2008 Dodge Nitro SXT CRD Road Test
Model tested: Dodge Nitro SXT CRD
Recommended Retail Price: $43,490.
Options fitted: None.
Brute styling, sound system, features
Handling, too much plastic
CarAdvice rating: (3.75)
- Photographs and review by Paul Maric
Upon first glance it could be mistaken for a piece of military equipment capable of running over small houses. On second glance though, rubber tyres and a chrome grille slot it into the category of SUV.
There is literally a large step to get to the driver’s seat, where a commanding position is then taken. The bonnet seems like it goes on forever, making the front corners of the bonnet easy to see. The driver’s seat is comfortable and offers a relaxing position for long drives.
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