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2011 Dodge Nitro Review

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The 2011 Dodge Nitro is very much a niche vehicle. But with a cramped interior, sluggish performance, poor gas mileage, and a very truck-like ride, it's become increasingly hard to tell what exactly that niche is.

The Nitro was rolled out a few years ago as a more aggressively styled, more road-going (and less off-road-focused) vehicle based on the Jeep Liberty. With crisper sheetmetal, distinct Dodge cues, aggressively lipped wheel wells, and bigger wheels, the Nitro has more of a macho tuner look. And it does have some nice proportions from a few paces away.

That's about where our the positives end; the Nitro seems to aspire to be more of a car, but it does it poorly. Its stiff, busy ride won't win anyone over, and it accelerates quickly enough (especially with the larger 4.0-liter V-6) and handles competently but lacks the responsiveness that would make it a great city vehicle.

Seat materials have been updated for 2011, and a newly available Heat 4.0 Package brings Bluetooth and audio upgrades, but the interior remains unimpressive in look and feel compared to other mid-size crossovers priced around $25k, where most Nitros land.

The Nitro hasn't received much else over the past couple of years to broaden its appeal, or to bring its driving feel a little more up-to-date and competitive with top crossovers (like Dodge's own excellent 2011 Journey).

Most other Dodge and Jeep V-6 products—including the Jeep Wrangler—will get the modern new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 for 2012, if they haven't already for 2011. But don't count on it here; with the Nitro's future on the rocks, the slow-selling Nitro is feeling like a placeholder in a still-forming new-Chrysler lineup.

For more about the 2011 Jeep Nitro, which has changed little except in trim names, see either this full review of the Dodge Nitro, or our full review of the related 2011 Jeep Liberty.

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