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 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."
2 people out of 5 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 4 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"
4 people out of 7 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."
4 people out of 9 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."
7 people out of 9 found this review helpful