By KBB.com Editors
Small cars are becoming increasingly more versatile, and few vehicles better epitomize this trend than the 2008 Dodge Caliber, a combination hatchback, wagon and SUV. Although Dodge's most affordable offering, the Caliber is no bargain-basement car. Models range from a fuel-efficient economy car to a powerful all-wheel-drive variant and include such appealing options as a flip-down rear speaker bar, built-in iPod holder and a refrigerated beverage cooler, features you won't find on the Volkswagen Rabbit or Mazda3. Then again, the plastics used to form the interior are not as sophisticated or handsome as those inside the VW and Mazda, an important issue for many savvy young buyers.
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.
While the Dodge Caliber's base sticker price is hard to beat, it doesn't include air conditioning and power windows and door locks. A fully-loaded Caliber R/T can top $24,000.
Chrome trim is added to the interior door handles, locks and ventilation knobs, while the R/T receives heated front seats as standard equipment.
Driving Impressions 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 camping---especially 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 vehicle close to $14,500. With a fold-flat rear seat and fold-flat front passenger seat (SXT and R/T), 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 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.Exterior
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 Volkswagen Rabbit, 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 side moldings and grille, fog lights and bigger, aluminum wheels.
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.
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 sun roof 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, traction control and antilock brakes (ABS).
The three engine choices each have 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 2,000 pounds.
1.8-liter in-line 4
148 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
125 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5200 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 24/29
2.0-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @6400 rpm
141 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 23/27 (automatic)
2.4-liter in-line 4
172 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
165 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4400 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 23/28 (manual), 21/25 (automatic), 20/24 (AWD)
By Miranda on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price, Reliability, Value"
Cons: "Compact....may feel cramped if you are over 220 lb"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This car has been nothing but reliable since day one! It starts every time and runs great at 80,000 miles. I've done a minimal amount of maintenance to it and it continues to purr like a kitten. The SXT 2.0 liter engine has plenty of acceleration when I need it and still gets 25mpg. This car has plenty of room inside for people or gear. I was skeptical about buying a Dodge, but am sold now. Overall, it's a great value for the dollar compared to other vehicles in its class."
By Jackie on Friday, October 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "glove compartment too small. No place to put trash"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"last year I had to get: new tires, new brakes and a battery. Also several problems with the front end. One problem was fixed while under warranty."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By clover4913 on Tuesday, October 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 161,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, gas mileage"
Cons: "needed work, conveniences are not so convenient"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"*Alternator problems that should have been corrected by Dodge *Shocks should be warrantied *Space was good when the kids were little, teenagers and adults, a little tight *small items are breaking or need to be replaced due to age"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Amy on Wednesday, September 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 98,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "MPG, Reliability, Comfort, Fast"
Cons: "NO MAJOR CONS- Minor repairs when reached 80k"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought my 07 Dodge Caliber SE when it was one year old and has 30,000 miles on it. I said $12,000 out the door for the vehicle. It was my first time having as car payment so it was a great deal for me. It now has 123,000 miles and is still going strong. I have driven it from Illinois to Florida and back with NO PROBLEMS! I have had to replace the struts, lower control arm. But for the $$ spent it was not that bad of a repair. I have driven this car hard, and have not kept up on the maintenance and it still drives good. The pick up is not as good as it used to be, and the bottom of the door is starting to rust. But overall I have loved this car and it always got me around safely. I am purchasing a new Dodge this week and decided to sell this car privately instead of taking the dealership's $1,000 offer because I believe she still has a lot of life left in her. I will be sad to see this car go."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Jessica on Monday, September 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 94,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, fun to drive, lots of space"
Cons: "not a commuter car at ALL"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Well, I traded my 2007 Chevy Cobalt in for this car, initially went in to look at the Z's but ended up walking away with this because it still met everything I wanted for a great price but when it came to gas......I regret getting this car :( What I love about this car: 0-60 in 10 secs, the look, turbo, rims, GREAT sound system, so comfy, HUGE back that folds down (slept in this thing for 4 nights while on a road trip to Cali), when you want to go fast...you go fast in seconds! We went from 65 to 97 in 3 or 4 seconds I LOVE this car BUT i also have an hour and a half commute one way (only 30 miles one way) but still, sitting in stop and go traffic is not what this car is made for. If you live somewhere you can go fast or want a toy to take out on the town then this is your car but for commuting....NO WAY. I spend roughly 80-100 a week in gas :( But it has a plug in for auxiliary, the rear view mirror dims at night so it's not blinding you it like, goes greenish so helps your eyes. It's a manual which I do enjoy, but again in stop n go traffic every day it just is not pleasant, my knee is always killing me from shifting. Really, there's nothing bad at all about this car, I've had no mechanical issues with it at all, just keep up with everything and you're GOLDEN!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Joslin on Saturday, September 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 120,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks nice"
Cons: "Suspension parts need replaced more than tires do"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My family purchased the vehicle in 2008 because the price was reasonable and it was good on gas. We also liked the design of the vehicle. The body and interior of the vehicle are in very good condition today - no exterior rust, no visible wear on seats, etc. - but the suspension and drive train of the vehicle are shot. We have replaced front end suspension parts numerous times since 2008. The garage said we would need a bumper-to-bumper repair of the suspension which would cost approximately $3000. Blue Book value is approximately $3500. I am not a mechanic or engineer, but it seems that the design of the front end suspension system is faulty. Currently the car is parked. The front cross member is rusted through, and it's only a matter of time before it snaps completely. I would not recommend purchasing this vehicle. It's a nice looking car, but there are too many engineering issues with the suspension, in particular."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful