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
Steve Gray
Steve Gray
4 months ago

Neither. But I will contribute 2 additional stick-on periods (.) for the dealer to place after the “S” on each windshield.

Accordian
Accordian
4 months ago

After re-reading, I kinda love the “POS” sale lol. But I wouldn’t own any of these cars after dealing with a similar year Focus and I wouldn’t own any normal Dodge from the mid 2000s.

Last edited 4 months ago by Accordian
Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
4 months ago

On the Nitro, I love how it looks like half the car is missing without the fender flare. A good 30% of the body work on those were those stupid cartoonishly big flares. That said, I will take it over the Fiesta with the time bomb tranny. My wife (then girlfriend) had a Focus with a powershift which was partially rebuilt under warranty after only 30K miles. The tech admitted that there was no real fix for the issue. Selling that thing was one of my first orders of business after we got married. She fought me, but I won out and got her into a nice low-mileage Highlander and have never looked back.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
4 months ago

The Fiesta looks like it would be easier to push

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
4 months ago

“These SUVs are apparently pretty nice to drive”

Counterpoint. I was stuck with a rental of one of these. The driving experience was like piloting a coverend wagon drawn by unbroken horses through a canyon pass in the middle of a blizzard, and that was on a flat city road in the summer. This was part of Chrysler screaming from the rooftops “we don’t give a shit about you!!!”.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
4 months ago

A Fiesta with a manual is a great car. With the crap transmission, it’s “do not touch” unless you have the wherewithal to manual swap it. This particular Fiesta is not worth the hassle so Nitro it is by default, although that’s in many ways an even more dreadful ride.

Roger Pitre
Roger Pitre
4 months ago

My mother was in a tow truck twice in her life, both times while she was leasing the Nitro’s cousin, a Jeep Liberty. She wanted a Jeep, but knowing how crappy their products we didn’t let her buy it. Smart move. I’ll take the Fiesta, it will take up less room on the junk pile when it gives up the ghost.

SuperNova
SuperNova
4 months ago

Did not even bother reading the article and went right to the Fiesta to get it over with. Nothing Dodge produces is any good anyways.

Outofstep
Outofstep
4 months ago

God this is an awful one today. I want nothing to do with the Nitro but I want even less to do with that Fiesta. Gah! I’ll take the Nitro.

Maymar
Maymar
4 months ago

It’s a bizarro version of my own driveway (Mazda2 and Jeep Liberty). Now, the Nitro is not good – it’s a DaimlerChrysler era product, and it’s a less than beloved Jeep with whatever positive Jeep attributes it might’ve had stripped away. But unlike the Fiesta, it doesn’t have a major Achilles Heel, just a bunch of minor but survivable annoyances. There should be a decent supply of Liberties and Nitros in junkyards for the next decade, parts are attainable, drive it while you sort your life out (just not too much, the sub-20mpg isn’t great for someone shopping this cheap).

Madewithgenuineparts
Madewithgenuineparts
4 months ago

Give me their OBS GMC truck, their Protege, their Sable, I’ll even finance, just not one of these… also, it looks like someone actually bought the Fiesta. Good luck.

Soso Tsundere
Soso Tsundere
4 months ago

The Fiesta is a perfect choice to roll into a lake as part of an elaborate scheme to fake my own death. It has no other purpose.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
4 months ago

I currently work with someone who was very involved in the ford dual-clutch transmission fiasco while working at Ford. He said that they would do stop/go driving tests in major metro areas, and even early on the engineers knew that the dry clutches just weren’t going to keep cool and have a long life. The dry clutch decision was purely a BOM cost decision.

So, the Nitro is the only correct answer here, even though the Nitro is also not a good option.

Last edited 4 months ago by Bizness Comma Nunya
Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
4 months ago

My wife bought a Focus new in 2016 with the Powershit. Had it replaced twice under warranty. It has really put her off of Ford products.

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
4 months ago

I had a rental Focus once with less than 20k miles on it. The transmission was bucking and lagging the entire time and I couldn’t wait to get out of that car. It’s such a shame because everything else about the car was pretty great.

TheHairyNug
TheHairyNug
4 months ago

The Fiesta all day, every day. Not because I want it, but because it will be easier to dispose of than the larger Nitro

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
4 months ago

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.”

That is the most accurate description I have ever read. As much as I hate the Nitro, and I absolutely straight HATE the Nitro, I am forced to pick it over anything with the PowerShit transmission. That hateful thing kills ruins everything it touches.

DDayJ
DDayJ
4 months ago

I’m not sure any car represents the post Daimler, Cerberus Capital years of Chrysler better than the Nitro. I’m not familiar with the PowerShit transmission, but even your stories of it don’t scare me enough to vote for the Dodge. I’ll take the Ford this time.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
4 months ago

Used automatic 2011 Fiestas always have 134,000 miles on them. Always.
That’s as far as they go before they become nothing but a headache to own.
No, no and nope!

I’ll take my chances with that other POS.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
4 months ago

Man, the Nitro is genuinely one of the worst cars you could buy, then and now. Oddly slow, horrible gas mileage, dumpy looks, and one of the worst interiors of all time. Oh and hilariously unreliable in this form, and in this era’s Jeep Liberty form. In my area of upstate NY, that Liberty was genuinely every 5th car on the road for a time, and they have all VANISHED. I went from seeing 50 a day to 1 a month shockingly fast. These are body on frame SUVs in rural America, people around here do not junk these unless they explode.

We had a Liberty as a shared field vehicle at my employer for a while, and man that thing sucked. Nothing was worse than the center of the dash jutting so far out into the drivers foot well that you had to do weird shit to you hips and legs in order to simply modulate the gas pedal. Unacceptable ergonomics. Plastics from Cerberus era Chrysler, appropriate because I’m sure they use the same hard plastics with razor sharp edges in hell.

I’d rather drive the Fiesta and get T-boned as the Powershit hesitates on my way out of a parking lot.

P.S. – I love seeing the Nitro in the wild though. It’s fairly rare, and it makes me laugh.

Last edited 4 months ago by Taargus Taargus
Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
4 months ago

Do you like POS white fleet vehicles? Then do we have the place for you! Come on over to We Finance Idaho for all your well used POS white fleet vehicle needs!

JDE
JDE
4 months ago

I would probably spend the 1995, or likely talk them down to 1500 on POS day, for the OBS 3/4 ton long bed Chevy. Dead simple, reliable, and super hot body style. easy to use as is and then recoup the cost later in a flip. https://www.wefinanceidaho.com/used-1990-gmc-2500-pickups-regular-cab-v5914812.html

JurassicComanche25
JurassicComanche25
4 months ago

Im going to rebel- neither. That dealer has a 2001 F150 crew cab with a 5.4 for 926 bucks. Under a grand! And it looks way too clean! Throw a fiesta, drink some nitro, and Yeet yourself outta there in a pimpin curvy-boi F150 for less than a stack. Thats the right answer here!

SegaF355Fan
SegaF355Fan
4 months ago

But that’s no fun when the F150 walks away with it in a landslide. Mark actually gave us some real(ly hard) choices today.

And what does it say about me that I’d rather subject myself to the Nitro than the PowerShit transmission in that Fiesta (a car that I normally like)?

JDE
JDE
4 months ago

Problem really is the Fiesta and 5.4 Titon might very well not make it off the lot and the replacement 5.4 engines are getting close to 8K rebuilt and then add in install cost. same with the crapola trans ont he fiesta, those are unobtanium as they all fail, but the few possibly working examples from wrecked vehicles are commanding more than this car is selling for…..scratch that, maybe that is the play if this thing operates.

At any rate the weird wrecked nitro at least is already half way to tearing the body work off and using it for a cheap UTV until the trans gives up the ghost…..and you know a 4 speed dodge OD trans is also has maybe only a few miles more than the Powershift Ford.

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

2001 is the 2 valve triton, one of the most reliable engines Ford ever made. I think you are referring to the 3 valve that came in 2004. Those are boat anchors due to the cam phaser mayhem.

JDE
JDE
4 months ago
Reply to  05Mil Machine

yeah, that is what I was thinking, I thought all 5.4’s were tritons though, the 4.6l 2 valve being slow but reliable was always though to be the exceptional motor by ford of that era….I will recind my thought then, thanks for the lesson.

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

Ford deserves the confusion for what they did to those engines. 🙂 They did the 3 valve thing to the 4.6 at the same time. They stuck that Triton name on all the gas truck engines from 97-2014 when they quit using them in the Expedition. Even the 6.8 V10 was called a Triton. I do enjoy watching Cleetus race retired cop cars with their 4.6 V8’s bouncing off the rev limiters on the YouTube. They rarely get taken out due to engine failures.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago

My H.S.like so many other used to drag a wreck into the school’s quad the week before prom as a stark reminder not to drink and drive. That Nitro looks like the equivalent for financial literacy.

Stay in school kids!

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
4 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Indeed, my school did the same thing. In fact, they put on a whole production complete with “actors” (student volunteers) in gory makeup and even a cameo by the LifeFlight helicopter. I don’t know why they went to such extremes — I don’t recall any reports of students drinking and driving, though maybe they were just being very proactive about it. Whatever the case, it certainly scared me (not that I had any interest in drinking at the time anyway — I was a boring kid).

The Nitro would be a very effective “scared straight” tool for fiscal responsibility!
“Is this where you want to end up??? Because this is where you’re headed if you spend more than you earn!!!”

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
4 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

“Is this where you want to end up??? Because this is where you’re headed if you spend more than you earn!!!”

Living in a bedbug and roach infested crap shack, taking the bus to your three shifts as a fry cook at the MickyDs two towns over with this Nitro as the best version of an American dream to dare hope for…

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
4 months ago

Wow surely this is rock bottom. Those Nitros had a gulag-style interior even when new, but I had to vote for it because it was up against the PowerShit

Clark B
Clark B
4 months ago

I’ve driven a Nitro, incidentally at an independent dealer while helping a friend look for a car. It was in better shape than this one, but was so generally awful I begged my friend not to buy it. (She didn’t).

I would rather deal with the Fiesta and its transmission (or even the trouble of a manual swap) than the Nitro. Anyway, you know you’ll never be able to get the smell of Axe body spray and/or cheap cologne out of the Nitro.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
4 months ago

I’m going Nitro just because I could throw some different wheels and expired tires on it and use it as a woods beater truck. Hauling crap and carrying chainsaws to clear trails.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
4 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

I chose the Nitro for a similar reason. It’s pretty much an uglier Liberty, which is an accomplishment itself, and hacking it up for some larger off-road meats would be pretty easy with part of the body already missing. It wouldn’t be the most capable offroader out there, but speaking from experience, the capability increases dramatically when you don’t care about trashing the vehicle.

I’ve had plenty of rental cars with that disaster of a DCT the Fiesta has, and there’s no way that one is any more than partially functional at that price point. I bet you get three of the six gears at most.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
4 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

speaking from experience, the capability increases dramatically when you don’t care about trashing the vehicle.

Truer words were never spoken.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
4 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

Back when he was fun instead of relentlessly and boringly political, PJ O’Rourke wrote a great bit about how rental cars will be your highest-performing driving experience, simply b/c it’s not your car.

“No car can be shifted into reverse while at a higher rate of forward speed than a rental.”

R Rr
R Rr
4 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I drive rental cars almost every week for work, and that’s the reason I will never buy an ex-rental car, and will actively try to disuade anyone of buying one. You only need ONE moron to drive a rental car for it to be forever ruined, what are the odds that the one you’re about to buy hasn’t had its fateful encounter?

Cyko9
Cyko9
4 months ago
Reply to  Andreas8088

This is the correct take. Neither vehicle is a keeper as-is, so you’ve got to come up with a purpose for it to exist. The Ford may as well drive to a crusher while it still can. You can make more out of the Nitro. I’d still take that junkyard trip to find matching wheels & list these on Offerup.

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