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 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"
6 people out of 7 found this review helpful