The compact or “C-SUV” segment has been one of the most competitive segments in the automotive industry over the past couple of decades. While competition in the segment is some of the toughest around the globe, different automakers look for different ways to attract customers to their offerings.
While the Dodge brand is currently without an offering in the segment, the brand is looking to re-enter the segment in the 2023 model year with the introduction of the all-new Dodge Hornet. MoparInsiders.com has talked a lot about the Hornet in recent months, but while on paper it looks like the Hornet will be replacing the hole left by the discontinued Journey, it’s far from the case.
The Journey filled a special niche and was considered to be more of a midsized or “D-SUV” due to its seven-passenger three-row seating configuration. However, sources close to MoparInsiders.com having been telling us that the all-new Hornet will feature a five-passenger two-row configuration and slightly larger than the current Jeep® Compass. This means the Hornet will actually be more of a direct replacement for the Dodge Nitro which was in production from 2007 to 2012.
The Nitro was a body-on-frame SUV based on the popular Jeep Liberty (KK) and featured bold exterior styling based on the 2002 Dodge M-80 Concept. Nitro offered a smaller option to the full-sized Dodge Durango “E-SUV” while building on the Dodge brand’s in-your-face “Grab Life By The Horns” attitude.
Three models were initially launched, the Nitro SXT, Nitro SLT, and Nitro R/T allowed for a modest, rugged, and sporty flavor to the Nitro’s lineup. With two powerplants under the hood, customers could get an SXT or SLT with a 3.7-liter SOHC MAGNUM V6 which delivered a dismal 210 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque, while R/T models received the 4.0-liter SOHC V6 delivering 260 horsepower and 265 lb.-ft. of torque. Models with the 3.7-liter featured a 4-speed automatic transmission, while the 4.0-liter was backed with a 5-speed automatic.
Dodge’s Nitro also included a part-time transfer case system that gave you the ability to change from two-wheel to four-wheel drive on the fly, with the turn of a rotary dial located in the center console. While the Jeep Liberty offered a low-range on its 4×4 offerings, the Nitro did not. Thus giving more of a built-for-the-street appeal to the Dodge customer base and not to compete with the Liberty.
At the time, Nitro was an appealing package. It offered things like a MyGIG infotainment system with AM/FM/6-Disc/DVD/MP3 capability, and an available 9-speaker audio system with subwoofer, remote start, Uconnect services, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, and a DVD-based Navigation. There was also even a slick and innovative LOAD ‘N GO TM cargo floor that slid 18-inches rearward for easy and convenient loading and unloading of items, as well as hold up to 400 pounds.
The Nitro did suffer from inferior interior quality of the time, like many other Chrysler Group vehicles. This was mostly in part to the Daimler side of the then DaimlerChrysler siphoning cash from the Chrysler Group which could have been used to invest in better interior materials. Something that former Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne addressed in the first few months after taking control of Chrysler.
For the 2010 model year, the Nitro lineup was revamped and featured three new models. These new models (Heat, Detonator, and Shock) provided Nitro customers with more standard content and style with 20-inch aluminum wheels, sunscreen glass, and monochromatic exterior paint. Detonator and Shock models now came standard with the more powerful 4.0-liter. The 4.0-liter would go on to be an optional engine for the base Heat model in the vehicle’s last production year in 2011.
Unfortunately, the 2010 model shuffle wasn’t enough to keep the Nitro going past the 2012 model year. Chrysler built the 2012 model year Dodge Nitro models for the fleet market only. The final Nitro came off the Toledo North assembly line on Friday, December 16th, 2011.
What did you think about the Dodge Nitro? Let us know in the comments below or in the MoparInsiders.com forums.