2010 Dodge Nitro

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Review: 2007 Dodge Nitro

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2011.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 6.5
Pros:
  • Good R/T engine power
  • Memorable looks and name
  • Some fun, unusual features
Cons:
  • Problem visibility areas
  • Choppy ride
  • Drivers behind you will hate this vehicle

So many new, 5-passenger, 5-door sport-utility-looking vehicles are on the market that auto companies have to go all out to differentiate their products.

Perhaps no one goes farther than Dodge, though.

From its memorable name to its provocative styling and early, oddball television commercials, the new-for-2007 Dodge Nitro SUV stands out.

Built on a modified version of the Jeep Liberty platform, the Nitro is a compact to midsize SUV with V6 power, five-out-of-five-star government safety rating and some unusual features.

For example, buyers can get a Nitro fitted with splashy, chrome-finished, 20-inch wheels direct from the factory. Electric Blue Pearl Coat and Sunburst Orange Pearl Coat are among the eye-popping paint colors. Techies can add a 20-gigabyte hard drive in the Nitro dashboard to store favorite videos, pictures, music and get navigation and on-board information.

And my personal favorite is the offering of YES Essentials seat fabric that repels stains and odors and even reduces static electricity.

Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price was just over $19,000 at introduction. This was for a base, 2007 Nitro SXT with two-wheel drive and manual transmission.

With 4-speed automatic transmission, the base, two-wheel-drive Nitro SXT had a starting retail price of just over $20,000, and a Nitro with all-wheel drive started around $21,000.

No big news on fuel mileage
Fuel economy isn't a highlight in the Nitro.

The best government rating for this model was 18 miles a gallon in city driving and 24 mpg on the highway for a 2007 two-wheel-drive model with base, 210-horsepower V6.

This was pretty much on par with many other V6-powered SUVs in the 2007 model year.

A guy's SUV
Dodge officials make no apologies for developing the Nitro for a primarily male clientele with median age of 35.

Of course, they won't mind selling the Nitro to women, too. But more than half the buyers are expected to be men because of the vehicle's "masculine appeal in looks and performance," a Dodge official told me.

One look and you'll agree the Nitro doesn't look feminine at all. It's aggressive in its styling, and the overdone front bumper on the Nitro, the vehicle's boxy shape and seemingly squished-down side window areas convey a concept-car-meets-real-size-toy appearance.

The Nitro is more than styling, though.

With optional trailer towing equipment, it can pull up to 5,000 pounds of camper, trailer or boat.

The Nitro is sold in three trim levels—SXT, SLT and R/T—and all can be fitted with four-wheel drive for off-roading.

This SUV sits up well above the road, too, for decent clearance over rocks and dirt ruts.

And the test Nitro R/T, with up-level, 260-horsepower 4.0-liter V6 with 265 lb-ft of torque felt more than just peppy as it moved with ease on highways, country roads and in city traffic.

This engine has a better, more powerful sound, too, than the base 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6.

And it's more competitive with other "guy SUVs," like the 261-horsepower V6 in the Nissan Xterra and 242-horsepower five cylinder in the Hummer H3.

Not friendly to other drivers
I did feel some pity for drivers behind me, because the Nitro's blockish dimensions leave them with little to look at but the back of this SUV.

Indeed, I noticed several worked hard to pass me as soon as they could.

Nifty features
The interior of the Nitro is straightforward, with a steering wheel and gauges that are reminiscent of those in other Chrysler Corp. vehicles.

At 5 feet 4, I had to climb up a bit to get inside.

And the supportive, substantial front seats in the Nitro impressed. Both had seat cushions extending to the backs of my knees—an unusually generous length in a vehicle that starts under $20,000.

The Nitro offers a front seatback that can fold forward fully flat to function as a desk-like area.

Be sure to see the Nitro's Load 'N Go sliding cargo floor.

Standard in the Nitro SLT and R/T, it provides easier access to cargo because this floor can be pulled out 18 inches to extend over the rear bumper. Capacity of this movable floor is 400 pounds.

About the ride …
There was noticeable wind noise in the Nitro R/T. It came from around the windshield pillars and outside mirrors once I got near highway speeds.

The ride can be a bit harsh at times.

On concrete highways with some roadway expansion cracks, my passengers and I bobbed up and down because of the Nitro's short, 108.8 wheelbase and the stiff feel of the suspension.

On road dips and some rough pavement, Nitro passengers even felt a substantial "hit" as the vehicle bounded up and down sharply.

Auto engineers sometimes talk about "head toss" in SUVs, referring to the sensation that body motions are transmitted to passengers.

There was definite head toss in the Nitro, even on slight highway curves, though the vehicle held its line.

Indeed, the Nitro's standard electronic roll mitigation never kicked in during my drive. This system applies brakes and backs off on engine power automatically if a rollover situation is detected.

Head curtain airbags are another noteworthy standard safety item.

Still, I wished the Nitro had a rear park assist system available. It was difficult seeing what was behind the Nitro as I backed up.

And drivers need to be careful when making turns in the Nitro. The sizable metal pillars at the sides of the windshield, plus the large outside mirrors, can obscure views of pedestrians and even cars at intersections.

Final note
Dodge hasn't done well in recent J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Studies.

In fact, Dodge has been consistently below average in the rankings since at least 2002 including J.D. Power's Vehicle 2002 Dependability Study, which measures owner problems over the first few years.

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BB02 - 4/17/2014 5:18:23 PM