KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
Small cars are becoming increasingly more versatile, and few vehicles better epitomize this trend than the Dodge Caliber, a combination hatchback/wagon/SUV that effectively replaces the Neon small sedan as Dodge's most affordable offering. While the Caliber is actually about an inch shorter than the Neon, it's substantially more versatile and brings a much bigger presence to the street and the parking lot.
You'll Like This Car If...
Whether you're looking to get some versatility with your economy, or some economy with your versatility, the Dodge Caliber throws in a little attitude as well.
You May Not Like This Car If...
While the Dodge Caliber's base sticker price of $13,985 is actually $410 less than the outgoing Neon's, it doesn't include air conditioning and power windows and door locks. A fully loaded Caliber R/T can top $24,000.
What's New for 2007
While the Chevrolet HHR and Toyota Matrix continue to be sold alongside the Chevrolet Cobalt and Toyota Corolla on which they are respectively based, the five-door Caliber is significant in that it replaces its sedan predecessor altogether.
While the Caliber's mission in life is decidedly more utilitarian than performance oriented, we managed to have some fun in an all-wheel-drive R/T model. With its 172-horsepower engine, sportier suspension and continuously variable transmission, the R/T is the model we'd choose to take campingespecially if the campgrounds were at the end of a curvy canyon road. The continuously variable transmission offers a "manual-mode," which allows the driver to select any one of six "ratios" and thus hold onto that gearing step if necessary or desired. As for the more modestly motivated Calibers, we found them as competent around town and on the highway as most of the competition.
As part of the 458-watt Boston Acoustics premium audio system, the Caliber's rearmost speakers flip down from the open liftgate to project outward for tailgate parties, picnics and other outdoor activities.
While the idea of engineering artificial gearing into the Caliber's "gearless" continuously variable transmission might seem counterproductive, the ability to control the transmission with ultra-responsive manual shifts is very useful.
The Dodge Caliber is pleasantly roomy and functional, especially for a sub-$14,000 vehicle and Neon replacement. With a fold-flat rear seat and optional fold-flat front passenger seat, Caliber's hatchback design accommodates a variety of cargo and passenger configurations. Standard cloth seating can be upgraded to stain-resistant cloth or leather. A sport appearance package features a shifter bezel, dash trim and red, yellow, orange or blue seat inserts coordinated with the vehicle's exterior color. Overall, the interior is nicely designed and offers a variety of clever features as either standard or optional equipment.
With unique proportions, sharp-curve styling and Dodge's signature crosshair grille, the Caliber is perhaps the most distinctive five-door/crossover/wagon offered in the sub-$20,000 arena. It's bigger than the Mazda3 and Focus ZX5, not as streamlined as the Toyota Matrix or Pontiac Vibe and has none of the retro vibe of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevrolet HHR. Up-level Calibers are distinguished by chrome door handles and side moldings, a chrome grille, fog lights and bigger, aluminum wheels.
Notable Standard Equipment
Along with a 1.8-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission, a base Dodge Caliber SE features front and side-curtain airbags, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/AUX sound system, sliding armrest with cellphone/MP3 player holder, tilt steering, illuminated cup holders, rear-window defroster and wiper, 15-inch covered steel wheels and non-power windows, door locks and mirrors.
Notable Optional Equipment
Dodge Caliber's powertrain options include 2.0- and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engines, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive. Typical optional equipment includes leather seating, a sunroof and audio system upgrades that include a six-CD changer and premium speakers. Unique extras include flip-down tailgate speakers, a chilled glove box, 115-volt wall-style electrical outlet, UConnect Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and a removable and rechargeable flashlight. Optional items that some competitors include as standard equipment include power windows, door locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, air conditioning and Antilock Braking System (ABS).
Under the Hood
There are three engine choices, each having four cylinders and 16 valves. The base engine displaces 1.8 liters, makes 148 horsepower and is matched with a five-speed manual transmission. Up from there is a 2.0-liter version of 158 horsepower, and then a 2.4-liter version rated at 172 horsepower. Both of the larger engines are matched with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). On all-wheel-drive models, the CVT can be manually "shifted" through six simulated gears. With an optional trailer package, the 2.4-liter R/T model is rated to pull up to 1,000 pounds.
1.8-liter in-line 4
148 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
125 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 28/32
2.0-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @6400 rpm
141 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 26/30
2.4-liter in-line 4
172 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
165 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 23/26
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $13,985, the Dodge Caliber is actually priced $410 below the outgoing Dodge Neonalthough air conditioning and power windows, door locks and mirrors add over $1,500 and a fully loaded R/T model can top $24,000. Our Fair Purchase Prices have reflected real-world transaction prices at or near these sticker prices. As for resale value, we expect the Caliber to perform appreciably better than the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Chevrolet HHR, and nearly as well as the Scion xB.