Tough-guy looks clothe a strong value package, but in V6 spec it’s no fun to drive

What is it?
The new Dodge Nitro. But let’s get one thing clear: the Nitro we have here isn’t the one UK customers will be buying. Few people will choose a petrol V6 with a four-speed automatic when there’s a four-cylinder turbodiesel with a six-speed manual in the offing.

But the diesel – the latest incarnation of the four-pot 2.8 the Chrysler Group buys from VM Motori in Italy – won’t be around until next summer, so for now it’s the V6 only.

What's it like?
The engine - a 3.7-litre unit from the Jeep Cherokee – is anything but impressive. It sounds gritty and coarse whenever you rev it, and rev it you must, for despite some reasonable figures – 210bhp and 235lb ft of twist – it’s feeble and inflexible. The optional auto ’box (a six-speed manual will be standard) further exaggerates the problem, never quite making up its mind which gear to use.

Nor are there saving graces in the chassis. US-spec cars manage to have a ride that’s both bouncy and lumpy. Throw in vague steering and you’re disinclined to get bold in bends. The optional perfomance suspension kit cures things a bit, and is closer to the set-up that will be offered on European models, so there’s hope yet.

The Nitro is based on the next Jeep Cherokee, though its four-wheel-drive hardware is much less hardcore. On the road, drive goes to the rear wheels only, and it’s probably best to curtail your adventurous streak off-road.

Should I buy one?
At just over 4.5 metres long, the Nitro provides plenty of room for five people and a decent boot. You’ll also get it all for a bargain price of less than £20,000, though the quality of fixtures and fittings does reflect this. If the chunky looks take your fancy, it's worth closer inspection – but only once the diesel version arrives.

Roger Stansfield

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