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The Dodge Nitro is a compact SUV which concept was unveiled at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show. Since then and up to 2011, it was constructed at the plant in Toledo, Ohio. The SUV was mounted on the platform of the second-generation Jeep Liberty. The main differences lay in length (the Nitro was longer) and suspension type (it was created mostly for travelling on the road).
Among the Dodge Nitro’s rivals were the Chevrolet Equinox, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda CR-V, and some others. What distinguished it from them were truck-like features in its appearance among other things. The Nitro looked bold and intrepid. Apart from this, it was available in a number of vibrant colours, accommodated five passengers in its spacious cabin, and came at an affordable price.
Obviously, it wasn’t enough to achieve high sales the manufacturer counted on. There were some issues with the Dodge Nitro that tipped the scales against buying the vehicle. In particular, it wasn’t the best option according to fuel efficiency as well as driving performance.
Exterior design of the Dodge Nitro was arguably its strongest point. It could be painted in Inferno Red, Blackberry Pearl, or Detonator Yellow with the manufacturer’s well-known crosshair grille at the front together with fog lamps.
All the Dodge Nitro models ran on huge 20-inch aluminium wheels inside the aggressively sculptured wheel wells and featured chiselled creases and forms. The SUV also acquired privacy glass.
Although the Dodge Nitro trimmed the cabin with the materials of decent quality, you could find hard plastic elements here and there. They didn’t just look cheap but also hurt when accidentally hit. Furthermore, the interior design itself could hardly be called nice and exciting. It was rather dull, hackneyed, and obviously yielded to interiors of other vehicles from the segment.
Only the top-of-the-range Shock model had leather seats inside. They were dark grey but could be offered with contrasting stitching that freshened them up. The base Heat and medium Detonator models provided seats covered with cloth of the same colour (contrasting accent could be ordered only with the Nitro Detonator).
A person behind the wheel of the Dodge Nitro enjoyed a comfortable position in a six-way adjustable seat that together with the front passenger’s one was heated. They also were afforded an impeccable view of the road partly due to an upright sitting position. As for the rear view, it was hindered by the windshield of a modest size and thick roof pillars.
Both rows of seats provided plenty of head and leg room for five people, so that the Dodge Nitro (of the 2011 model year in particular) couldn’t be called cramped. The rear seats were easy to access due to their special position (they situated rather low). However, it contradicted their supportiveness.
There were 32.1 cu ft of cargo space behind the rear seats. If you needed more, you could fold them down to get 75.6 cu ft of storage space. To transport really long items, the front-passenger seat could also be folded flat. However, there weren’t enough compartments for keeping knick-knacks across the cabin excluding the glovebox and centre console.
The Dodge Nitro exploited the Load ‘n Go system. It allowed the cargo floor to slide out over the bumper by 18 inches for easier loading and unloading. The protrusion could hold about 400 lb. There also was space for storing cables, laptops, and the like (the compartment was four inches deep).
Powertrain and Fuel Efficiency
As you have already understood, the Dodge Nitro came in three trim levels: the Heat, Detonator, and Shock. The base model, unlike all the rest, was powered by a 3.7-litre V6 engine that was capable of producing 210 hp and 235 lb/ft of torque and was mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. The Nitro Detonator and Shock had a 4.0-litre V6 motor under the bonnet. It generated 260 hp and 265 lb/ft of torque and was teamed up with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The 2011 Dodge Nitro used rear-wheel drive as a standard feature while all-wheel drive was also available. Each drivetrain came with both layouts. The 3.7-litre engine with RWD was estimated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg hwy. When it came with AWD, the figures were 15 mpg city and 21 mpg hwy. The Dodge Nitro with a 4.0-litre motor returned 16 mpg city and 21 mpg hwy with both all- and rear-wheel drives.
The Dodge Nitro proved that if a vehicle is AWD, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll demonstrate excellent off-road capabilities. The SUV in question was created exclusively for on-road driving.
One of the Dodge Nitro’s advantages was an abundance of useful equipment meant to make the ride more cheerful, comfortable, and practical.
The Dodge Nitro Heat came with power mirrors, locks, and windows and rear windshield wiper and defroster as well as heated side mirrors, tilt steering column, and keyless entry. An AM/FM/CD stereo system, temporary subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio, nine-speaker Infinity Premium Sound System with a subwoofer (on all the trims), Bluetooth connectivity, and an auxiliary port were also available.
The Detonator and Shock levels provided a 6.5-inch touchscreen, voice-activated Uconnect system, 30 GB hard drive, Bluetooth streaming audio, Garmin GPS, and audio controls mounted on the steering wheel while the range-topping Nitro Shock also offered leather heated seats at the front and power sunroof.
Also, a number of packages were available.
The NHTSA didn’t test the 2011 Dodge Nitro. However, it’s possible to judge efficiency of its safety system by the 2010 model. In government crash tests, it received five of five stars for front and side-impact protection of passengers front and back. Unfortunately, it appeared weaker in rollover tests earning just three stars.
The 2011 Dodge Nitro provided multistage front airbags and side curtain airbags, ABS with traction and stability controls, and tyre pressure monitoring system.
As long as rearward visibility was rather poor, drivers of the Dodge Nitro had to make an effort to park the SUV. Fortunately, the ParkSense parking assistant, standard on the Detonator and Shock models but optional on the Heat, made it much easier. It notifies a driver with visual and audio signals if something is detected at the distance of less than 59 inches from the vehicle’s rear end when reversing.
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