in 2009 Affordable Compact SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $10,745 - $14,493
Original MSRP: $22,240 - $26,220
MPG: 16 City / 22 Hwy
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2009 Dodge Nitro Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

Though past models suffered from a rough ride and handling, that may be remedied with the 2009 model's performance upgrades. Also, reviewers find that the Nitro's two available V6 engines offer plenty of power.

  • "The five-seat Nitro is a blast to drive in a straight line thanks to a gem of an engine in the available 4.0-liter V-6, but it suffers from trucklike ride and handling that has no place in an SUV designed for onroad performance." -- Cars.com
  • "Because the Nitro looks good, is versatile and offers a compelling array of interior features, we found ourselves wishing it had been built from scratch. As it is, the Nitro's Jeep Liberty-derived architecture demands sacrifices in ride and handling." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "We say looks will be the Nitro's primary selling point because it isn't the best driving vehicle in the segment." -- Edmunds
  • "On the road, the Nitro's 4.0-liter V-6 makes a lot of noise but doesn't seem to back it up with performance. Adding insult to injury, the R/T's 'sport-tuned' suspension did a better job of tossing passengers around the cabin than it did of improving the vehicle's handling." -- CNET

Acceleration and Power

In a class where four cylinders are the rule and a V6 is usually optional, the Nitro offers two V6 options: a 3.7-liter and 4-liter. Dodge has dropped the manual transmission for 2009. According to the EPA, 2WD models with the 3.7-liter engine net 16/22 mpg city/highway, while those with the 4-liter engine net 16/21 mpg. 4WD models net 15/21 mpg with the 3.7-liter engine and 16/20 mpg with the 4-liter engine.

  • "Only when equipped with the 4.0-liter engine does the ... Dodge Nitro feel truly quick. On numbers alone, it holds its own in acceleration testing." -- Edmunds
  • "The base engine is the Liberty's 3.7-liter V6, basically a 4.7-liter Chrysler V8 with two of the cylinders chopped off. It feels raspy at anything over 3500 rpm but nonetheless makes 210 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque, enough to keep the nearly 4000-pound Nitro going strong." -- AutoWeek
  • "Like the Liberty, all Nitros feature standard V-6 power, with base and SLT models featuring an adequate, if uninspiring 3.7-liter, 210-hp engine and the R/T featuring a much-more-like-it 4.0-liter worth 260 horsepower." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Reviewers have long complained about the Dodge Nitro's handling dynamics. However, this year's performance upgrades may remedy the formerly unresponsive steering bumpy ride.

  • "Handling around corners is unimpressive for a small SUV, as even the sporty R/T model exhibits slow steering and significant body roll." -- Edmunds
  • "Excellent ride and handling on good roads. Bad, bumpy, swaying ride and handling on bad roads." -- The Washington Post

Next Steps: 2009 Dodge Nitro

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