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 Alan (TX) on Friday, May 17, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 198,100overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "looks, utility, comfort, options"
Cons: "fit and finish, acceleration, toomuch hard plastic"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I bought my Caliber new in June of 2006. It now has 198,000 miles on it and runs as well as it did when new. At 6'4" and 260 lbs, I was looking for something with room, and the Caliber has it. It is painfully slow at take-off thanks to the CVT, but gas mileage is respectable and is has good storage in the back - great with the seats folded down. It is comfortable on the highway as well. I live in North Texas and have driven it to the Gulf Coast in summer, the Rocky Mountains in winter, up to Lake Michigan for vacation and a brutal number of miles in Dallas-Fort Worth traffic. It has handles asphalt, snow and sand equally well. If Dodge had not quit making them, I'd buy another. The fit and finish is cheap, I admit. It is also not at all sporty. But it looks great and if utility and comfort are your thing, it's a good choice. Mine has satellite radio, U-Connect hands free Bluetooth, 9 speaker stereo, leather seats and power sun roof. I know not everyone's experience is the same, but after 198K with only predictable upkeep and minor repairs, I'd have to add that it's pretty reliable as well."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By l6perry (MA) on Sunday, May 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I bought my Caliber with 30,000 miles on it and I am now at 130,000. I paid $13,000 for it. I am one of those people that somehow kills every car that I get. And I have to say, aside from some basic maintenence and repairs that are to be expected from driving it so much, it has been a great car. It has a ton of space, cleans easily, and is decent on gas. The interior is all plastic however, it is a low priced car. It is to be expected. But, the plastic has not cracked or chipped and everything functional. Very happy with the investment. The only sad thing is the Kelly Blue Book value is very low."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Josh (MN) on Tuesday, April 30, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 96,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "Cheap, ok mileage, novel features"
Cons: "You get what you pay for, plastic, poor quality"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"A ok vehicle with no major problems, though lacking in quality. Front-end supsension problems aren't uncommon before the 60k-mile warranty expiration. Also had a power window switch go out just at 96k miles. The vehicle is made primarily of plastic and driver seats arent comfortable beyond an hour long drive (I'm 6', 200lbs)."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By melvablue (AZ) on Saturday, April 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 62,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfort,reiabikity, looks, economy"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Have thourougl enjoyed this car since ipurchased new in 2009. Love design, interior setup, comfort, fuel economy,satellite radio,waranty, reiability, power for being 4- cyl with 5 speed manual with overdrive. Got upgraded wheels, spoiler, tint and cargo cover. Have moved so much, love roominess, sturdiness,ease of driving, controls,satellite radio, uts easy for all people to get in and out. Really sad 2012 is last year. Other awesomething like dual glove boxes, chilled shwlf for drinks, lightedcup holders,auxiliaryinput, holders, cargolight that is also flashlight. Love it. Even fabric interior has remained awesome. Lovereclining back seat and fold flat storage. All with 30-35mpg and more room than smaller compacts."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By younglove (IL) on Thursday, April 11, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 85,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun features- great Boston sound system"
Cons: "Numerous major mechanical problems"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"This was our first new car purchase, and we definitely wish we could go back and NOT buy this car. Shortly after purchase the control arms, ball joints and tie rods needed to be replaced on the drivers side. We then had about 4 years of creaky rides (the suspension was still awful), lots of check engine lights, and a myriad of other annoyances. In the last six months we have had the following replaced: control arms, ball joints and tie rods on the passenger side, water pump, several pullys including the idler pully, fuel pump and alternator. We have practically had to rebuild this car, and it has not held its value AT ALL. We are planning on getting rid of it ASAP. It seems like this particular year is the most problematic, so other years might have fared better. The interior, sound system, sunroof and other features of the car are great, but are not very useful if the car is inoperable :-("
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By argantan (NH) on Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,177overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "youngish and sporty looking"
Cons: "none that I could think of at the moment"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought this car on a whim for I got so tired maintaining my old 2000 jeep grand cherokee. I am glad that it was an impulsive decision I didn't regret later on. It took a little getting used to driving from a very large vehicle to a more compact one. I love the way it handles during increment weather systems like heavy rain and snow. It gets me to where I am going with ease. I can definitely feel the powerful 2.4L engine on the freeway maintaining its cruise control speed level. I have the AWD R/T 2008 model and so far no complaints whatsoever. Of course like any other vehicle it needs it scheduled maintenance like oil changes every 3 months or so. I was even pleasantly surprised that it had a small cooler/refrigerator located in storage compartment on the passenger side of the vehicle. What a great idea especially for long distance travel. It also has a cooling feature for the cup holders, something that I would use during the hot summer months. I like the heated seats especially during the artic cold winter blasts that we get here in New Hampshire, plus it has better fuel economy than my old jeep saving me at least on the gas money that I budgeted for the month. It only takes a few minutes for the heater to heat up the entire car especially during the sub-zero temperatures which is great for me. I find myself peeling off my layers in the car even before hitting the traffic light. The air-conditioner is likewise cold too which is great for traveling in the southern states especially during the summer months. For me, I am sure that I will drive it for the next several years. I am so glad that I purchased this vehicle. It was at that time the right price and the right time. No regrets or complains at all."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful