NEW FOR 2008:

– Appearance package of body-colour fascias, fender flares and mouldings standard on SXT
– New available Convenience Group, Premium Sound Group, Travel Convenience Group and Popular Equipment Group optional packages
– Standard SIRIUS satellite radio
– Available ParkSense rear parking assist system
– Exterior colours: Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl replaces Black, Light Greystone Pearl replaces Light Khaki Metallic, new Modern Blue Pearl
– Blue and orange seat inserts available on R/T

An all-new model in 2007, the Dodge Nitro midsize SUV enters its second year with several new option packages available on the various trim levels, including a Convenience Group of remote starter, premium sound system, UConnect hands-free system, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and rear park assist system; a Popular Equipment Group of cruise control, deep-tint glass, illuminated vanity mirrors, temperature and compass gauge, and fog lamps; a Premium Sound Group of six-CD/DVD/MP3 stereo and auxiliary jack; and Travel Convenience Group of trailer tow group and security alarm.

Sharing its platform and one engine with the redesigned 2008 Jeep Liberty, the Nitro comes with a choice of two V6 engines. The SE, SXT and SLT use a 3.7-litre that’s hooked to a six-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic in the SE and SXT; the SLT uses the autobox only. The R/T comes exclusively with a 4.0-litre and five-speed automatic. The 3.7-litre comes in rear-wheel drive or with a part-time four-wheel drive system; the 4.0-litre is 4WD only.

Features on the SE include 16-inch steel wheels, air conditioning, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, power locks with keyless entry, electronic stability control with roll mitigation and trailer sway control, power mirrors, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary jack, SIRIUS satellite radio, roof rack side rails, fold-flat front passenger seat, two-tone cloth seats, reclining rear 65/35 split folding seats, tilt column, tire pressure monitor warning lamp, power windows, variable intermittent wipers, and intermittent rear washer/wiper.

The SXT adds 16-inch aluminum wheels, floor mats, fog lamps, outside temperature gauge, compass, deep-tint glass, cruise control, and 115-volt outlet.

The SLT adds 17-inch aluminum wheels, overhead console, garage door opener, heated mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear slide-out cargo floor with tie-downs, YES Essentials stain-resistant fabric, power six-way driver’s seat, and leather-wrapped wheel with audio controls.

The R/T adds 20-inch chrome-clad aluminum wheels, two-tone cloth seats with blue, orange or red inserts and R/T logo, and performance suspension.

Sized under the Durango, the Nitro is a well-designed package that is now complemented by a corresponding model in the Jeep line-up. It exhibits a firm ride on the street, but that translates into more off-road capability than is normally offered in most vehicles this size; the 3.7-litre sometimes finds itself over-extended with the automatic transmission, but the 4.0-litre is a fun ride. On the down side, it’s relatively narrow with a wide console, and larger front-seat passengers will feel a bit hemmed in; the back seat technically holds three people, but not comfortably.

Brimming with cargo space, the Nitro’s upper lines boast the ingenious Load ‘n Go cargo floor, a pull-out cargo bed that extends 46 cm (18 inches) and holds up to 181 kg (400 lbs). You can load heavy objects without breaking your back, or fill the cargo area without brushing your legs against a dirty bumper, while a shallow bin under it will keep small items, such as a laptop computer, stowed away from prying eyes.

Connect with Autos.ca