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 2011 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 2011 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 are also a bit on the loud side.
Dodge offers five lifestyle-inspired models of the Caliber: Express, Mainstreet, Uptown, Heat and Rush. For 2011, electronic stability control is standard on all but the Express, there is a new navigation sound system with Sirius Travel Link and the steering has been retuned for improved response. The Uptown model is available with 18-inch chrome-clad alloy wheels, red and blue accent stitching is added to the leather seats with the Rush model, a six-way power driver's seat is standard with the Mainstreet model and there are six new colors.
Driving Impressions While the Caliber's mission in life is decidedly more utilitarian than performance oriented, we managed to have some fun in the 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.
CVT2 Auto Stick
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 2011 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 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 Express features front and rear side-curtain airbags, inflatable knee blocker, 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 2011 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, daytime running lights, engine oil cooler and trailer tow wiring harness.
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: 24/32 (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), 22/27 (automatic)
By Beckie (VA) on Thursday, November 14, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 20,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "reasonable price, bells and whistles and comfort"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my caliber! It is comfortable, reasonable on fuel, and I love the remote key start. Another plus is the heated seats and satelite radio. I am very pleased with my purchase."
By jb_0211 (CA) on Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "Decent gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I bought a 2009 Dodge Caliber (used) in September 2012. It started giving me minor issues in October 2012, again in January 2013 and now, November 2013. I wish I would've read more reviews about this car... Granted, it hasn't left me stranded on the side of the road (yet), but I think that's where it's headed. For the amount this car is actually worth, it'd be stupid for me to dump a whole lot of $$ into it. Therefore, almost exactly one year later, I'll be getting rid of this car!"
By Alfiejay (MI) on Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 160,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "MP3 auxillary slot"
Cons: "transmission, gas milage, blind spots"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I bought this car in 2010 with 90000 miles. This car has been a nightmare. Because we bought it in fall we didn't notice this problem until the next summer. If the temprature is above 35 degrees, the transmission fluid heats up and the car starts to whine and slows down. At one point it went so slow that I was afraid. I live near freeways that averages 75 MPH (not what we are supposed to do but you will get run over if you go slower). In the summer, I can't drop my children off at school and then make it to work in this car. When I reported this to Dodge, I haven't heard back from them yet. DON'T BUY THIS CAR! YOU WILL BE SORRY! This also made your gas milage go down."
By caliber owner (IL) on Tuesday, October 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 120,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "great mpg"
Cons: "needs a better interior"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I bought this car in 2006 straight off the truck from the plant. My father worked for Chrysler, so I was able to get a decent discount on the overall price. If it wasn't for that, I don't think that I would have bought the car at the time. I have the SXT and ended up with a $23,000 car loan at the time. The car does run great, though. In the 7 years that I have owned the car I have only had two issues with it. One was pretty major. I was going down the highway and it essentially blew up. Had to get the compressor, alternator, battery and something else (cant remember) replaced. The dealer called it a complete failure of the system. The other issue were brakes and that was my fault. I have only changed the brakes once in the cars life. I went longer than I should have, but they still lasted a very long time and was very pleased with it. the interior of the car is ok. It's some kind of weird plastic. Very hard to clean since it is molded with a design. Still it is pretty durable stuff. I got and still get great gas mileage from the car. I usually average around 28mpg. Not too bad for the time I bought it and still not bad for the price you will pay. Even with the things I listed as being on the downside, I love the car. It has served me extremely well and would recommend it."
By mclovin (IN) on Monday, September 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,100overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Price, storage, cargo room"
Cons: "repairs, poor suspension&basic int. &blind spots"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 3
"I bought this car used for 12K in 2011 with 36,000 miles on it... i thought that i was getting a good deal. However, it is now starting to have problems. I've had many mechanics tell me it is a terrible designed car. There are many blind spots while driving. The interior is all hard plastic. The CVT transmission is made by Japco, a company that supplies transmissions for Nissan, and the 2.0 liter with very little horsepower is made by Mitsubishi. The base model, the SE, only comes with crank windows and manual locks, but has an MP3 jack? Recently, ive had to replace the right front Strut mount, the left front is starting to go out, and last week my car was in the shop for 4 days because the sway bar and both sway bar links had to be replaced. Advice- do not get the CVT, it is really jumpy, especially when it is hot outside. Yes, the car is priced very low, but it comes with the baggage. Be prepared for repair costs, and things like the Strut mount has to come from dodge itsself, not from your local Napa or advance auto. One good thing about the car- storage. we fit an elecric dryer on its side in the back with the seats down."
By dubba (CA) on Sunday, September 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 56,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great on gas, ice cold ac, refrigerator"
Cons: "none and ive hand the car 2 years"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought my 2010 caliber in the beginning of 2012. I love this car. Rides smooth and get great gas millage. 20 bucks will last me all week and with a 26 mile round trip for work. Once I started reading threw the manual I learned that glove box had a switch that flips and bam. U virtually have a refrigerator in your car. Once the switch is flipped the ac blows into the top part of the glove box where there are slots for your bottles or cans. The ice cold ac, the household plug in the center consul, and the back dome light that pops out and turns into a flash light all come in handy along with the back seats the recline and fold down behind the front seats for cargo storage. Love the car. I would recommend this car to anyone who wants something suv like with out the gas bill and added digits to the price tag"