By KBB.com Editors
When it comes to compact cars, Dodge doesn't exactly rule the roost. In fact, Dodge offers only one model, the 2012 Dodge Caliber, with dimensions that cross into mid-size sedan territory, and interior materials and an overall resale value that are arguably lackluster. It's a shame the cost cutters had their way with this one, because on paper the 2012 Caliber hatchback looks like a winner. It provides good use of interior space, has a versatile hatchback design and delivers good fuel economy. There are also a number of attractive features, such as the Chill Zone cooling storage compartment, removable rechargeable flashlight and articulating fold-down rear speaker bar that's perfect for blasting your favorite tunes at a tailgate party. But, the 2012 Dodge Caliber's execution is nowhere near as refined or buttoned down as that of the Mazda Mazda3, Volkswagen Golf or Subaru Impreza wagon.
If you need the fuel economy of small compact car, but the room and versatility of larger wagon, the 2012 Dodge Caliber hatchback has you covered.
If you're looking for a compact wagon with 35-plus MPG and a modern, upscale interior, you might find the 2012 Mazda3 or VW Golf TDI a better fit. If all-wheel drive is a must, the 2012 Subaru Impreza wagon makes a good choice.
For 2012, the Dodge Caliber compact hatchback is offered in three trims: SE, SXT and SXT Plus. More standard equipment is added to the base SE trim, while electronic stability control is made standard on all models.
Driving Impressions While it's clear that the 2012 Dodge Caliber is more practical than performance-oriented, Dodge has still managed to create a car that is fun to drive. In the SXT Plus,...we found the ride and handling above board, although the tepid performance of the 2.0-liter engine made us long for more power. Still, with the 5-speed manual and Sport suspension, the 2012 Dodge Caliber can be considered a worthy opponent to the VW Golf or Nissan Cube, although its performance is a far cry from the impressive Mazda3 hatchback, which features a much more fluid manual transmission, more horsepower and better fuel economy (Skyactiv model).
As part of the 368-watt Boston Acoustics premium audio system, the 2012 Dodge 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 2012 Dodge Caliber's "gearless" Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) might seem counterproductive, the ability to control the transmission with ultra-responsive manual shifts is very useful.
While we find the 2012 Dodge Caliber hatchback to be rather roomy and versatile, we have a hard time warming up to the dated interior design and hard surfaces that make up the Caliber's cabin. A major overhaul last year brought a bit more refinement, but the Caliber's interior is definitely past its prime. If you're not turned off by its look, there is much to like inside the 2012 Dodge Caliber, from the available fold-flat rear and front-passenger seats, to the standard Chill Zone cooling glove box and available articulating rear speaker bar. Front and rear-seat comfort is fairly respectable, with good rear-seat legroom for taller passengers. Unfortunately, leather seats have been removed from the equipment list, leaving only a choice of cloth or premium sport cloth with color inserts.Exterior
Despite its aging design, the 2012 Dodge Caliber hatchback remains visually appealing, with a tall greenhouse, large fender flares, big headlamp housings and the signature Dodge crosshair grille. Quite a bit a larger than most compact hatchbacks in this class, the 2012 Dodge Caliber hatchback appears almost SUV-like in its stance, yet the big wheel-and-tire combo of the SXT trims hints at a more aggressive driving experience than found with a similarly-priced Nissan Cube or Scion xB.
Along with a 2.0-liter engine and 5-speed manual transmission, a Caliber SE features front and rear side-curtain airbags, inflatable knee blocker, heated side mirrors, 1-year subscription service to Sirius Satellite Radio, cruise control, electronic stability control, keyless entry, 115-volt outlet, air conditioning, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) and power windows, mirrors and door locks. The SXT trim adds 17-inch alloy wheels, CVT automatic transmission, touring suspension, 60/40-split reclining rear seats, tachometer, fog lamps, fold-flat front-passenger seat and a removable rechargeable flashlight. The SXT Plus adds 18-inch wheels, sport suspension and touch-screen audio with a 40GB hard drive.
Most of the 2012 Dodge Caliber hatch's equipment is bundled into packages and includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, 368-watt Boston Acoustic sound system with flip-down articulating liftgate speakers, power sunroof, heated front seats and steering-wheel audio controls. The Security Package adds remote start, security alarm, front side-impact airbags, daytime running lights, engine oil cooler and trailer-tow wiring harness.
The 2012 Dodge Caliber hatchback offers only one engine choice: A 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder engine good for 158 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard on the SE, while the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is standard on the SXT and available on the SXT Plus. The SE can be ordered only with the manual transmission.
158 horsepower @6,400 rpm
141 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm
EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy: 24/32 (manual), 23/27 (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"