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 Mario on Friday, March 07, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 150,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Affordable, comfortable, sporty"
Cons: "None, really!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I've had my caliber for 7 years and am extremely happy with it. I've kept up with my oil changes and your basic maintenance. Other than that, nothing major has gone wrong with it!!!!!"
By K.C. on Wednesday, February 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 150,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "extremely comfortable ride, fun to drive, reliable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I just bought this car a week or so ago and it is very easy to drive and extremely comfortable on long drives. It's interior design is clean and stylish. I feel safe driving with my kids in it, also. It's an overall great vehicle. I'm really enjoying owning this vehicle!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Remik on Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 87,000overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Pros: "Warms up nice, Roomy. Nice fold down rear seats!"
Cons: "HUGE BLIND SPOTS, BAD SUSPENTION, NO parts!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"We bought this car in 2008 and it begin to have SUSPENSION TROUBLE about a year later, and it has been NON STOP! It is a good thing we bought the extended warranty! I highly recommend it if you are gonna buy this car! We basically have replaced the entire suspension. Now we are starting to have trouble with the THROTTLE ASSEMBLY AND ACTUATOR...We just found out that it COULD BE AS MUCH AS 6 MONTHS BEFORE WE CAN GET IT REPLACED, because there are NONE! Yup that is right!!! 1,500 THROTTLE ASSEMBLIES ON BACK ORDER!!!! AND THE COMPANY HAS NO PLANS TO MAKE THE PART AT THE MOMENT. There are NONE to be found in the United States new or used! So we are just out of luck! Also the car has HUGE blind spots in the rear sides. We owe more then it is worth at this point, can't wait to get rid of it!!!"
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Bruce on Monday, February 10, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 48,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"We've had this car for three years and have done lots of long distance driving. This car is great for long distance driving because of the very comfortable front seats. We've had no leg fatigue, which I can't say didn't happen in some of our other cars. It has had a mostly quiet ride ever since we replaced the original tires with quieter radials. The engine is quiet. I like the cargo space in the hatchback trunk, and the versatility with flattening the seats. The worst aspect of this car is the lack of pep when starting from a stop. The fuel economy is OK and averages 25mpg city driving and 29 mpg highway."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Ann on Sunday, February 02, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 87,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, great sound system"
Cons: "gas mileage could be better"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great compact car with an excellent sound system. Sporty looking in the sunburst orange color with black leather interior. I have never had any issues with this car. I bought it brand new (single owner), high mileage is all from freeway miles (work to home radius is 110 miles). Added window rain guards and chrome door handles which look great with the big chrome rims."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By pommom on Monday, January 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 88,000overall rating 4 of 10rating details
Pros: "rides nice easier to get in&out than regular car."
Cons: "built very cheaply!!!!!!!not durable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"Have this car for 4 years and have already stuck almost $5,000 into it. They are built way to cheap. None of the driving suspension holds up. Replaced both front rocker arms, strutts, bearings, links in front, rear latteral links and thermostats just to name a few.STAY AWAY FROM THESE CARS.You just wind up throwing your money away."
6 people out of 9 found this review helpful