Home » Come On Down, Bring The Whole Family: 2008 Dodge Nitro vs 2011 Ford Fiesta

Come On Down, Bring The Whole Family: 2008 Dodge Nitro vs 2011 Ford Fiesta

Sbsd 9 27 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re celebrating – and poking a little fun at – the wellspring from which so many beloved shitboxes emerge: the small independent used car lot. Both our cars today come from the same lot in Idaho, and boy, are you all going to hate me for making you choose between these two. But first, let’s find out our tally from yesterday’s sub-$1000 coupes:

Screen Shot 2023 09 26 At 5.37.08 Pm

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The Probe wins in a landslide! It seems the body damage on the Acura scared a lot of you off. I’m inclined to agree, but I’d like to see an interior photo of the Probe before I commit. The previous owner could have kept half a dozen chihuahuas in there. You never know.

Now then: You’ve driven by them. You’ve seen their postings in the classifieds. Maybe, like me, you’ve even bought a car here or there from them. From sea to shining sea, they stand ready to provide you with questionable transportation at rock-bottom prices, or on easy credit terms. I’m talking, of course, about independent used car dealers. They’re everywhere, and they’re all the same: half a dozen nice-ish cars in the front row (one of which is almost always a twenty-year-old Corvette), a couple rows of serviceable but forgettable family haulers behind them, and, tucked away in the corner behind the trailer that invariably serves as their sales office, the fabled back row. This is where the forlorn, high-mileage, mildly broken cars languish, just waiting for someone with meager means, a bit of mechanical aptitude, and a healthy dollop of optimism to come along and make the salesman jump-start them.

One such dealer, Country Auto of Jerome, Idaho, is celebrating its twenty-sixth year in business by having a massive sale on its back-row cars, calling it the “26th Anniversary P.O.S. Sale.” Sounds like it’s right up our alley. I found their two cheapest offerings, and I’m going to make you choose one. Before we start, I apologize for the photo quality. That Olympus four-megapixel point-and-shoot just isn’t cutting it anymore, it seems. Buy a car or two, and they can afford a new camera!

ADVERTISEMENT

2008 Dodge Nitro SLT – $1,026

01616 Jmaeykjnem5 0fu0bc 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 3.7 liter overhead cam V6, four-speed automatic, part-time 4WD

Location: Jerome, ID

Odometer reading: 183,000 miles

Runs/drives? I’m going to assume it at least starts and moves

ADVERTISEMENT

The official car of baby-daddies on a budget everywhere, the Dodge Nitro seems like it was designed to be sold at used-car lots. The new ones were just ahead of their time; they just had to age into their role, like, well, I would say fine wine, but really more like those four White Claws still in the cooler from last weekend’s camping trip. These SUVs are apparently pretty nice to drive, but boy oh boy do they come with baggage.

00606 68qyimdw59l 0fu0bc 1200x900

This is the fancy SLT model, equipped with Chrysler’s PowerTech 3.7 liter overhead cam V6 and Ultradrive four-speed automatic. It’s an engine, and a transmission, and together they make the truck go down the road, and that’s all there is to say about them, really. I’ve heard conflicting reports about the 3.7’s durability; it seems to depend a lot on how well it was maintained. I don’t want to make assumptions about this car’s previous owners, but well-maintained cream puffs don’t end up on the back row of used car lots.

00d0d Hapkfeunux3 0fu0bc 1200x900

The Nitro’s looks have always been polarizing. I personally am not a fan; I think it looks silly and cartoonish, but I know it has its fans. I imagine this one would look better without the missing fender flare; maybe you can find one in a junkyard. The giant 20 (?) inch wheels aren’t doing its appearance (or wheel bearings) any favors, nor is the fact that there are only three of them. One would hope the fourth one is in the back with a flat tire. But regardless, while you’re at the junkyard looking for a fender flare, grab a set of matching wheels off a Dakota or something, of the proper size.

ADVERTISEMENT

00808 Etlesjbv51t 0fu0bc 1200x900

But at the end of the day, it’s a cheap, presumably running 4X4 SUV for a little over a grand. Ignore the styling and the stigma, ditch the baller wheels, and put it to work.

2011 Ford Fiesta SE – $1,026

00m0m F1iyi6qm2pw 0fu0bc 1200x900

Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter dual overhead cam inline 4, six-speed dual-clutch automatic, FWD

Location: Jerome, ID

ADVERTISEMENT

Odometer reading: 134,000 miles

Runs/drives? Again, I’m going to assume a rudimentary level of functionality

Need better fuel economy than a big SUV can provide? Don’t want everyone assuming you’re two months behind on child support? Well then, may I interest you in Ford’s subcompact Fiesta, in its awkward sedan form? It’s powered by a 1.6 liter Duratec four, driving the front wheels through Ford’s notorious PowerShit – excuse me, PowerShift – dual-clutch automatic. I have spent some time behind the wheel of a Fiesta so equipped; my last day job had one as a company runabout. I drove it twice, and then took my own car on errands. This transmission is not as bad as you’ve always heard. It’s worse.

00h0h Ebytceckdb1 0fu0bc 1200x900

This car only has 134,000 miles on it, low for a twelve-year-old car, and shockingly low for a car this cheap. The transmission’s reputation precedes it, apparently. But as long as you’re okay with driving an automatic that makes it look like you don’t know how to drive a manual, you’ll be rewarded with great gas mileage, and easy parallel parking. I’m reaching here, I know – I didn’t think much of the Fiesta at my old job, and I really disliked the job.

ADVERTISEMENT

00t0t 8mr1vsgyplk 0fu0bc 1200x900

I have never understood the American fear of hatchbacks, especially when it leads to tacked-on trunks like this. This car is more than a foot and a half longer than the hatchback Fiesta, for no reason other than being less practical and uglier.

00f0f B8xjgbsiynz 0fu0bc 1200x900

It does make me wonder how hard a manual swap is on one of these. With a stick, it might just be an acceptable cheap runabout. Or, I don’t know, make it a Gambler car or something? Maybe the transmission wouldn’t feel as jerky or shuddery on the dirt.

Cheap used cars from dealerships like this are a mixed bag. I’ve bought enough of them to know. You can probably drive off in either one of these and expect it to start the next morning, but don’t get too cocky – something will go wrong, and soon. It will overheat, or fail its smog test (not an issue in Idaho, but elsewhere), or something, and leave you cursing the dealership’s name and questioning your judgment. It’s all part of the experience. But sometimes, you find a gem, a car that exceeds your expectations and becomes a part of your life for a while. Could either of these be that diamond in the rough? I have no idea. But they’re cheap enough to roll the dice on. Which one will it be?

ADVERTISEMENT

(Image credits: Country Auto of Jerome, Idaho)

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
114 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
4 months ago

Oh jeez, I thought you were joking about the P.O.S. sale event! When a dealer like that calls a car a P.O.S., you’d better believe them!

If I had to choose, I’d go with the Fiesta. I mean, it’s a party in a car! At least it’s not missing large chunks of bodywork and not rolling on a donut (presumably — we don’t really see the right side of the vehicle in the high quality images presented) like its competition.

I figure I’d show up for the free food and bouncy house and wind up impulse buying a… {peruses the seller’s other offerings} …wow, they have a lot of inventory, but it is all aggressively forgettable. I guess I’ll try to talk them down to under a grand on the Protege to try to live out my dream of buying an effectively disposable car for the purposes of learning to drive a manual transmission.

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
4 months ago

The Fiesta is fucking ugly, has a nightmare of a gearbox, looks duller than my fridge, and you will feel like an accountant’s assistant driving it. But at least it’s not a Nitro. Moreover, THAT Nitro.
Fiesta all the way. At least you can dream of swapping the trans.

A. Barth
A. Barth
4 months ago

Fiesta, please.

The best use of the Ford might be as a vehicle for longer trips. I don’t know how comfortable it would be, but it should get decent mileage and time spent on the highway is time spent not shifting. It also has a hatchback for stuff.

The best use for the Nitro might be a fundraiser: for $10 a customer gets three hits with a sledge hammer and an entry into the drawing for the fourth ridiculous wheel.

And we missed the celebration at the POS lot! It was last week. 🙁

Last edited 4 months ago by A. Barth
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago

I’ll go Nitro because when it fails (as both of these will) it will make a much more commodious home for feral cats. Emphasis on commode.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
4 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Who could argue with that kind of solid logic? Certainly not me.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
4 months ago

The Nitro is just a non-Trail Rated Liberty 😛

Ford KNEW the PowerShit was shitty, but they wouldn’t just switch back to a regular automatic, NOOOOOOOOOOOOO

In fact, the Fiesta was available with a 4-speed automatic in other markets. It was the 4F27E that Ford and Mazda have used extensively. They should’ve just retrofitted those to the DCT Fiestas.

Also, after Ford stopped selling the Focus and Fiesta here, they switched back to a torque converter automatic. It’s as if Ford sabotaged them on purpose so that they could make the excuse that nobody was buying them and leave Ford free to concentrate only on the F150.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
4 months ago

For a grand I’d be tempted to buy the Fiesta and immediately start looking for a better (manual, hatchback) example.
When the PowerShit conks out the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Sedan gets retired to parts-car status.

Chronometric
Chronometric
4 months ago

Third $1000 choice, E-bike.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
4 months ago

Country Auto needs to go back in the corner and think about what it’s done.

Part of me wants to choose the Fiesta, simply due to the Donks Principle. And c’mon, a space saving spare on a 4×4 vehicle? The 3.7 is just adding insult to injury.

The Fiesta…it’s less-bad aesthetically, but that’s where the upsides stop. That transmission is as much a pile of garbage as the Nitro is as a whole.

In a world where the only choice is RegularShit™ or PowerShit, I choose…PowerShit™. As Samuel L Jackson famously said in Jurassic Park, “Hold on to your butts.”

Clark B
Clark B
4 months ago

Please explain more about the Donks Principle. Inquiring minds want to know.

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
4 months ago
Reply to  Clark B

I have Principles, therefore, no Donks.

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
4 months ago

that’s about 6 pairs of running shoes and I need to lose weight. guess this pushed me over the edge.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
4 months ago

It should be illegal for a licensed dealership to sell a vehicle in the condition that Nitro is. It is NOT roadworthy with a donut on one hub and oversized rims on the others. You’ll get a grand worth out of the Fiesta if the Powershit lasts even a year, so that would be my choice of throwaway car.

Last edited 4 months ago by IRegertNothing, Esq.
Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
4 months ago

Nope!

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
4 months ago

I never liked the Nitro and I certainly don’t want a $1000 Nitro with 3 ridiculously large wheels, but I have to vote for it. Everyone seems to agree the Powershift transmission in the Fiesta was a defective product. I am not buying a bad example of a vehicle that was unreliable from the minute it left the factory.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
4 months ago

Yep, this is a true crap showdown. I’ll take the Nitro, and make it a Gambler bomber

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
4 months ago

Same here. Wouldn’t take much to prep that for some moderate off-road trashing. Maybe tear off the other fender flare and chop the front bumper narrower to match.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
4 months ago

What circa-2005 flip phone were these photos taken with? Kinda love it. The photos on their Google business profile look like they were taken with a more current device, so not sure why not the inventory.

They might both have more issues lurking underneath, but the Nitro makes them more obvious. How long do you think it’s been riding on a 22″ wheel on front and a spare out back? I’ll take the Fiesta and hope a manual swap isn’t too hard when the time comes (but probably bricks the BCM or something).

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
4 months ago

Tucker, you have outdone yourself.

I have no experience with the Fiesta, but I’ve driven a fair number of Focus hatchbacks with the same automatic, and there’s no way I would choose that experience again.

So it’s the Nitro for me, but I’d one-up SpikedLemon and flip the rims separately from the car. Watch out, LKQ!

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago

Man when the buy here pay here lot even calls a car a POS you know it’s bad! Also, who celebrates 26 years? That’s so random. Both suck, I would rather walk, but gun to my head I will allow the fiesta to sit neglected in my driveway (backed in of course, so less people see that hideous rear end) rather than the awful from all angles nitro. Also, I had a rental fiesta once, not sure if it was the DCT, was there a different auto option out there? It was fine for the 2 days I had it, I tried flogging it about a bit and the handling was at least mildly entertaining, so yeah. All around better than the nitro.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
4 months ago

Twenty-six years makes perfect sense for a shady used car dealer to celebrate because you have to be at least 26 in order to rent a car from most reputable car rental agencies, and if you buy any of these junkers, you’re going to need to rent a car if you actually want to get around.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

I thought it was 25? I swear I rented a car at 25 but I don’t know where it would have been so maybe I’m remembering wrong.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
4 months ago

It might be 25; maybe 26 is the health insurance thing. I don’t know.

I know I rented a car from Enterprise when I was 21 because I didn’t have a car at college and needed to drive to a job interview a state away during my senior year. I’m not sure how I got away with that. Maybe they charged me some “irresponsible little kid” fee on top of the rental or something.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

Yeah I am 90% sure rentals are 25. 26 is definitely when “kids” get kicked off parents’ health insurance. Most of the bigger companies will rent to those under 25, but it is far more expensive or they make you buy their insurance.

Maymar
Maymar
4 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

It’s 25+ for major rental companies, with 21-24 getting an underage renter fee (18-24 in Quebec, as required by the province), along with being restricted to the more benign models on fleet (roughly RAV4 and below, no Mustangs or premium badges until your frontal lobe develops a little more).

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago

Also, who celebrates 26 years?”

Anyone who thinks 13 and multiples of 13 are great numbers.

Basically anyone who is evil… like the type of person you’ll find at a shady dealer.

David Smith
David Smith
4 months ago

Basically any one who advertises. And every sales event is the best deals ever (even if they’re running the same add from last year to save on production costs).

Alexk98
Alexk98
4 months ago

Nitro because $1500 OTD is reasonable enough money for a beater Rally Cross type car to beat on and bomb through rough terrain. At least it should last a longer than the Fiesta’s transmission

World24
World24
4 months ago

I’ll deal with the 3.7 (it wouldn’t be my first rodeo with one anyways) and 42RLE long before I’ll even try to give a DCT Fiesta/Focus a shot.

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
4 months ago

I’ve decided I don’t like cars anymore and will take the bus. Please update poll accordingly.

OnboardG1
OnboardG1
4 months ago

I just saw a Porsche crossover in the local car park with an illegal personalised plate. The Nitro is the broke equivalent of that, so I’ll be voting fiesta by default. I’m also in the “stick a box on my hatchback” faction so it speaks to me on a deep level.

05Mil Machine
05Mil Machine
4 months ago

while the Fiesta is slow, the terrible 3.7, which is for sure suffering from a broken rocker mount and bent pushrod, will be going nowhere. The 3.7 is not a “if it breaks” engine, its a “when it breaks”

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
4 months ago
Reply to  05Mil Machine

The 3.7L does not have pushrods, as it’s a single overhead cam engine. I’m gonna call the failure sludging or a dropped valve seat. And the 4-speed automatic is living on borrowed time.

05Mil Machine
05Mil Machine
4 months ago
Reply to  Widgetsltd

You are correct. my mind was thinking bent valve, my fingers went with pushrod. I have pulled a few 3.7’s apart to retrieve the rocker that is floating around from a bad lifter. One was in a 1 owner well maintained Dakota… Sometimes it wedges just right and wipes the cam, sometimes it bends the valve and sometimes you can just stick it back where it came from and drive another 10K miles. Not a lottery I want to play.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

This seems to be a question of whether or not you want pickles on your shit sandwich.

I’ll take the Nitro.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Those aren’t pickles….

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Well they were when they went in!

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

Should we just declare these cars a pair of shitpickles? Can we make that a rhing?

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I agree with this!

Sir-Barks-A-lot
Sir-Barks-A-lot
4 months ago

Both cars are bad. Very bad. I’m not messing with that Fiesta transmission. I’m sure I’ll be in the minority here, but I’m going Nitro.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
4 months ago

Nitro for me. The Nitro could do with a little TLC and I’m sure you could flip it for a small profit – especially if the missing rim is in the back.

The Ford is purely reliant on being a utility vehicle. A to B. And if it’s not trustworthy enough to do that: what use is it?

3WiperB
3WiperB
4 months ago

More dealerships need P.O.S. stickers for their cars. Hey, and there’s a bounce house for the kids.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
4 months ago
Reply to  3WiperB

I totally thought thought the POS was Mark’s photoshopping skills, but then went to the seller’s ads. Wow! I want to do business with this guy just to support his honesty!

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
4 months ago

My dad sold cars at a little independent dealer for years. He’s on the spectrum and very honest and awkward, so I’m shocked that the man was able to successfully sell anything. I bought my first car from him. It was listed at $850 but he gave me a $50 friends and family discount.
Years later when I went to a dealership on my own to buy a new car I was totally naïve and unprepared for the smarmy, sliminess of the sales guy.

Last edited 4 months ago by Pupmeow
3WiperB
3WiperB
4 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I took one of my kids with me last time I bought a car so he could see the games and then talked about it with him later. I hope they will take me with them when they buy their first cars. I felt so unprepared when I bought my first one, and second, and probably third. Now I mostly negotiate via email before I set foot in the dealership.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
4 months ago
Reply to  3WiperB

Parenting win!

1 2 3
114
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x