Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
You'll Like The 2010 Dodge Nitro If...
While the 2010 Dodge Nitro derives much of its appeal from its bold exterior styling, it still offers all the versatility of a typical compact/mid-size SUV. Generous rear-seat legroom and a handy slide-out cargo floor help sweeten the deal.
You May Not Like The 2010 Dodge Nitro If...
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.
New standard features include the addition of the Decel Fuel Shut Off system (which improves mileage by cutting fuel during deceleration), front row active head restraints and an air filtration system. SE and SXT trims receive a six-speaker audio system, heated side mirrors and stain resistant seat fabric, while the SXT offers leather seating, a new body-colored grille and front air dam and an express up front passenger window. The R/T trim has been dropped.
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). The Nitro offers an exceptionally durable and stain-resistant seat fabric dubbed "Stain Repel", or on SXT trim, the option of leather seating. The interior styling is in line with that of recent Dodge vehicles and includes a perceptible amount of average-grade plastics.
Without question, the 2010 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 SXT model is distinguished in part by a body-color grille and available 20-inch chrome wheels, while the base SE touts 16-inch steel wheels and chrome accents on the grille and interior trim.
Because the 2010 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 available on the SXT, 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.
The 2010 Dodge Nitro’s Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just under $22,500 and can top $35,000 for a fully-equipped SXT model. In the past, our Fair Purchase Prices have reflected real-world selling prices not far below those sticker prices. The bold but off-roading Nissan Xterra starts around $23,000 and, fully loaded, can top $33,000. The Chevrolet Equinox, another oversized compact SUV, also starts at $23,000 and can approach $37,000. As for resale value, we expect the Nitro to be about on par with the Xterra and just below the Equinox.
A base Dodge Nitro SE 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, stain resistant cloth seats, 16-inch styled-steel wheels, Load ‘N Go slide out cargo floor and heated side mirrors. Standard safety equipment includes front and front-side airbags, plus an electronic stability control system that includes rollover mitigation. The SXT adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a power driver’s seat, overhead console, cruise control, auto-dimming rear view mirror and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
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 Infiniti speakers, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, ParkSense Rear Park Assist, sunroof, heated leather seating, four-wheel drive, 20-inch chrome wheels and remote start.
Uconnect GPSThis 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 FloorFor easier loading and unloading, the Nitro comes 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.
Under the Hood
While most Nitros feature a 3.7-liter V6 matched with a four-speed automatic transmission, the SXT can be equipped with 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.3.7-liter V6210 horsepower @ 5200 rpm235 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (RWD), 15/21 (4WD)4.0-liter V6260 horsepower @ 6000 rpm265 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4200 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/21 (RWD), 16/20 (4WD)
According to Dodge, the Nitro marked the automaker’s first foray into the mid-size SUV segment. Just like its Durango big brother, however, the 2010 Dodge Nitro straddles a line between two segments, competing on some levels with vehicles from both the compact and mid-size 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.