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 BeeGee on Thursday, February 26, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 69,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "good gas mileage, comfortable, plenty of room"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Have enjoyed the car! Met all my needs for hauling big dog crates and large amount of cargo. Plenty room inside and comfortable. Drives great."
By Mad on Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 95,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very reliable good looking transportation"
Cons: "Could be a little quieter (road noise)"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Outstanding looks,so many comments on the cars styling from just complete strangers.Fuel economy has been higher than EPA ratings, very comfortable ride for my 6'3" height,plenty of leg room,braking and handling are above what I expected,no major repairs,only scheduled maintenance has been needed."
By mike on Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 190,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased the car for $14k with 15k miles and after 7 years and 190k miles, it has been the best value of any vehicle. No issues and normal maintenance. Still runs great."
By CaliCaliber on Saturday, February 21, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 85,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price; fun to drive, get many compliments"
Cons: "radio volume is weird sometimes"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I am the original owner and still own my CSRT4. Luv it; it is fun to drive, has great maneuverability. The SRT Track experience was awesome and it really let me see what my Caliber can do! Two complaints though; the driver's seat cover ripped and had to be replaced (covered by warranty) & when you first turn it on, the radio's volume occasionally takes a minute or so to increase. Looking at different SRT/Caliber/CSRT forums, I am not the only one with those two problems. Other than that, I luv my Caliber SRT4!"
By john on Saturday, February 21, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 81,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "price, MPG, engine,"
Cons: "Suspension, quality,"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"Mediocre vehicle, poor in snow,, Suspension parts fail often.. Engine is of good quality, I would not sell this car to someone i know"
By Cottontop on Tuesday, February 10, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 138,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great value, exceeded all expectations"
Cons: "Lack of soundproofing (tire noise)"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Purchased new for $17,000 after much deliberation. Our specific needs: commuter car, 30+ mpg, easy entry for 4 older adults, good sat radio/stereo system, all available conveniences, hatchback design. Met all our needs plus some. Followed all recommended maintenance procedures. 85% interstate mileage, lifetime average mpg 31.2. No leaks of any kind, never required additional oil between 5,500 mi oil change intervals. First brake work at 130,000 mi. Third set of tires mounted at 132,000 mi. No noticeable loss of performance since new. Expect to drive this car for another 40-50,000 miles."
5 people out of 8 found this review helpful