’s out of warranty, is going to be around $3,370, which is a tough nut to swallow.

But I’ve never been a fan of making life decisions based on fear and what ifs. If you like the car, buy it.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is a syndicated automotive writer. Jill also manages the “Drive, She Said” blog for ChicagoNow and posts reviews to DriveChicago. She is the president emeritus of the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. She also serves as a judge for the Automotive Heritage Foundation Journalism Awards. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, the Chicago Sun-Times News Group and Pioneer Press Newspapers.

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6 Comments

  1. Ted Stewart62341@gmail.com November 3, 2021

    I have a Nissan 2013 sentra.i recently started having trouble with The transmission.at 128.000 miles and recently had fluid flushed and was shown metal shavings on the cover plate and was told I would probably lose the transmission sooner or later.i live on a fixed income and do not have the money to replace it.car has 130.000 miles on it I bought it new.lucky me.

    Reply
  2. Michael Russo November 25, 2021

    I am a car dealer and the CVT is pure JUNK! I assume every Nissan that I see has a bad transmission. . If it doesnt it will. I promise you! They continue to make this terrible design. Buy something else as you will be much better off.

    Reply
  3. Mamdouh November 29, 2021

    The below email have been sent to Nissan costumer compliant middle east on July 2020 and up to date now official reply to my email…

    Dear Nissan Team,

    On 23rd September 2013, I purchased a motor vehicle (Juke, Model 2013, VIN: JN1BF5MEXDT150277) from Nissan dealership in Kuwait ABDULMOHSEN ABDULAZIZ AL BABTAIN. From day one, I did all the regular maintenance as per Nissan Service Center schedule. The vehicle is under Warranty for 5 years inclusive of Engine, CVT & Electricity parts.
    During the warranty period I complained about the vehicle CVT as the vehicle shakes while it’s starting to move and weak while climbing bridges or elevated roads. As usual the service center finding was that the issue has been resolved. I therefore request you to investigate the Nissan Service Center action about that complaint.

    On 20th April 2019, the engine warning sign appeared. So I visited Nissan Service Center to report and then they requested me to leave the vehicle for inspection. After three days, I was informed about their findings; that is, the CVT has to be changed due to “found metal particle inside CVT” as per Inv. Dated 23 Apr 2019, as attached. Surprisingly, the estimated amount given to us is KD/=2,447.650 which is more than the present market value of a good running condition car at that time which is of KD/=1,700.000.

    In my desire to find more about Juke “CVT issue” I explore and found out that in U.S.A. Nissan has extended the warranty to ten (10) years due to the same problem. I am providing you the below link for your reference. Having said that I believe my warranty period should also be extended to ten (10) years.

    https://nissanassist.com

    My Comments:

    · The vehicle runs only 61556 KM on the date it was reported to Nissan service center.

    · All the needed services & spare parts were done by Nissan Service Center as scheduled.

    · I believe if service center checked the CVT when I complained during warranty period the same way they did after the warranty expired there is no doubt they will discover the CVT problem.

    Your reply is much appreciated,

    Mamdouh Farrag

    Reply
  4. Mamdouh November 29, 2021

    Sorry, I have to correct my email.
    I believe that Nissan is not looking after their customers after sale, specially the middle east customers

    Reply
  5. Al Al Sanchez January 9, 2022

    Cvt by Nissan pure unadultared garbage

    Reply
  6. Joey January 23, 2022

    You may want to edit your article. The Nissan LEAF is also CVT-free.

    Reply

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