By KBB.com Editors
According to Dodge, the Nitro is the automaker's first midsize SUV. Just like its Durango big brother, however, the 2009 Dodge Nitro straddles a line between two segments, competing on some levels with vehicles from both the compact and midsize SUV categories. It even somewhat threatens to cannibalize sales from the recently introduced Journey, although the Nitro can't match the Journey's fuel economy or seating capacity numbers. The Nitro's niche in the marketplace isn't defined by its measurements, though, but by its bold, unique styling.
While the 2009 Dodge Nitro derives much of its appeal from its bold exterior styling, it still offers all the versatility of a typical compact/midsize SUV. Generous rear-seat legroom and a handy slide-out cargo floor help sweeten the deal.
Compared to its car-based crossover competitors, the Nitro's more truck-like roots involve ride and handling compromises. There is no four-cylinder or diesel engine in the lineup and fuel economy with the two available V6 engines is far from impressive.
Improvements to the Nitro's suspension include stiffer rear axle shafts, as well as retuned shocks, springs and anti-roll bars. New standard features include floor mats, Auto Unlock at exit and a rear dome lamp. The six-speed manual is no longer offered.
Driving Impressions Because the 2009 Dodge Nitro looks so 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 brings compromises in ride and handling, especially when compared to the newer generation of crossover SUVs like the Dodge Journey. Opt for the 260-horsepower V6, five-speed automatic transmission and tighter suspension of the R/T model, though, and it's easier to overlook those shortcomings. In models equipped with the smaller V6 and four-speed automatic, we often found ourselves wishing for either more power or another gear or two.
This optional hard drive-based system includes navigation with real-time traffic information, MP3/WMA music and JPEG image uploading, a high-speed USB 2.0 port, auxiliary audio input, voice recognition, voice message recording and playback and Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity.
Load 'N Go Cargo Floor
For easier loading and unloading, the Nitro is available with a cargo floor that slides out 18 inches over the rear bumper and can hold up to 400 pounds. Beneath it is a four-inch deep storage bin good for storing jumper cables or hiding a laptop.
The Nitro's most novel interior feature is the available Load 'n Go cargo floor that slides out over the bumper for easier loading and unloading. Other features include reclining rear seatbacks and an available fold-flat passenger seat that makes it easier to haul longer cargo or work on a laptop computer (while parked, of course). In between the base cloth and available leather seating, Nitro offers an exceptionally durable and stain-resistant seat fabric dubbed "Stain Repel". The interior styling is in line with that of recent Dodge vehicles and includes a perceptible amount of average-grade plastics.Exterior
Without question, the 2009 Dodge Nitro's calling card is its distinctive, squared-off exterior styling. Included in the design is the familiar Dodge crosshair grille, a clamshell-style hood and decorative side vents. The top-level R/T model is distinguished in part by a body-color grille and standard 20-inch chrome wheels, while the mid-level SLT receives 17-inch wheels and chrome accents on the door handles and interior trim. Base.SE models get dark, unpainted bumper fascias, moldings and fender flares.
A base Dodge Nitro comes equipped with a 3.7-liter V6, four-speed automatic transmission, AM/FM/CD sound system with an auxiliary input jack, air conditioning, power windows/locks/mirrors, remote keyless entry, 115-volt power outlet, rear-window wiper/washer, cloth seats and 16-inch styled-steel wheels. Standard safety equipment includes front and front-side airbags, plus an electronic stability control system that includes rollover mitigation. The SLT adds Load 'N Go slide out cargo floor, Stain Repel fabric seats, a six-way power driver's seat and heated side mirrors. The R/T adds a 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission, performance suspension, 20-inch wheels and body color grille, air dam and sill moldings.
The highlight of the Nitro's optional equipment list is the comprehensive uconnect gps navigation, entertainment and communication system (see Favorite Features). Other key options include a six-disc CD/DVD-Audio sound system, rear-seat DVD entertainment system, premium speakers, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, ParkSense Rear Park Assist, sunroof, heated leather seating, four-wheel drive, 20-inch chrome wheels, remote start, premium cloth seating and an outward-sliding cargo floor.
While most Nitros feature a 3.7-liter V6 matched with a four-speed automatic transmission, the R/T gets an exclusive powertrain consisting of a 4.0-liter V6 and five-speed Auto Stick transmission. Each combination is available in rear- or full-time four-wheel drive. While its nature-loving Jeep Liberty cousin offers a low-range transfer case, the Nitro features an available "performance" suspension. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.
210 horsepower @ 5200 rpm
235 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (RWD), 16/20 (4WD)
260 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
265 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/21 (RWD), 15/21 (4WD)
By Tay on Monday, June 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 63,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love this vehicle!!!!! I have never had any problems with it, it does amazing in the snow, the 4X4 works great. It is a very comfortable and quiet ride. It tows my 4 wheelers perfectly. I feel very safe in it. I like how I feel higher up than a sedan. It handles very well. I get about 19-20 mpg on the freeway and 16-17 mpg in the city. I do have a lead foot but, it is a V6 and a bigger car so don't expect to get 30 mpg. Overall I will keep this car forever. I would have a very hard time trading it in if I had too. I would recommend this to anyone!"
By ramtrucks1 on Saturday, June 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 147,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks good"
Cons: "uncomfortable & cheaply made"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Wish I still had my PT Cruiser with 320000 miles but engine died & needed something fast with the same kind of hauling capabilities. The interior has plenty of room to haul all the big stuff like the PT (8ft 2x4's & trim), but the comfort sucks. The seats are really uncomfortable mostly because the head rests tilt so far forward my neck hurts driving it, also straining my back. As others have stated, all the plastic is cheap & keeps breaking, but they want a good bit of $$for replacements. Pass window works when it feels like it so stopped using it, roof rails broke and flop in the breeze making all sorts of noise, when traction control kicks in the radio shuts off/on. The power converter is nice, but wish it had a 3 prong for my laptop so I leave an adapter in the car & hope I don't fry it. I do all my own mechanics & should have looked at it more closely before I bought it, but on the 3.7L you need to be some kind of contortionist to change the oil filter. When I asked at the dealership how they do it, they told me to let them know when I figure it out. Other than that the engine is fairly easy to work on if you can get around the coolant reservoir."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By bert on Thursday, May 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 59,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good on gas, remote start, power everything,sporty"
Cons: "Back gate is manual and there is no keyhole"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"We bought the 5 passanger 2008 SLT Nitro brand new off the lot. It is a very dependable car, roomy and wide trunk space,it mostly sits in the garage now since its my weekend car. It tells me what it needs except for windshield wipers or lights are out. There are controls that are on steering wheel for volume or radio/cd control, personal setings inwhich you can select a multitude of settings & languages, lets you know mileage also how many miles intil you need to refuel etc also has satellite radio and multi cd player, has various buttons and notifications such as traction or tire pressure gauges (along with digital picture of the car where the issue is located), door ajar etc. I linked up 2 cell phones so its hands free blue tooth- the whole vehicle is easy to use,not leather which is what we wanted its so easy to wipe clean it still looks brand new, privacy tinted glass. Push start remote, power everything has sensors on the rear. I have had installed a new battery for the remote and for my Nitro,a brake light,new brakes and new tires installed and alignment but thats due to wear and tear. The gas is decent for a V6 it holds 17 gal we only use premium and 50 a week lasts plus a week, if we travel an hour out its uses roughly about a 1/4 tank at the 60-65 mph range. When using it to drive work day in and day out 5 days a week a little less than 1 hr a day with alot of stopping and going(due mostly to interstate driving on 85/385) according to gas prices about $3 a gal topped at $50-$55. The negative is the back gate it is manual so opening closing the gate is not electronic, it also has now worn there is no unlocking with a key or even a keyhole however just waiting for the parts to come in to the dealership so it can be fixed. Also there is no place for sunglasses other than console( which is deep and roomy)or the dash board. Its been at the beach, lake, downtown, updtown and in the burbs. The funny thing Several Young & other adults have asked me to sell it to them since its "cool or sporty", they would want to put rims and cruise or just use as is."
5 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By anna on Sunday, May 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 100,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "Cheap plastic parts, cheap mechanisms.."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"The passenger electric window winder broke, the wire somehow became tangled. 7 months later the driver window winder broke the same way. The passenger interior door handle pull broke. 2 weeks later the driver interior door handle broke. Carpet on driver side under accelerator wore out less than a year. The car is insulated with fiber glass insulation sealed in a black trash bag. Plastic trim on roof of the car came off within two years. We had to remove the cheap plastic runners because they kept breaking. AC repaired 3 times. Plastic trim under the car doors weakened and broke. This car is definitely not worth what it's sold for."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By dl on Wednesday, April 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 89,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "a classic look"
Cons: "a poorly made car, no longer in production..."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My first Dodge, brought new, in Dec of 2006. It just hit the dealership. Loved the look, still do. But, boy-o-boy, is this car cheaply made, interior plastic finishes break, crack. Interior door handles are plastic and broke twice (replacing = $187). Side chair panel holding seat controls have broken on driver and passenger sides. Has developed a interior leak on the passenger side when it rains. Just an overall shame and simply a poorly made car that has ruined the Dodge brand for me. You live and you learn."
By Sawyersdad on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 114,000overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great style, paint and interior trim"
Cons: "Not reliable, expensive to fix"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Looks great, has great performance, nice leather and cool colors. It was perfect up to 114k at which time the trans went out. Later we found out it is a German trans made by Mercedes Benz which costs 3510 for the reman trans plus 1000 core and the fee for labor, thus making the cost or a trans almost 5k....ridiculous for a chrysler. if this were a Mercedes then it means I might have that kind of money, but I don't. At trade in I was told the car lost value of nearly 10k over 2 years. I paid 18k in march 2012. In April 2014 it was worth 9500 at trade in.... Talk about not holding its value!"