By KBB.com Editors
As fuel costs continue to fluctuate, small cars are increasingly required to be more than just frugal commuters. Few vehicles better epitomize this trend than the 2010 Dodge Caliber, a combination hatchback, wagon and SUV. Dodge's most affordable offering, the Caliber is no bargain-basement car. Models range from a fuel-efficient commuter car to a well-equipped model featuring such unique items as a flip-down rear speaker bar, built-in iPod holder and a refrigerated beverage cooler, features you won't find on the Volkswagen Golf or MAZDA3. Then again, despite a modest upgrade this year, 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 2010 Dodge Caliber throws in a little attitude as well.
While the Dodge Caliber's base sticker price is hard to beat, its interior plastics are still not up to the standards set by Volkswagen and Mazda. Interior sound levels and engine noise is also a bit on the loud side.
For 2010, Dodge offers just one trim, the SXT, but with five lifestyle-inspired variants: Express, Mainstreet, Uptown, Heat and Rush. All Caliber models receive a new interior with soft touch plastics on the doors and armrest, a new center console design and front seat active head restraints. A five speed manual transmission is standard on most trims, with two different CVT automatics are available.
Driving Impressions While the Caliber's mission in life is decidedly more utilitarian than performance oriented, we managed to have some fun in sportiest model, the Rush. With its 172-horsepower engine, sportier suspension...and five-speed manual transmission, the Rush is the model we'd choose to take camping – especially if the campgrounds were at the end of a curvy canyon road. While the five-speed manual is not the smoothest we've tested, it works well enough to make the drive somewhat sporting. Most consumers will probably choose the available Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that offers an Auto Stick "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.
Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with Auto Stick
While the idea of engineering artificial gearing into the Caliber's "gearless" CVT might seem counterproductive, the ability to control the transmission with ultra-responsive manual shifts is very useful.
The 2010 Dodge Caliber is pleasantly roomy and functional, especially for a vehicle with such a modest price tag. With a fold-flat rear seat and available fold-flat front passenger seat, Caliber's hatchback design accommodates a variety of cargo and passenger configurations. Standard cloth seating can be upgraded to leather (Uptown), while all trims receive more soft touch padding on the door armrest, center armrest and dash. Overall, the newly upgraded interior is nicely designed and offers a variety of clever features, such as the standard Chill Zone cooling glove box and available flip-out rear speaker bar.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, but not as streamlined as the Toyota Matrix 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 2.0-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission, a base Dodge Caliber SXT Express features front and rear side-curtain airbags, inflatable knee blocker, UConnect Phone (Bluetooth), iPod Control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, SIRIUS Satellite Radio, power windows, mirrors and locks, cruise control, keyless entry, 115-volt outlet, air conditioning and four-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS). The top-of-the-line Uptown trim adds an automatic transmission, leather seating, heated front seats, automatic air conditioning, nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system, power driver's seat and steering wheel audio controls. The sporty Rush and Heat models add larger wheel and tire packages, sport suspensions and upgraded interiors, while the Rush alone adds a more powerful 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine.
Most of the 2010 Dodge Caliber's equipment is bundled into one of its five available trims. The few available features includes a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) and the Security Package, which adds remote start, security alarm, front side-impact airbags and Hill Start Assist (in manual transmission-equipped cars).
The Caliber's two engine choices each have four cylinders and 16 valves. The base engine displaces 2.0-liters and is good for 158 horsepower, while the Rush model gets a 2.4-liter engine rated at 172 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Express, Rush and Heat trims, while the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is standard on the Mainstreet and Uptown trims. The Express can only be ordered with the manual transmission, while the CVT with Auto Stick manual shift mode is available only on the Heat and Rush trim.
2.0-liter in-line 4
158 horsepower @6400 rpm
141 lb.-ft. of torque @ 5000 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 23/31 (manual), 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: 23/29 (manual), 21/25 (automatic)
By mike on Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 190,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased the car for $14k with 15k miles and after 7 years and 190k miles, it has been the best value of any vehicle. No issues and normal maintenance. Still runs great."
By CaliCaliber on Saturday, February 21, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 85,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price; fun to drive, get many compliments"
Cons: "radio volume is weird sometimes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I am the original owner and still own my CSRT4. Luv it; it is fun to drive, has great maneuverability. The SRT Track experience was awesome and it really let me see what my Caliber can do! Two complaints though; the driver's seat cover ripped and had to be replaced (covered by warranty) & when you first turn it on, the radio's volume occasionally takes a minute or so to increase. Looking at different SRT/Caliber/CSRT forums, I am not the only one with those two problems. Other than that, I luv my Caliber SRT4!"
By john on Saturday, February 21, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 81,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, MPG, engine,"
Cons: "Suspension, quality,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Mediocre vehicle, poor in snow,, Suspension parts fail often.. Engine is of good quality, I would not sell this car to someone i know"
By Cottontop on Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 138,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great value, exceeded all expectations"
Cons: "Lack of soundproofing (tire noise)"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Purchased new for $17,000 after much deliberation. Our specific needs: commuter car, 30+ mpg, easy entry for 4 older adults, good sat radio/stereo system, all available conveniences, hatchback design. Met all our needs plus some. Followed all recommended maintenance procedures. 85% interstate mileage, lifetime average mpg 31.2. No leaks of any kind, never required additional oil between 5,500 mi oil change intervals. First brake work at 130,000 mi. Third set of tires mounted at 132,000 mi. No noticeable loss of performance since new. Expect to drive this car for another 40-50,000 miles."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By JDrysdale on Monday, January 26, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, great gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I couldn't have asked for a better car to get me the 1,000 mile trip from college to home and back each time I came home. It was great first car purchase! I love this car!!!"
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Kar on Friday, January 23, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 91,567overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive yet comfortable."
Cons: "Becareful taking off on wet surface frontwheel."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Dodge Caliber 2008 SE sport, I love the way it drive my next step; I'm looking to put a kit on it how fun that will be. Lastly,they don't make this model no more love the body style an it unique appearance."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful