Dodge Nitro CRD SXT

If you’re going to name a car Nitro, you can hardly give it insipid styling.

  • Easy to drive around town, Load N' Go slide-out floor, adventurous, almost cartoon-like styling
  • Light steering feels vague, too much body roll on twisty roads, awkward handbrake location

If you’re going to name a car Nitro, you can hardly give it insipid styling. And nobody can accuse Dodge’s designers of doing that – the newcomer looks like a great big toy truck. It’s not the most sophisticated or subtle-looking SUV, but it certainly has presence. The high waistline and narrow glass area, coupled with massive, standard-fit 20-inch alloy wheels, give it an almost cartoon-like look.

Under the bonnet, the 2.8-litre diesel is smooth enough at idle, but it’s not terribly refined on the move. Performance is reasonably strong, and with 460Nm of torque – 57Nm more than the Nissan – the Nitro isn’t short of pulling power. The five-speed automatic gearbox gives reasonably smooth changes, and the Dodge covers the 0-60mph sprint in 10.4 seconds, two seconds faster than the Pathfinder. That’s largely down to the fact it has more torque and weighs 100kg less than the Nissan. This helps the Nitro stop faster, too, while the brake pedal also has a better feel.

Sadly, the Dodge’s handling is a letdown, and its ride is more uncomfortable than its rival’s. The American car seems to make no attempt at smooth out bumps, crashing into them instead. At speed, the steering feels disconcertingly light and vague either side of the dead-ahead position, yet at parking speeds the wheel becomes quite heavy. There’s also a fair degree of body roll to contend with in corners. All this fails to inspire confidence, and the car never seems comfortable on UK roads.

And while it looks solid and expensive from the outside, the same can’t be said of the interior. The plastics used are cheap and brittle, build quality is average and as with the exterior, square lines dominate. The Dodge’s dash is exceptionally shallow for a modern SUV, giving the Nitro an old-fashioned feel inside. All of the controls are logically laid out, although the switches that operate items such as the stability control and heated seats are mounted low down.

And you certainly won’t miss the pistol-grip handbrake lever, as it has to be one of the largest we have ever encountered. You sit rather high in the Dodge. The large steering wheel adjusts for rake only, so the Nitro doesn’t offer as great a range of driving positions as the Pathfinder. Cabin stowage is average, with a reasonably sized centre armrest cubby, but the glovebox and door bins are small.

In the back, first impressions are favourable, as headroom is good and there’s more leg space than in the back of the Nissan. However, the rear seats don’t offer enough underthigh support, and it’s easy to slide around on the rather thin optional leather trim. What’s more, the wide transmission tunnel forces middle seat occupants to angle their feet outwards at an uncomfortable angle.

The Nitro’s boot isn’t as large as the Pathfinder’s, but it’s still a reasonable size, and a standard-fit slide-out floor makes it easier to lift heavy objects past the protruding bumper.

With heated electric seats, a multifunction steering wheel and parking sensors as standard, the Dodge is better equipped than the Nissan, but its poor interior and driving dynamics mean it still doesn’t look tremendous value for money.

Details

  • Price: £23,590
  • Model tested: Dodge Nitro CRD SXT
  • Chart position: 2
  • WHY: Dodge’s beefy new SUV offers decent space for five and plenty of standard equipment.

Economy

Over the mixed roads of our test route, the diesel automatic Dodge managed only 24.8mpg. This is a long way short of the maker’s claims of 30.1mpg, and means a range of only 382 miles.

Residuals

Our experts are not convinced that the Dodge will make a wise investment. They predict that the £23,590 Nitro’s value will drop to £9,530 after three years and 36,000 miles.

Servicing

The good news for Nitro drivers is that the first three services cost only £441 – less than half the price of the check-ups on the Nissan. But there are only 97 Dodge dealers across the UK.

Tax

While the Nitro emits 14g/km of CO2 less than the Pathfinder, at 250g/km, it sits in the top tax bracket. Higher-rate business users will pay £3,302 a year to the Treasury.

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