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)
With a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $18,000, the 2012 Dodge Caliber SE is an attractive prospect. The SXT pushes the price to around $19,500, while the nicely-loaded SXT Plus, which offers more features but a manual transmission, comes in around the same price as the SXT. Our Fair Purchase Price values have reflected real-world transaction prices lower than these sticker prices but, as market fluctuations are ongoing, it's wise to check again before you buy. As for resale value, we expect the 2012 Caliber hatchback to remain on the lower end of the resale spectrum, well behind the Nissan Cube, Scion xB, Subaru Impreza and Mazda3.
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."
1 person out of 1 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 :-("
4 people out of 4 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."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By tweety16422 (PA) on Tuesday, March 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great on gas,color great good car"
Cons: "tire price"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first timing owning a car and besides from the pricey tires i love my car. She is great and the color is awesome inside and out."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful