2010 Dodge Nitro Review

Pros & Cons

  • Considerable towing capacity, brawny image.
  • Subpar gas mileage, lackluster acceleration with either engine, chintzy interior, vague steering and trucky handling.
Other years
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$3,987 - $5,634

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2010 Dodge Nitro has a macho name and a macho image, but that's about where its appeal ends. Just about any other compact crossover SUV would be a wiser purchase.

Vehicle overview

Nitro was one heck of an American Gladiator. His long hair, 'roidtastic physique and unmatched ability in the Joust all added up to make him a fan favorite among 1990s TV viewers devoted to watching muscle-bound men and women in spandex roll around in giant metal spheres. Sadly, the 2010 Dodge Nitro doesn't live up to its namesake as an American-made SUV gladiator. Oh, it's got the macho styling down pat, but what it lacks is that unmatched ability as an everyday driver that allows it to compete in the fiercely competitive small-SUV segment.

If the Nitro (the truck, not the Gladiator) looks familiar, that's because it's essentially a modestly restyled Jeep Liberty. The Dodge is tuned a bit more for on-road use and offers a larger, optional V6 engine, but otherwise, they are the same vehicle. That certainly has a few benefits -- namely, a part-time four-wheel-drive system and a substantial towing capacity. Of course, it also brings along a live-axle rear suspension, poor fuel economy and unimpressive handling dynamics that make the Nitro less than ideal for the tasks that most people use small SUVs for.

The interior is another area where the Nitro leaves much to be desired. Cargo space is generous and the controls are simple enough to use, but the overall materials and construction pale in comparison to what you'll find in vehicles like the GMC Terrain, Mazda CX-7 and Subaru Forester. Additionally, the Nitro's backseat is mounted low to the floor, counteracting the comfort otherwise provided by the reasonable amount of legroom and reclining seatback.

If the 2010 Dodge Nitro were to run in the American Gladiators' Eliminator obstacle course, it would get caught up in the cargo net and fall off the spinning cylinder. Those aforementioned small SUVs are far more sensible and better-constructed choices as they provide the sort of performance the Nitro's styling promises but doesn't ultimately deliver. Among other macho SUVs, the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser are also worth a look should you like to venture off-road. This is one American gladiator that doesn't make the cut.

2010 Dodge Nitro models

The 2010 Dodge Nitro is a five-passenger SUV available in Heat, Detonator and Shock trim levels. Standard equipment includes 20-inch chrome-clad wheels, foglamps, roof rails, tinted windows, keyless entry, full power accessories, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seat and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio jack. The Popular Equipment Group adds cruise control, an outside temperature gauge and a compass. A sunroof is a stand-alone option.

The Detonator trim level comes standard with the stuff from the Popular Equipment Group and also has a more powerful engine, different 20-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, remote ignition, flashier exterior trim, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (includes audio controls), a six-way power driver seat, an upgraded instrument panel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with a subwoofer and a six-CD/DVD changer. The Nitro Shock trim adds different 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, leather upholstery and heated seats.

The Media Center upgrade package adds to the Detonator and Shock trim levels navigation, real-time traffic, a touchscreen interface and digital music storage. There is a Towing package available on all trims.

2010 Highlights

The 2010 Dodge Nitro gains a deceleration fuel cut-off feature when equipped with the 3.7-liter V6. The Load 'n Go sliding trunk floor has been discontinued and there are new snappy trim level names: Heat, Detonator and Shock. Front active head restraints and power-heated mirrors are now standard, while the base stereo now has six speakers.

Performance & mpg

The Dodge Nitro Heat comes with a 3.7-liter V6 engine that produces 210 horsepower and 237 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic transmission is standard. Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available, with the latter being a part-time system with high- and low-range gearing. This engine returns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive and 16/20/17 with four-wheel drive. A new feature for 2010 cuts fuel to this engine when decelerating to theoretically save fuel. In performance testing, the virtually identical Jeep Liberty 4x4 went from zero to 60 mph in a lazy 9.5 seconds.

The Nitro Detonator and Shock come with a 4.0-liter V6 good for 260 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard with this engine, while the choice of rear- and four-wheel drive is the same. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16/21/18 with rear-drive and 15/21/17 with four-wheel. In performance testing, a rear-drive Nitro with the 4.0-liter engine went from zero to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds.


Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control and side curtain airbags. The stability control includes a trailer sway control feature. Rear parking sensors are standard on the Detonator and Shock. In government crash tests, the 2010 Dodge Nitro achieved a top five-star rating in all frontal and side crash categories. Testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Nitro its top score of "Good" in the frontal-offset test and a second-worst "Marginal" in the side test.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Nitro with the optional 20-inch wheels came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet -- good performance for this type of vehicle.


With its aggressive styling and macho name, you'd think that the 2010 Dodge Nitro offered vigorous power and acceleration. Alas, even with the 4.0-liter V6, the Nitro is slower than a Toyota RAV4 V6. At highway speeds, the cabin is surprisingly quiet and the ride is comfortable for the most part, too. Handling has never been a Nitro strong suit compared to other small SUVs, and the steering is notably vague. Most competitors are better to drive and instill more confidence.


Inside, the Nitro has a somewhat industrial feel, though faux aluminum accents brighten the place up a bit. Materials quality is below average for this class, with several plastics standing out as unacceptably low-grade. An upright seating position provides a good view out the front, and liberal use of soft cushioning makes it easy to get comfortable. Legroom is ample for adults in the reclining backseat, though the bench is mounted too low for optimal comfort. There are 32 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. The lift-over height is high for a midsize SUV. With the rear seats folded, there are 65 cubic feet of cargo space available, about average for this class. The front passenger seat can also fold forward to aid in carrying long items.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2010 Dodge Nitro.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

I Love my Nitro
This Dodge Nitro is definitely one of the best vehicles I have ever purchased I read a lot of information on them and a lot of it said it was a bad SUV to purchased just based on the bad fuel mileage, I wanted to yell at these people who wrote those, "its a freaking SUV of course the gas mileage is crappy your looking at an SUV for more room, so more room means heavy means it takes more gas to move the thing really!" for that matter from my research the gas mileage on this SUV is with in 1 to 2 of every other SUV so why do people complain it's very comfortable it works well when you have a baby who spills her drinks all the time and its easy to get both her and me in and out of. Its a great SUV.
Big Red's 4/4'
Detonator 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A)
my dodge nitro bought brand new in 2009,presently has 106 thousand miles on it & has been one of the best vehicles I've ever owned
A great truck for the right person.
This isn't a truck for everyone. I bought it because it fit several key needs. First off, the size was exactly what I wanted. I had some of the SUVs Edmunds compared this one to and found them to be too small. I didn't want larger than this. It had the best sticker price of anything at this size, and it could tow the most, which I needed in order to bring my Mustang to the track. The other reason I wanted it was the fact it was so bare bones... I knew that I could modify it the way I wanted. It's a Jeep in better clothing. I take the Nitro out to the Arizona trails here and see tons of Jeeps, but I've never once seen a lifted Nitro like mine out there.
Fun, attractive, reliable "bad boy" SUV!
I have to wonder if those people complaining actually bothered to preview the car prior to buying it. Did they sit in it, test drive it, ask questions about it? If they did and complain after the fact about non-mechanical issues the problem is not the car - it's them! Also, all brands have defective individual autos. I would not condemn an entire model based on one bad car. Let's be real here. My 2010 Nitro has logged more than 27,000 miles and is going strong with no mechanical problems. It has a spacious and comfortable interior suitable for a family of five. The rear seats even have a middle shoulder strap seat belt. The Nitro looks distinctive and is a lot of fun to drive. I love it!

Features & Specs

See all Used 2010 Dodge Nitro features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    Rollover3 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2010 Dodge Nitro

Used 2010 Dodge Nitro Overview

The Used 2010 Dodge Nitro is offered in the following submodels: Nitro SUV. Available styles include Heat 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 4A), Detonator 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Heat 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 4A), Detonator 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Shock 4dr SUV 4WD (4.0L 6cyl 5A), Shock 4dr SUV (4.0L 6cyl 5A), SE 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 4A), SE 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 4A), SXT 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 4A), and SXT 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 4A).

What's a good price on a Used 2010 Dodge Nitro?

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Which used 2010 Dodge Nitros are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2010 Dodge Nitro for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2010 Dodge Nitro.

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Find a used Dodge Nitro for sale - 3 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $21,925.

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Should I lease or buy a 2010 Dodge Nitro?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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