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 2011 Dodge Cailber on Thursday, November 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 72,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price. Sharp looking car (silver)."
Cons: "Driver's seat unsupportive. Lacks engine power."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Decent gas mileage, compact yet has cargo area for hauling things. I'm not crazy about the engine dynamics and the way it accelerates. At times it feels as if it doesn't have enough get up and go. It's been a great little car and served my needs well. Stylish looking. I down sized from a Durango and miss the supportive seats of the SUV. The passenger and back seats are comfortable and roomy for the average size person. My 6'4" son has a hard time riding in it comfortably."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Chance on Friday, November 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "practical city runabout, reliable, economical,"
Cons: "noise, poor rear seat comfort,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"Really liked owning this car since june of 06. Handy size with fold down real seat for camping and other gear. Nice styling, always proud of the looks even as it ages. nice paint quality held up well over years. handles great and cvt is smooth and reliable. good mpg. at about 26. combined. bad Gas cap caused some of the biggest diagnostic bills for engine light. back seat very uncomfortable... flat seat and straight up back rest..even though you can adjust the back rest tilt. poor wind tunnel design ... cannot open back windows driving 30mph without intense oscillating air pressure wave ...enough to hurt your ears. worst feature of a nice little car is the unbearable road noise on the hyway...almost so loud you opt not to have the radio on at hyway speeds..... except on the smoothest of new pavement."
1 person out of 3 found this review helpful
By pekka on Friday, October 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive and the price was good"
Cons: "ride is not the smoothest and a little noisy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"The car is easy to handle and park. It has been very dependable and gets good gas mileage. It has had some brake issues but they were taken care of. All in all we like the vehicle. It is not the quietest car and the ride is not overly smooth but we have enjoyed the car"
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By molly on Sunday, October 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,100overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good second car"
Cons: "Road noise"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Maneuvers easily - good gas mileage-- Back seat goes down to give very good carrying space. Even length-wise. Back window wipers. Automatic transmission as well as other kind - stick shift."
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By caliberlover10 on Friday, October 24, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 107,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "fairly decent gas mileage"
Cons: "can't think of any"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"I've had this car for a few years now and I've taken it through a lot of highway miles, road trips, and my four year old. It's super reliable, comfortable, and a good ride. The two tone seating looks really nice and interior still feels and looks like a brand new car."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Bob on Friday, October 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,400overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great gas milage in city 22.5 MPG"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Dodge driven carefully by 2 senior. Mostly in Hemet. Oil and filter change every 6 months about every 1400 miles per 6 months. Always parked in our garage. Tires rotated at 8,000 miles. Polished every year. Spare tire never used."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful