Best of luck to you and your future car purchases!Well with just over 6 months of ownership the Nitro has gone.
Despite it being exactly what I was looking and having spent out some money doing a few cosmetic things, due to certain problems * and a change of circumstances its been sold on (part-exchanged).
Just wanted to say thanks for the welcome here and the advice given.
All the best.
* Intermittent front calliper seizing; indicators intermittently working and intermittently get stuck in gear (not shifting)
Model: Dodge Nitro SXT 2.8L CRD
Price as tested: $43,490
Crash rating: not given
Claimed fuel economy: (lt/100km): 9.4
CO2 emissions: (g/km): 250
Overall Rating: 3.5/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 2.5/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0
About our ratings
Standing still, the Nitro is about as subtle as a rhino in a tutu. Rolling, it has a dominating on-road presence that feeds the fires of 4x4 hatred. Indeed, it looks every inch the evil, environment-mashing, steam-rolling aggressor.
In fact, the machine is surprisingly benign but perennial 4x4-bashers and many prospective owners won't want to know that. The four-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel engine has an aggressive growl that perfectly matches the vehicle's gruff exterior, but in fact, it's enviro-friendly and relatively abstemious.
From its incendiarious name to its badge-laden rump, there's not much that's subtle about the first mid-sized Dodge SUV.
Visually, the Nitro looks like a Hummer wannabe, with unsubtle 'cross-hair' grille, squared edges, small tinted side-windows, hugely flared arches and (in SXT trim) chunky 20-inch wheels. This 'armoury' is expected to appeal to cashed-up younger buyers looking for a bling-heavy, lifestyle accessory statement and Chrysler's Australian executives expect this, the top-drawer CRD SXT model, to constitute a majority of sales.
The Nitro is built on the same platform as the new Jeep Cherokee in the Toledo, Ohio factory that has been home to the Jeep Wrangler since the 1940s. In petrol form the Nitro is supposed to compete with softroaders and lightweight SUVs like Honda's CR-V, the Suzuki Grand Vitara and obviously, its own Jeep stablemate. Over at the diesel pump, its closest rivals are the bigger Pajero, Prado and its Cherokee stablemate. In reality the Nitro looks, feels and steers like a much bigger vehicle.
Yet, although it's a shoe-size bigger on the outside, the Nitro isn't especially big on the inside -- the cabin feels smaller than the CR-V for example -- and in particular, the luggage area is miniscule by comparison.
A slide-out 'Load 'n Go' luggage-loading tray can hold 180kg, but in reality, it requires that items need to be lifted about 40mm higher, just to get onto this feature, which also steals height from the already restricted available floor-to-ceiling space. It makes much more sense if you think of it as a slide-out occasional sporting spectator's seat under the protection of the tailgate (180kg might only equal one American, but it makes space for two Australians).
From a practicality perspective, the slide-rails on our tester were already collecting bits of grass and gunge.
The 60/40 split rear seats do all fold flat to make a completely flat -- but high -- load area, which is a bonus, as is the 12v power-socket in the luggage area. Interestingly, the front seats fold flat too.
Sadly, the extendable luggage cover doesn't extend all the way to the rear seats, so cargo will be, in part at least, exposed to sunshine and prying eyes.
Inside, the back-seat passengers have generous leg space but the drivers' side foot-space is very cramped; this isn't only an unfortunate result of converting a left-hooker to right-hand drive, as the passenger's side is, if anything, worse.
There simply doesn't seem to be the space for three pedals, yet in overseas markets, there is a manual transmission option.
Worse still is the height discrepancy between the two pedals -- it's an unacceptably long lift of the right foot from the throttle to get on the brakes. (Note to prospective buyers: make correcting this dangerous aspect a condition of purchase).
In addition, the throttle pedal has probably the longest travel in a modern passenger vehicle -- using all the travel may require moving the driver's seat forward, but it does encourage very fine throttle control.
The rear seat passengers don't get any form of ventilation or air-con control -- a bit of an oversight.
However, generally the interior is a pretty cheerful place to be. The cabin's full of flat expanses and square corners, but the seats are comfy, controls are pretty much where you expect them to be and the interior's packed with features -- for example, the in-dash six-stacker CD-tuner 368 watt sound system carries a host of compatibility labels: MP3, WMA, RDS as well as DVD. (Ed: The screen you'll need to watch the pictures on comes part of the MyGig navigation package).
There are audio (and cruise control) buttons on the steering wheel and impressively, the parking sensors mute the radio so they can be heard.
Cabin storage is acceptable, but a long way behind the imaginative designs now coming from Japan and Korea; the Dodge has enough to get by, except that most American invention, the cupholder -- there are only four of them, for five seats.
On the safety front, there are front and side-curtain airbags, but more importantly, the Dodge has some impressive active safety aids like electronic stability control (ESP), traction control and emergency brake-assist.
Plus it's actually a fairly involving car to drive; unlike some trucks and many American offerings, the Nitro is actually fun to steer -- there's more than a hint of German DNA in the ride and handling dynamics. (Ed: we must agree to differ here, SK… Check out our not too glowing references to the Nitro here.)
On unmade roads it goes pretty much where you point it, with subtle tweaks to the various brakes by the ESP system to keep the vehicle on its preferred path. On the asphalt it makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's a big heavy vehicle carrying its mass up high -- so there's some body roll and a tendency towards understeer. Neither are likely to cause angst at the mall or on the mean streets downtown, however. And after all, that is where most Nitros will spend most of their time.
At a starting price of $43,490, the top drawer SXT -- in more expensive turbodiesel form -- is no bargain-basement cheapie, but it is packed to the gunwales with features -- some more useful than others. Standard specification includes heated leather seats, switchable reverse-parking sensors, tilt and slide sunroof, a compass, tyre pressure monitors and folding exterior mirrors.
The typical high SUV stance and the high window sills combine to give an unexpected, unwanted and detrimental effect -- in traffic, a head-check glance over the shoulder in either direction can fail to see the bonnet of a regular-sized sedan lurking in the Dodge's generous blind spots. Hence, lane-changing is best done with care.
To make matters worse, the side windows are heavily tinted, right off the showroom floor, lending a 'Mafia Staff-car' feel to the SXT.
Ironically, it's the bit which isn't American which rescues the Dodge from bad-joke status. The Mercedes-sourced four-cylinder 2.8-litre turbodiesel engine is a gem -- growley and torquey, if a little thirstier than we'd like at 10.8lt/100km.
It's matched to an equally jewel-like five-speed tiptronic auto gearbox which makes the most of the engine's low-revving grunt. Incidentally, Chrysler claims outputs of 130kW, 460Nm and a consumption of 9.4lt/100km.
During our week, we racked up exactly 400km of mixed assorted driving and the rudimentary trip computer assured us that the Nitro would go another 239 before dying of thirst.
An electrically engaged all-wheel drive mode simplistically splits power 50:50 front to rear and is for use only on wet or slippery surfaces. It's no Jeep-rival, but becomes remarkably competent on steep gnarly, gravel-strewn tracks.
In fact, even without engaging all-wheel drive, the Nitro acquitted itself well, thanks to its various electronic driver aids. It inched up our favourite steep dusty track in tinder-dry conditions, which is no mean feat -- most on-demand 4x4 softroaders only get up it with much histrionics and wheel-slip and many two-wheel drives fail abysmally.
Even with the magic knob twisted to 4x4, you got the feeling that the Nitro's limits would be found in a place that you'd either need to wade out of, or scramble away on hands and knees. No doubt it would eventually founder in places that real 4x4s would clear, but for the target audience, the Nitro's got more depth to its character than most drivers will ever explore.
However, mega-macho looks and hairy-chested engine aside, the Nitro does have a sensitive side -- in particular, the deep colour-coded plastic bumpers and 'shoulder-pad' fender flares look vulnerable and expensive. Ditto the fog-lights in the front bumper-bar.
Looking under the bonnet you realise that the windscreen washer bottle is at the very front of the vehicle and will be first at the scene of any bonnet-buckling collision. The engine sits high up in the chassis, but it's the black plastic bin-liner bags filled with padding, tucked inside each bolt-on front fender that made us do a double-take. There's not enough of it to be serious sound-deadening and it's apparently not attached to anything - just stuffed into the gap. Weird…
The Nitro's polarising looks will ensure that it doesn't become the Volkswagen Beetle of the noughties -- nor will its softroader status usurp the popularity of more competent off-roaders. However, the admiring glances directly the Nitro's way -- interestingly almost entirely from young women -- would suggest that it's likely to attract a small but significant following.
The interior – much like most American cars – is seemingly made entirely of plastic. I couldn’t believe the degree of plastics used in the Dodge Caliber I drove last year. Although the Nitro has a lot of plastic in use too, it’s not as bad as the Caliber, but on the same token, is not at a level I would call acceptable for a ~$40,000 car.
I test drove the Nitro SXT CRD, under the bonnet a Mercedes-Benz sourced diesel motor and gearbox powers the Nitro. Nail the throttle and after a short stint of turbo lag, a torrent of torque hits, propelling the military vehicle lookalike with pace. The diesel motor produces 130kW and a massive 460Nm of torque, sipping through just 9.4l/100km, not bad for such a big car. Power is sent through a 5-speed automatic gearbox.
Although the acceleration on tap is plenty, the Nitro doesn’t handle – at all. Throw the Nitro around a bit and a feeling of insecurity is instantly felt. Body roll, a lack of steering response and spongy brakes culminate to a less than pleasing driving experience. Although the body roll is acceptable for an SUV, it doesn’t make the Nitro a car that can be used in all situations, which is the purpose of an SUV.
In terms of 4WD equipment, the Nitro has a switchable 4WD mode which has the ability to redirect power from the rear wheels when it senses slippage. With the massive plastic overhangs both front and rear, I didn’t bother trying the Nitro in any off-road situations, due to the fear of breaking off bumper bars and the like.
The passenger cabin is well equipped. A big sound system with auxiliary input and MP3 compatibility, along with full electrics (windows and mirrors) headline the features list. Rear leg room is acceptable, but adults may find room width-wise somewhat limited. The window size is quite rectangular and small, some passengers complained of a sense of claustrophobia.
Priced from $36,990, the Nitro is available in both petrol and diesel models, the latter of which is more expensive. The range includes the SX and SXT. The SXT CRD being test driven is available from $43,490. Safety features include: ESP (Electronic Stability Control) with ABS; tyre pressure monitoring; driver and passenger airbags and side airbags with roll sensing technology.
Despite the masses of plastic in the cabin and the questionable handling, the Dodge Nitro is a decent addition to the SUV market. The boxy American styling is appealing to some and certainly gets the attention of most. The impressive fuel consumption places the diesel model as my pick of the Nitros, and if the styling is something that tickles your fancy, the Nitro is a good purchase option.
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2008 Dodge Nitro SXT CRD Specifications
Top speed: 182km/h
Safety: Electronic stability control- front air bags – side airbags – front seatbelt pre-tensioners and load limiters.
EuroNCAP rating: N/A
Turning circle: 11.1m
Fuel tank: 70 litres
Fuel consumption : 9.4-litres/100km
Fuel type: Diesel