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The Dodge Nitro, very macho and classically American.

Byline: By Mike Torpey

Love it or loathe it, you certainly can't ignore the Dodge Nitro.

The US car maker hopes this explosive name will light the blue touchpaper for buyers when the oddball 4x4 arrives in the UK in September.

Despite being described as a mid-sized sports utility vehicle, the Nitro looks like a huge block of metal from the front - very different, very American.

The styling is inspired by the pick-up trucks that define the Dodge brand, and this car looks so imposing you wouldn't be surprised to spot a juggernaut trailer attached to the rear.

From launch, the Nitro will be available with a gas-guzzling 3.7-litre petrol engine and a more politically correct 2.8 CRD diesel, in two trim grades SE and SXT.

Make no mistake, this is a macho machine that parent company Chrysler predicts will have a similar effect on the SUV scene as its own 300C has had on the executive saloon market.

With its earth-shaking 20-inch wheels, massive flared wheel arches, signature crosshair grille with three-dimensional ram's head badge and prices from pounds 18,995 the Dodge has been "priced to sell".

There are certainly some clever tricks incorporated into the Nitro, which are standard on all bar the entry grade. Among them is Load 'N Go, a cargo floor that slides out on a ratchet, while the YES Essentials seat fabric resists stains, odour, soil and static.

And Dodge has stuck with the five-seater format to ensure plenty of room for heads and legs.

Interior storage is plentiful with pockets, compartments, door bins and cup holders while the front seats are heavily bolstered for extra comfort.

But out on the road things aren't so appealing. The Nitro's rear-wheel drive does not make it the most agile of animals - more buffalo than impala - with little in the way of feel from the steering, and it is at its best when driven in a straight line on the open road.

Realistically the diesel is the only sensible option - and even that will return only 32.8mpg.

But given the amount of revving you need to stir this heavy beast, especially on any sort of incline, that average figure is likely to rise considerably. It's also unbearably noisy under acceleration.

Nonetheless, Chrysler is optimistic about Dodge's future and is looking forward to the imminent arrival of the Avenger saloon for a twin assault on the UK market.

The Nitro 2.8 CRD SE costs pounds 18,995, with the higher-spec SXT manual at pounds 22,590 while both the 2.8 CRD SXT automatic and 3.7 SXT petrol auto cost pounds 23,590.

All models have part-time four-wheel drive, ABS, front and curtain airbags, air-con, six-speaker CD system and power-folding heated door mirrors.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 6, 2007
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