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 Jessica on Monday, September 15, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 94,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price, fun to drive, lots of space"
Cons: "not a commuter car at ALL"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Well, I traded my 2007 Chevy Cobalt in for this car, initially went in to look at the Z's but ended up walking away with this because it still met everything I wanted for a great price but when it came to gas......I regret getting this car :( What I love about this car: 0-60 in 10 secs, the look, turbo, rims, GREAT sound system, so comfy, HUGE back that folds down (slept in this thing for 4 nights while on a road trip to Cali), when you want to go fast...you go fast in seconds! We went from 65 to 97 in 3 or 4 seconds I LOVE this car BUT i also have an hour and a half commute one way (only 30 miles one way) but still, sitting in stop and go traffic is not what this car is made for. If you live somewhere you can go fast or want a toy to take out on the town then this is your car but for commuting....NO WAY. I spend roughly 80-100 a week in gas :( But it has a plug in for auxiliary, the rear view mirror dims at night so it's not blinding you it like, goes greenish so helps your eyes. It's a manual which I do enjoy, but again in stop n go traffic every day it just is not pleasant, my knee is always killing me from shifting. Really, there's nothing bad at all about this car, I've had no mechanical issues with it at all, just keep up with everything and you're GOLDEN!"
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Joslin on Saturday, September 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 120,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks nice"
Cons: "Suspension parts need replaced more than tires do"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"My family purchased the vehicle in 2008 because the price was reasonable and it was good on gas. We also liked the design of the vehicle. The body and interior of the vehicle are in very good condition today - no exterior rust, no visible wear on seats, etc. - but the suspension and drive train of the vehicle are shot. We have replaced front end suspension parts numerous times since 2008. The garage said we would need a bumper-to-bumper repair of the suspension which would cost approximately $3000. Blue Book value is approximately $3500. I am not a mechanic or engineer, but it seems that the design of the front end suspension system is faulty. Currently the car is parked. The front cross member is rusted through, and it's only a matter of time before it snaps completely. I would not recommend purchasing this vehicle. It's a nice looking car, but there are too many engineering issues with the suspension, in particular."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By mac on Thursday, September 04, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 72,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Subframe rotted within first 5 years. Replaced all tied rods, more than once. Spent over $7000 in repairs not including normal maintanence."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Shadowgirl on Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 61,050overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "price the way it drives and handles turns"
Cons: "no power seats"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Caliber Heat! My husband and I shopped for about 6 months for a car for me and test drove many different cars and this is the one I kept coming back too. It had plenty of room and comfortable seats. It was priced right and well worth what we paid. I have had it for about almost 2 years and have not had any problems with it whatsoever!! It gets great gas mileage and I love the cooler in the glove compartment it works great!!I definitely would by another."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful
By Beth on Tuesday, August 26, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 5 of 10rating details
Pros: "nice design"
Cons: "not reliable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Manual Transmission completely rebuilt at 35k. Like this car, like hatchback design and interior is nice, but not exactly confident that it will last or be reliable when tranny replaced at 35k! :("
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
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."
5 people out of 6 found this review helpful