Let’s not beat about the bush; the new Dodge Nitro will sell for its brash face as much as anything else. It’s very much in keeping with the Dodge ‘Grab Life by the Horns’ philosophy thanks to a blunt, upright nose dominated by the shiny, chromed grille and integrated headlights. It doesn’t just encourage overtaking lanehoggers to move over, it causes them to swerve off the road and seek counselling.
As soon as it’s gone by, they’ll wonder if they just saw an apparition, as the rear end is positively tame in comparison. Still, spec your Nitro up with 20-inch chromed alloys, black paint and tints and you’ll find people wondering which night club you own or whether or not you are part of a new Irish hip hop band... Heave open the large doors and would-be rappers may be disappointed by the lack of bling or razzamatazz inside.
Instead, Dodge has ﬁtted a rather sensible interior, although it’s modern in style and a league above most models in the sister Jeep range in terms of ﬁt and ﬁnish. Saying that, there are a lot of scratch-prone plastics used, though buyers will be distracted by the substantial list of standard equipment, which includes cruise control, air conditioning, one-touch electric windows, electric seats and mirrors and a slide-out boot ﬂoor Dodge calls ‘Load ‘n’ Go’. It’s spacious inside too, accommodating ﬁve adults and their luggage without any problems and the two-tone colour scheme lightens things up nicely.
Impressive visibility is a bonus of the high driving position, but watch out for blind spots through that chunky A-pillar. Thankfully, rear parking sensors are standard, which should help prevent embarrassing car-garage interfaces. It would be all too easy to knock the odd wall down in the Nitro and not notice. Granted, Irish buyers are offered just one turbodiesel engine option, but it’s a torquey beast and allied with the Nitro’s two-tonne mass, it makes the car feel unstoppable.
The Nitro keeps up with trafﬁc easily enough and though the manual version allows you to choose a higher gear to make the most of the torque, it is the automatic that is gifted with the higher torque rating and, notably, a much higher towing capacity (3,500kg vs. 2,000kg). In either variant, the engine is unnecessarily uncouth, chugging like a Massey Ferguson at idle and grunting and hissing rudely at all other times. Reﬁnement in general is the Nitro’s biggest letdown. Despite the space to carry a family, long journeys will be spoiled by engine, road and excessive wind noise at anything over 100km/h.
It’ll be ﬁne for cruising around town, of course. Ride comfort is actually quite good, the dampers only losing control of the situation when pushed hard along a bumpy road, a task not encouraged by the lifeless steering. However, at a starting price of €42,495, the Nitro still stacks up well against likely competition, especially when you take into consideration its performance. Dodge cites the Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Captiva and Kia Sorento as rivals and it compares well enough in most attributes other than reﬁnement, and, let’s face it, few of those cars are bought for their looks.
Engine 2.8-litre turbocharged 4cylinder diesel, 174hp, 410Nm (460Nm in the automatic) Transmission 6-speed manual (5-speed automatic)
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 11.5 seconds (10.5 seconds)
Top speed 180km/h (182km/h)
Economy 8.6 litres/100km (9.4 litres/100km)
CO2 Emissions 228 g/km (250 g/km)
Weight 1,950kg (2,015kg)
Boot Capacity 892 litres
Base Price €42,495 (€43,995)