2010 Dodge Nitro

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Review: 2007 Dodge Nitro

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Nicely sized new SUV with good utility and typical aggressive Dodge styling.
Pros:
  • Bulldog look
  • Roomy
  • Comfortable
Cons:
  • Average highway performance with smaller V6
  • So-so fuel economy
  • High step-in

Some might call the tough-looking new Dodge Nitro a crossover vehicle because of such things as its car-like feel and trim exterior dimensions, but it's a pure SUV based on the softer-looking Jeep Liberty.

Generally, most guys might tend to get a Nitro, while the majority of gals might go for the Liberty.

Dodge dealers probably threw a party when the Nitro was introduced because it finally gives them a midsize SUV that is smaller and more fuel-thrifty than the Dodge Durango SUV.

Not a Fuel Champ
Not that the Nitro is all that fuel-thrifty in these fuel-conscious times, considering it has rather small exterior dimensions for a midsize SUV. That's partly why it has no third-row seat, although its tidy dimensions allow easy maneuvering in traffic and tight quarters.

Estimated Nitro fuel economy varies with its engine and drive setup and ranges from 17-18 mpg in the city to 21-24 mpg on the highway. The Nitro weighs approximately 4,000 pounds, so sparkling fuel economy shouldn't be expected.

The Nitro's squared-off styling provides good room for four tall adults, or five in a pinch, besides a large cargo area.

Nitro list prices range from $19,225 to $26,970. The entry version is the SXT, which comes with rear-wheel drive or part- or full-time 4-wheel drive. The midrange SLT has rear-wheel drive and also part- or full-time all-wheel drive. The top-line R/T has the same drive setups as the SXT and SLT.

Two Engines
The Nitro is sold with a 3.7-liter V6 with 210 horsepower or with a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 255 horsepower and considerably more torque. The 4.0-liter engine is standard for the R/T.

The 3.7 only needs 87-octane fuel. The 4.0-liter engine can use 87-octane, but Dodge recommends 89-octane gasoline for the best performance.

Various Transmissions
The two engines work with various transmissions. The SXT has a standard 6-speed manual gearbox or $825 4-speed automatic, which has a notchy shift gate. The SLT comes only with the 4-speed automatic, and the 4.0-liter V6 mates only with a more modern 5-speed automatic.

The Nitro can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the 4.0-liter V6 and a trailer tow package.

The SXT is fairly well-equipped, with front bucket seats, console, air conditioning, tilt wheel, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player, fold-flat front passenger seat and split-folding rear seat, rear wiper/washer and power windows, mirrors and door locks with remote keyless entry.

Controversial Cargo Tray
The SLT adds cruise control, power driver seat, power/heated foldaway outside mirrors, larger 17-inch (vs. 16-inch) alloy wheels, fog lights and a cargo tray that slides 18 inches rearward and can hold up to 400 pounds.

I'm no fan of that tray. For one thing, it raises the cargo floor height. For another, it doesn't affect general loading and unloading much, although it can be used as a temporary table. The tray is one of those items that helps sell a vehicle in a showroom but ends up seldom being used by most folks, who must put up with its disadvantages.

Line Star
The R/T, which starts at $25,310 with rear-wheel drive, is the star of the Nitro line. Along with its larger engine and superior automatic, it has a sport suspension and big 20-inch chrome alloy wheels, which wear wide 50-series tires.

Safety Items
Regarding safety features, all Nitros have traction control, anti-skid and roll-mitigation systems, tire-pressure indicator, anti-lock disc brakes and side-curtain airbags.

Among the many options are an $850 power sunroof, $730 leather upholstery (with heated front seats) for the R/T, $1,250 DVD entertainment system and $195 satellite radio.

The $395 running boards are a good idea because the Nitro floor is rather high and thus calls for extra effort to get in.

The 3.7 V6 provides lively in-town acceleration, but ho-hum 65-75 mph passing times. The 4.0-liter engine provides stronger highway performance.

Decent Handling
The Nitro wouldn't be much fun on a race track, but has almost car-like handling on roads. It also has a comfortable ride—although the ride of the SXT and SLT occasionally gets rather bouncy. The nicely weighted steering is accurate, and the brakes work fine, with decent pedal feel.

Outside door handles have pushbutton operation, which some will like and others will find bothersome. (Put me in the latter camp.) Inside door handles are more stylish than practical.

Front cupholders are nicely placed in the console, but rear cupholders are put near the floor behind the front seats; they thus require an awkward reach, especially for passengers with shorter arms.

High Seating
No matter what their height, occupants sit high in the quiet interior. Front seats provide good side support in curves. Gauges can be easily read, and the climate system has large controls. The audio system has a mixture of small and large controls.

The small storage area atop the dashboard can be handy for holding tollway change and such, but has no cover to prevent objects in it from falling out during sudden stops. The glove compartment is small, but the center console bin is deep.

Large Cargo Area
Rear seatbacks can be flipped forward to sit flat and enlarge the generous cargo area, which has a tall, wide opening. And that flip-forward front passenger seatback allows tall extra-objects to be carried.

The Nitro should be a success, with its standout appearance, general performance and versatility. Despite the rush to crossover vehicles, it shows that midsize SUVs can be appealing.

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BB01 - 7/30/2014 12:26:20 AM