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 Daniel on Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Underated and efficient"
Cons: "Plastic parts wear out."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased my 2009 caliber with 69k miles in Feb. 2013. I've put on it already 30K miles and I've no issues at all. Of course I service it every 3K miles and it has payed off. Good gas mileage ~28 mpg. I use it to commute to work and I enjoy it very much. There is good space also in the back sit for my daughter's car sit. Overall I've been impressed with the caliber's performance, comfort and efficiency."
4 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By mrs w on Monday, July 14, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 122,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Cons: "headrest very uncomfortable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"i have owned this car since new. I have my routine oil changes and check ups. it may not be the fanciest car I have owned, but the most reliable! I am thinking of trading but still LOVE it. good looking, great on the highway, fast and steady."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By RICHARD on Friday, July 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 66,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "GAS MILAGE ONLY"
Cons: "EVERYTHING ELSE IS JUST BAD!!!!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"GOT CAR AT 38K MILES. DO NOT PURCHASE THIS CAR UNLESS ITS BRAND NEW THEN SELL IMMEDIATELY ONCE IT HITS 50K!!! ELECTRONICS: 1 FRONT HEADLIGHT HOUSING AND BOTH REAR LIGHT HOUSINGS STARTING LEAKING AT 43K AND WILL TAKE ATLEAST $1,000+ TO FIX ALL 3, WINDSHIELD WASHER FLUID PUMP WENT OUT AT 45K, ALARM SYSTEM AND HORN AT 45K(OF COURSE THESE CARS DO NOT HAVE A 15 CENT FUSE; IF HORN FAILS, DEALERSHIP IS REQUIRED TO CHANGE THE COMPUTER)DEALERSHIP SAID IF ITS COMPUTER THEN IT IS ANOTHER $1200 AND WANTS $150 JUST TO FIND THE PROBLEM, NOT FIX IT. ABS AND CRUISE CONTROL AT 6OK. NOW THE SPEED ODOMETER IS STICKING WHEN IT RAINS. FRONT PASSENGER TIRE HAD 6OZ OF WEIGHT DUE TO DEALERSHIP HIDING A FLAW IN THE TIRE. IT IS ILLEGAL TO HAVE MORE THAN 4OZ ON A COMMERCIAL VEHICLE TIRE. ONLY ISSUED ME AN APOPOGY FOR THIS. THERE IS MORE BUT THIS SHOULD KEEP YOU AWAY FROM THESE VEHICLES."
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By dodge99 on Monday, June 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "lots of room, good in winter, good on gas,"
Cons: "no running lights"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought my 2012 dodge caliber in late July of 2013, originally meant to replace my 2001 Durango. The car has had no problems at all since purchased, very reliable. i love the design of the seats, there really comfortable on your back. the rear seats fold down and so does the front passenger, easily fits myself and two others along with our skis and gear. The factory audio system is excellent!! very crisp sounding speakers, and absolutely killer bass. the 2.0 liter in my caliber does great on gas. easily 25mpg city and 32mpg highway. The beverage cooler in the glove box is also very handy, in the summer it does as a great chill zone to keep some drinks, and in the winter it can do as extra storage. its also fantastic in the winter, with the very "peppy" 2.0 liter. i love the car!! its great! and i cannot believe the sound system, its amazing!!"
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By nick on Tuesday, June 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 141,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This little buggy has taken me through all of whatever weather ND oilfields have had to offer. Very reliable and a great little 4WD."
8 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Jay on Friday, June 13, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Cons: "gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"this car drives and handles very well. I will say the struts are noisy when the car is cold in the morning. Gas mileage is poor..I average only 22mpg combined and about 26 on the highway... I expected closer to 30mpg"
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful