By on March 24, 2010

For a moment, turn away from the uncertain prospects of Chrysler’s Fiat-directed future and consider the subject of this review as nothing other than one entry in the popular five-door hatchback segment of the North American compact car market.

That’s what I had to do, anyway, in order to rationalize driving and writing about a vehicle that a lot of folks would justifiably consider to be a loser car from a loser car company. The question is, is it really?

Regardless of whether or not the 2010 Dodge Caliber SXT is a loser, one thing’s for sure: it’s a goner, as a Fiat-sourced replacement will be phased in somewhere within Chrysler’s multi-brand lineup over the next five years. That doesn’t matter to the compact hatchback customer who’s looking for cheap-but-new (and ostensibly dependable) wheels today, though. Fortunately, the Italian corporate shot-callers decided to make Dodge’s current contender in this market a little more tolerable by giving it a new interior for 2010, something the dealer source I spoke with said was the result of a $500 per car endowment from Fiat that tasked Chrysler with improving the vehicle without raising its price.

Alleged interior improvements notwithstanding, the exterior remains the visual equivalent of what a Star Trek-type transporter might yield if it malfunctioned and disastrously reassembled the molecules of a car, a truck, and a small crossover in one, horrible mutant of glass, steel, and plastic. The Ram-tough grille treatment looks just as out of place on a frugal compact as it did when the Caliber first appeared, and the panel seams where the sides of the car meet the roof are still covered with cheap, gray (“pre-faded black”?) plastic strips that look just as contrived as the over-sized comic-book-looking head- and taillight elements.

Happily, things improve inside, as Fiat’s stop-gap money appears very well spent. Borrowing most – if not every – premium interior cliché from the last ten years, Chrysler engineers have thankfully imbued the cabin with niceties such as chrome-ringed gauges, a decent steering wheel, and better upholstery throughout. Soft-enough-touch materials abound, and the new console houses a touch-screen entertainment center with decent ergonomics and features that are at least class-competitive. (My favorite: one touch rippage of all songs from a CD onto the internal 30-gig hard drive.) There’s also a (parked-mode only) DVD player. All this audio-hippery would be cooler if audio phasing was better, but overall, the system doesn’t sound bad.

The “not bad” theme continues as you contemplate the interior’s functionality. Given the comparative popularity of small sedans in the compact market today, it’s a fair bet that most hatchback buyers are looking for enhanced utility. Here the Caliber really delivers, with a fold-down (and reclining) rear seat that reaches near-flat status, a plastic-backed flip-forward front passenger’s seat, and headroom that’s every bit as ample as Jessica Simpson’s [insert favorite body part here]. Far and away, though, the Caliber’s most noticeable bit of interior redemption is it’s rear cargo area. Flash-covered plastic panels that looked like shipping-duty refugees have given way to much better looking, thicker equivalents, and the flimsy floor panel covering the temporary spare has been ditched in favor of a substanital mouse-fir-covered, multi-piece unit that, according to the manufacturer, can hold up to 250 pounds.

But don’t put 250 pounds back there (or much more than that, anyway), because an already-taxed 158-horsepower 2.0-liter four banger will only seem less impressive as you urge it forward. Even though throttle response is pretty good, you’ll quickly realize that there’s just not much there, other than maybe a disturbing resemblance to early Saturn fours in the (lack-of) smoothness department. If not for a very capable CVT that dutifly keeps this thrashy sewing machine within easy driving distance of its torque peak, the engine’s NVH alone would be a good reason not to buy this car. At one point, I lifted the hood while the engine was running. Closing my eyes, I was instantly transported to a 1970’s office building where I was surrounded by a typing pool filled with fast-fingered secretaries pounding away at their IBM Selectrics. Somewhere (probably at a race track) there are louder fuel injectors, but I’ve haven’t heard them.

What I have heard are comments from lots of regular Caliber rental customers involving driving dynamics that don’t do diddly to dissuade derrogatory discourse. And I see why. Ever serve on a team or work group that couldn’t agree on anything? Just pretend that Congress was responsible for the Caliber’s chassis setup and you’ll fully comprehend the way the car rides and drives.

Let’s start with the least-offensive part: The steering – though a little light – seemed decently responsive but had a real “artificial” feel that I would associate with some of the lesser-quality electric power steering systems I’ve encountered. Except that the Caliber’s system is hydraulic. Oh well, at least the ratio seemed well-chosen.

But the really horrible part of the Caliber’s driving dynamics involves the complete disharmony between the springs/dampers (extraordinarily mushy) and the 17-inch tires (bone-jarringly stiff). The rock-ribbed construction and hard, brittle compound of the ill-chosen rubber neither gripped nor glided, yet I was able to count no less than three Town Car-worthy up-and-down motions after a hitting a medium-sized pothole at 45 MPH thanks (or no thanks) to the big-car-from-the-Sixties suspension tune.

At this point, I turned on the radio (to drown out the road noise produced by the awful tires). But even the shrill tones of Lady Gaga were no match for the sound I made when I nearly rear-ended a Bimmer in traffic after expecting that the Caliber’s brakes might actually perform like those fitted to other modern automobiles. The vague ineffectiveness of this car’s binders is simply inexcusable. Ever driven a vehicle equipped with high-performance, high-heat range brake pads early in the morning when they’re cold and require excessive pedal effort and increased stopping distance? If so, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect from this mass-market, garden-variety little Dodge hatchback on a daily basis. In other words,the Caliber’s brakes are bad…almost scary bad.

But is the whole car bad?

I remember Dan Rather once saying, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that he didn’t believe Bill Clinton was a liar, because, “I think you can be an honest person and lie about any number of things.”

Debate that statement all you want, but I can’t help but apply similar logic to the Caliber: I believe a car can have a number of serious flaws but still be a decent car. Sure, the cons outweigh the pros by a ton here, and yes, the Caliber is a dying model from a seemingly dying brand built by a company with a still-uncertain future. But for the right customer – one who only has $17,320 (as my moon-roofed tester stickered for after three grand worth of incentives)…and who needs a dependable, new hatchback – I think the Caliber might be…certainly not the best choice…but at least a decent one.

One thing’s certain, though: Chrysler derived the maximum bang for their meager upgrade buck by investing in a nicer interior for this wayward little hatchback. If gradual product improvements as effective as this one become consistent year after year throughout the company’s entire product line, maybe Chrysler’s future won’t look so bleak after all.

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127 Comments on “Review: 2010 Dodge Caliber SXT [Updated Interior]...”


  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    My roommate had the unfortunate privilege of driving a gray Dodge Caliber for two weeks while a garage fixed her ‘98 Subaru Legacy wagon, which is a car of so much higher caliber, it’s not even funny.

    Her one compliment of the car? Nice radio. Everything else sucked. I rode in it a couple times, and I have to agree.

    This is the smallest car Dodge sells, but it feels like a huge, plodding encumbrance. Walk inside, slam the tinny door to hear metal hitting metal. Nice. The headrest is a hard plastic donut. Comfort isn’t part of the game. After less than a mile, sharp pain starts running up the back and neck. The ride is punishing.

    Every surface, every texture, screams cheap. Cost-cutting. Bean-counters. I know Chrysler has hit hard times, but Kias are nicer looking and feeling. So is my roommate’s 12 year-old Subaru’s interior. Fisher-price plastic, but with mold lines that cut through flesh if you’re not careful. The gloveboxes (there are two), the middle armrest. Nothing opens or closes or slides smoothly, always roughly, resisting, with effort. Knocking against any plastic surface in the car makes you laugh a little.

    It feels like a not-well-made toy. Like China’s first foray into the USDM. It insults whomever drives or rides in it. It’s just awful. It’s a sad disaster of a vehicle. And she’s glad it’s gone. So am I.

    Glad they fixed the interior.

    • 0 avatar

      I suffered the exact same indignity not once, but twice while my G6 was in the body shop. Both times, I begged of my local Enterprise Rent-a-Car to give me ANYTHING different but, ironically, each time that poor little Caliber was the last man standing in that empty little lot like that poor awkward, geeky kid picked last in gym class. No big surprise. The Caliber is the automotive equivalent of the awkward geek–slower, dumber, and less attractive in every way possible than anyone else. It rode rough, ran loud, moved slow, and looked hideous from any angle. I told people it was the simple answer to the question as to why Chrysler went bankrupt. This simply is the worst car available today. How could any car company today produce a car this bad and how could anybody with a brain thrown good money away on it?

      I agree with Gammill Jr. in every way possible, including his comparison with early model Saturn, which I also used to own. Except, that Saturn could easily run circles around the Caliber any day.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    When these first came on the market, I remember looking at one on a Sunday when the dealer was closed. It seemed roomy enough, but the styling wasn’t my cup of tea.

    The real deal-killer, though, was the interior – even if I could see past the styling and didn’t care how the car drove, that interior was a 100% no-sale item.

    Hopefully this nets a few sales for these guys.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Dang, this review should have ended with the sentence; “Well at least it didn’t kill me.”

  • avatar
    jimboy

    While I have never been a fan of the caliber/compass/patriot triplets, it’s good to see some product upgrades from Chrysler. They finally seem to be showing some commitment to their product and their long term customers. I hope this new attitude continues trough all their product lines.

  • avatar
    ktm_525

    Did the interior have a noxious smell? At the recent car show Chrysler/Dodge products stood out for their horrible smelling brand new interiors. Off gassing plastic. Yikes. Hyundais used to smell like this years ago. The smell gave me a headache.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Actually, the exterior styling you decry is the LEAST offensive part of the whole vehicle, IMHO….

  • avatar

    $ 17,320 after thousands in incentives?! Wow I must be getting cheap but that seems like too much money for this. I think I’d rather spend $ 15,000 on a lightly used Mazda3 hatch, or lot less on an older Focus hatch. Granted the Focus won’t have the warranty but it will be an arguably better car, and the money I’ve saved up front will most likely more than pay for any needed repairs down the road.

    I think I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey too much, I used to just care about monthly payments.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Yeah, for that kind of coin, there are way too many other better alternatives. The first that springs to mind is the similiarly, somewhat mediocre (but infinity better built) Toyota Matrix.

      Likewise, as mentioned, a Mazda3 or grungy (and way cheap) old Focus 5-door would be much preferable to the Caliber.

      Hell, even a Honda Fit would be a wiser choice. Although smaller, it excels in virtually every other area, particularly in the way it’s packaged.

      The most distressing thing is that the bottom-feeder Dodge with an improved interior will have to do for the next five years. Who’s going to buy them? As another poster said, the Caliber is (was) so bad, it makes the Patriot and PT Cruiser look good. That’s quite an accomplishment.

      OTOH, maybe this is some sort of twisted Chrysler stategy. I once read that GM intentionally made their cheapest cars as miserable a driving experience as was possible so the owner would try that much harder to trade up to something more livable (and profitable for GM).

      The problem with the Caliber is the next move up within the company is a (wait for it)…Sebring. The only cars someone getting out of a Caliber will be a buying is one of Chrysler’s competitor’s.

    • 0 avatar

      PT Cruiser always was good.

    • 0 avatar
      jeventures

      I bought an ’04 Mazda3 Hatchback Sport with 30k on it for $10k. Wouldn’t trade it for 2 new Calibers.

  • avatar
    PGM-FI

    I rented one 2 or 3 years back for a week-long excursion through California including the Coachella Music Festival. It appears as if Chrysler hasn’t changed a thing about the steering/ride. The tires seemed like they could at least put up with a corner but the steering/suspension gave you no confidence to carry speed. I got passed by a 4Runner south of Santa Cruz on the PCH. At the time it didn’t seem tooo bad, then I got home to my Gen 4 civic and remembered what a good, cheap wheel/suspension/gearbox is all about.
    Oh and I only averaged 24 to the gallon with the 1.8 and cvt.

    Mr. Don, did you try opening the windows? Curious if mine was a fluke or if they fixed the wind buffeting problem. With the back windows open mine set up shockwaves in the cabin that gave everyone instant migraines.

    • 0 avatar

      The “wind buffeting” isn’t just a problem with the Caliber; I’ve been in Explorers and other SUVs that do this too. Seems to be another downside of the Caliber’s “make an SUV into a small car” design.

    • 0 avatar
      t8528sl

      That buffeting is caused by the air flow off of the side mirrors. Try folding them in and rolling down the rear windows, it goes away. Karmann Vortices off of the mirror like the buffeting behind a semi (for you motorcycle riders). Never been in an SUV that didn’t do it.

    • 0 avatar
      davey49

      My Audi did the wind buffeting thing with the back windows open as well.

  • avatar
    ajla

    You were kinder than I would have been.

    Even in ChryslerCo’s own showroom, I’d go for a PT Cruiser or Patriot before the Caliber.

  • avatar

    this car is so ugly, it lowers property values whereever it is parked. It’s not cute ugly, or interesting ugly, or any other ugly that has a remotely positive spin. I hate looking at these. I mean, a lot of cars are ugly but inoffensively so. This one is offensively so. Kill it!

    • 0 avatar
      1996MEdition

      Agreed…..ugly

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      I always thought the Caliber was what the creators of the Aztek concept had originally intended it to be. Ironically, if that’s how the Aztek had came out (i.e., the size of the Caliber), it certainly would have been as successful (or even more so) than the Caliber, instead of ending up being a rolling joke that many believe sank Pontiac.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s what haters said about 1Gen xB too.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      Seriously. Especially when it’s parked on a driveway with the tail-end facing your house. My window faces the street and for about two months before my neighbors got their old car fixed, they had an ugly arse Caliber out! Made their Woody PT Cruiser look like a Lambo in comparison.

      I do applaud Dodge for having their own styling language, though. Seems like every other hatchback is a generic European fug-humpback-mobile, aka Hyundai Elantra Touring and Versa and Astra and V50 and stuff.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      A couple years ago my then-girlfriend – who normally pays no attention to cars – was quite annoyed that her new neighbors had a Caliber and were parking it on the street, where she would see it almost every time she looked out of the window.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    I had one as a rental, awful car, felt dangerous to drive. Since I have rejected several as a choice when renting.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    You didn’t mention the visibility or lack thereof. Looking at the pictures, and knowing that nothing was done to the exterior, I can only assume the visibility continues to be somewhat worse than what you would get from a tank or submarine. I have never driven a Caliber, but based on my experience with a dreadful Magnum, I can only assume that Chrysler thinks driving perfromance is improved if you can’t see where you’re going or where you’ve been.

    • 0 avatar
      stationwagon

      What kind of engine did the Magnum have? How did it ride and handle? Was it comfortable? How tall are you? I want to no more about Magnums, with the right paint job it can look sweet.

  • avatar
    ConejoZing

    To get me to drive that would take the same measure as it would take to get me to go see (James Camerons) Avatar. You would have to pay me to do it.

    And everyone knows that Billy Clinton, just like John Edwards, though a married man cannot keep his hands off multiple women. Kind of like how the Bush family cannot keep its hands off illegal drug dealing and cocaine. And just where are those supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq anyway?

  • avatar

    The money was spent on this interior before Fiat ever entered the picture. Lead times and all that.

    Driving position in the SRT4 was a killer for me. It was impossible to find a comfortable position, at least in that variant. Which is now dead.

    After a rocky start back in 2007, reliability has been about average in TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey.

    http://www.truedelta.com/car-reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      S. Artie IV

      I can’t defend the base car, but I have put 115,000 km on my SRT4, commuting 200 a day round trip. I find the seats to be very comfortable, and the ergonomics quite acceptable. The materials… not so much. My elbows are sore from the concrete armrests.

      The SRT4 Caliber is a blast to drive, no matter what journos who drive it for a weekend then give it back have reported. It takes practice to launch, and there’s torque steer, but it is stable and confidence-inspiring on highways and twisties, and is fast as hell. Only the Cobalt SS could beat it for the price, and the Caliber has much more room inside.

      With the simple Mopar Stage 1 PCM upgrade, I dynoed 311 HP at the wheels. 0-60 is a titch over 5 seconds, and it pulls hard at any speed. not bad for C$24 Grand.

  • avatar
    srogers

    Can anybody tell me if this pockmark on the ass of automobiledom was initiated by Daimler, or was it the pre-Daimler Chrysler’s doing?

    Everyone hates on Daimler for turning wonderful old Chrysler bad, but if Chrysler designed this thing on their own, then they were too far gone for Zeus himself to save.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Yes. It was Daimler. They made them use a Mitsu platform that was ill suited to the task. This was to save money, even though Chrysler had a slush fund of 8-10 billion dollars for product development, or did have, until Daimler came along.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      They had $8 billion at the end of the last automotive peak in the 90′s, Ford had $25, GM around $15 but you can see how long that lasted with a few years of bad product planning and an unsustainable cost structure.

      What Daimler did or didn’t do I don’t know (at first they pumped loads of money into chryco to take it upscale, in the end they probably ran the actuarials every which way and realized that it was a dead end and went about the long hard process of unwinding a $35 billion mistake in the best way possible for thier shareholders, who were also much better off former Chryco shareholders) but the money that crysler had set aside wasn’t a golden egg.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Chrysler specifically had that money to weather the next recession, whenever it came, so they could keep right on developing new product and not cut back – a strategic competitive advantage. Remember they were the most efficient of the automakers then when it came to getting the most for their money. The amount of money Ford could waste back then was staggering. 6 billion to develop the Mondeo/Contour/Mystique. 1.7 billion for the Stratus/Cirrus/Breeze and then a convertible (Sebring) afterwords. So 8-10 billion was enough for them.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    Sorry, guys, I like it!

    It’s roomy, utilitarian transport.

    I’ve rented them twice and it did the job.

  • avatar
    ott

    I saw that episode of Star Trek (Voyager). Neelix and Tuvok are beamed back to the ship from a planet and are “merged” into one man. They called him Tuvix.

  • avatar
    Mark

    When presented with a sea of Caliber’s at the LAX Thrifty car rental lot and told to pick the car I wanted I saw my savior sitting at the end of the row…… a new style Hyundai Elantra (it was May 2008)

    One look through the window of each car and memories of almost passing out from the fumes in the Caliber at that year’s car show made the choice a simple one – the Elantra it was, and it was a pleasure to drive in the city, on the freeways, in the mountains and in the desert.

    That week in the Elantra showed me how far they had come from the days of the Pony and how Hyundai was now a serious player in the market. It also made my wonder why Hyundai could make a rental car special that left a positive impression about the brand, but Chrysler and GM seemed to treat those types of cars (Caliber, Sebring, Aveo, Cobalt, G6, etc.) as a necessary evil and only put the bare minimum of effort into making them.

    Many of us first experience a car from a brand other than what we currently drive as a rental and I think it’s a missed opportunity for manufacturers who don’t put their best foot forward in this segment and inadvertently have themselves crossed off the list of potential choices for a new car purchase based on the rental experience, even if they have competitive products in a more upscale segment.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Funny, I had the opposite experience w. Hertz in Des Moines. I had reserved a midsized car and they told me that an Elantra was now a midsized car in their book. Then the one I got had a LOT of mileage on it and was all beaten up. Didn’t major rental fleets used to change their cars more often? I felt like I was at Rent-A-Wreck, not Hertz.

      The 4 banger in this “midsized” car roared so loudly when I floored it to merge onto the highway (all that sound and fury signifying nothing – pickup was anemic) that my daughter asked if there was anything wrong. I told her that she was just not used to riding in really cheap Korean cars and this was “normal”. No way would I buy an Elantra based on the impression I got from that one.

      The last couple of times I got a Pontiac G6 (back when they were still making them) , I had the opposite impression – much better than I expected, something you might almost buy if there was no Honda and no Mazda. But then if there was no Honda and no Mazda, Pontiac might still be in business – the great is the enemy of the good.

      Same thing with the Caliber – maybe if this was E. Germany and the Caliber was the only car available, people would flock to buy it. But given that people have alternatives, why would you? Look for these in rental fleets and nowhere else – this is not a car people will use their own money to buy, $500 interior upgrade not withstanding. They could have probably deployed the $500 better by putting it on the hood – there are alway people looking for a deal and don’t give a damn about the interior (or the exterior) as long as it rolls – my Ford Maverick was proof of that.

    • 0 avatar
      thebeelzebubtrigger

      Mark said, “Many of us first experience a car from a brand other than what we currently drive as a rental and I think it’s a missed opportunity for manufacturers who don’t put their best foot forward in this segment and inadvertently have themselves crossed off the list of potential choices for a new car purchase based on the rental experience, even if they have competitive products in a more upscale segment.”

      So true! My experiences with rental Detroit iron was exactly why they never made my shopping list. And I did rent those cars hoping to see some improvement. Well, I did see some on Ford’s part, but not enough to justify the money. American cars at this point should either be priced like Chinese imports or they need to raise their standards greatly. But I fear they’re like delinquent, spoiled, rich kids — as long as we keep bailing them out, they’ll never learn.

      BTW, I always liked the styling of the Caliber. But it’s the only thing I found to like about it.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    “mouse-fir”: is that some kind of Bonsai?

    Nice, clear, elegant review of a car I’ve never experienced in the flesh. Is is true that the Dieter signed the Caliber off after the success of the 300C, which led him to the cynical belief that Americans will buy anything that is both cheap and macho?

  • avatar
    Ion

    I’ve found Chrysler’s interiors to be cheaply made, but highly ergonomic. Their SRT seats are ridiculously comfy and there interiors are pretty roomy. I’m apparently awkwardly tall from the waist up and felt I’ve had plenty of head room in most Chryco products, which is more than I can say for some foreign cars. I imagine if I was hefty instead instead of lanky and didn’t care about reliability I’d be in a Charger now.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    If this is the worst, most-punishing, Olfactoryly-jarring(Yea– I made it up! Whatya gonna do bowd it?,) caricature of a small car available– we are all very, very blessed.

    That said– I’d take this over the Matrix, the XB, the Fit, 3 ‘sportwagen,’ or even my current PT Cruiser. The 2.4/CVT version I drove absolutely flew. But they’re humongous for a compact– the PT is svelte compared.

    Are they still offering a 5-speed in this automobile? The PT has gone Automatic-only, which is a shame. The manual really wakes that little wagon up!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      You must have drunk the Krysler Koolaid to believe this. I suppose we taxpayers should be glad that there are still guys like you out there willing to eat whatever Detroit dishes up – maybe there is still some hope of getting our money back. Your standards for what “absolutely flies” need to be upgraded (see MazdaSpeed3), but going in a straight line is not where you separate the men from the boys anyway. By the standards of the Yugo or the Pinto, this car is a marvel, so we are blessed today that one of the worst cars on the market is still half decent, but in 2010, it just doesn’t measure up to the competition – not in quality, not in performance and handling, not in anything. In the car business you have to hit a continuously moving target and this one misses the bulls eye.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Alamo (or Hertz, can’t remember) attempted to give me one of these things after I had reserved a “midsized” car. The name “caliber” didn’t mean anything to me. So when she pointed at the white POS fifty feet away, I insisted on something else. They didn’t have a proper midsizer, so they put me in a CTS for the same price. Now THAT’s a sweet car. Chrysler should be punished for building such feeble products.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      Yes, what is up with that? Apparently the car rental business is now like the grocery business, where instead of a price increase you get downsized – a 1 lb. can of coffee weighs 12 oz., a “half-gallon” of ice cream has 3 pints, a “midsize” is what used to be a “compact”. And then you are made to feel like an idiot if you say anything about it.

      Now I tried bitching my way out of a “midsized” Elantra but the agent stuck to her guns. The last laugh was on me because I had gotten it off of Priceline for $10/day. This is what it has come to – the customer and the merchant each trying to out-cheap each other.

  • avatar
    Moparagain

    About 15 years ago I overheard a car sales manager say that “since Chrysler doesn’t offer anything for the young black man (and wannabes) they are doomed”. Obviously at the time i thought he was a little whacked but now I wonder. Especially when i see the PT and the Caliber/Compass. Good solid dependable cars but not sporty or attractive. The usual blah interior but again solid little cars without visual appeal for younger wannabes. Doomed.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    My sister went years without a car, renting one here and there when needed. She drove G6s, Cobalts, Focii, and numerous other rental fleet queens over the years. When she finally decided to buy a car a little over a year ago, a high value compact was what she was looking for, and the one requirement was that it not be a Caliber. I found that rather amusing, and could not blame her one bit. She wound up in a Cobalt that, after discounts and rebates, was just a shade over $12k, and a much nicer car than a Caliber at any cost.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    Well– since I’m not of the Negroid race, I must be a heavy drug-user to ever think these cars are passable transportation.

    Some of our Brothers pulled stunts in Aries’ that would make regular drivers blush– and some of us spent 12 years in our High-School neons. Some of our Sisters changed their oil in Intrepids half-a-dozen times and some of us watched those Sisters travel nearly 200,000 miles in those automobiles.

    And because of this, we’re still buying Chrysler’s handsome vehicles. Don’t hate us– We really don’t know any better. Except, I do. Credential-listing is gauche, but I studied Art and Art History at university. I volunteer at our museum.

    I know beauty. I know quality.

    I drive Chrysler for those reasons.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      The (probably unfair) stereotype is that only science/engineering challenged people study art history as their university major and/or purchase Chrysler cars.

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      Wow. “beauty.” “quality.” The former might be in the eye of the beholder (especially for art majors), but quality is at least somewhat objective.

      Perhaps “some” of your Brothers and Sisters did those things you mention. But most were pulling their Aries’ out of ditches, wishing their parents bought them anything but the Neon, and changing their own oil to offset the other regular maintenance costs of their Intrepid.

      Maybe you don’t know better, but you should. There is no reason to be completely devoted to just one manufacturer, even a good one. And Chrysler is not.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      They say that love is blind – now I know what they mean. Too bad that there aren’t many others that share your opinion. The Caliber is loved by rental fleets and that’s about it (and even they don’t love them, they just love the fleet discount). Better stock up on those Chryslers because it’s hard to say that they’ll be around for much longer. I suppose every defunct brand had its die hard fans that go down swinging, just never enough of them.

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    Imagine for a moment that only American made cars existed in this category: Caliber, PT Cruiser, Chevy HHR, Aveo, Cobalt, Vibe, Astra, Focus.

    Scary huh?

    We’d all be driving a Focus I suspect.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      You do realize the Vibe is a Matrix right?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      No way I would take the current North American Focus over an Astra.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Are we to pick the American made cars from your list, or are you suggesting that this list is actually American cars?

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      @Ion : You’re exactly right, I remember the Chrysler guys sweating the details to meet or beat the their benchmark, the Matrix. Something went terribly wrong along the way.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      What went wrong is they set the Matrix as the benchmark. I can’t really speak for the current gen, but the first gen has a horrible interior. The hard plastic works for the trunk area because it’s easy to clean, it doesn’t work for the dash/console. Some Matrix’s even have a torsion beam and drums out back. The Caliber is definitely a Matrix with Dodge unreliability.

      Now as far as the Vibe is concerned I’ve had extensive experience with both it and the Matrix and I can assure you outside of a roof rack and different fascia’s they are the exact same car. There should be no thoughts that because it’s a Pontiac it’s worse than the Toyota. Interiors and suspensions aside they’re both fairly good cars.

    • 0 avatar
      davey49

      I guess that list would be more, cars sold at American brand dealerships. I’d go for the Astra first, Cobalt 2nd, both MT
      The HHR and PT Cruiser are too large

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Srogers, chrysler had 2 small cars on the drawing board, called the hornet and rebel. Diamler gave them the caliber.
    There is very little in the caliber that is actually chrysler sourced. It’s on a mitsubishi platform, the engine is mostly a hyundai design, and the cvt trans is a mitsubishi unit. Not sure who makes the manual transmissions.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      The CVT is made by Jatco, a subsidiary of Nissan. So it’s a Mitsu platform, a Hyundai engine, a Nissan tranny, and a “nickel ‘n’ Daimler” interior. Daimler set the budget and told them to meet it. The old Chrysler would not have done this.

      Chrysler can build a small car when they make it themselves. The Neon was light years ahead of this. A lot of people like to dump on the Neon, but if it had been a VW when it came out those same people would be gushing about it’s performance and handling. And it would have been the most reliable VW ever made up to that time.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      My 1.5G neon(1998 Sport Coupe) is one of those rare cars that cannot be duplicated. It has an eager, scrappy personality and cute athletic looks with a tinge of that classic Mopar flavor that is surely missing from this Caliber.

      On that front, the detractors may have a point– however– this does not discount the room, utility and price that Caliber offers. These cars are very useable, durable and affordable. Key component here is “able.” They aren’t walking with crutches. I think it gets a lot of things right.

      Offering this(and it’s ComPatriots) and a PT side-by-side(on separate platforms,) however, is an exercise in futility only the masochistic Germans could cook up. The PT and neon trump this car in every way– because they are true Chrysler compacts.

      This car is a solid C. The cars it replaced were absolute A-grade. Previous exemplary work should not count against current passing work, but it does bring down the cumulative GPA.

      If the Delta is any indication, Chrysler’s well on her way to becoming a niche seller of someone else’s fantastically styled automobiles. Adding her own signature style will solidify her position as the automobile of choice for urbane, style-conscious Americans of average means.

      In other words– What she’s always been.

  • avatar

    They did soften the truck like front end, but its still isn’t a looker, its one car you quickly want to look away. I still can’t believe they swapped this for the Neon, although a problem car in areas, at least it was attractive.
    I suppose cars don’t have to be beautiful necessarily either, but I don’t want my car sticking out like a sore thumb either.

  • avatar
    Turbo60640

    I liked the look of the Caliber as well as the Compass when they first appeared on the scene. After reading this post I saw a Caliber from a distance and thought why are the wheels so big?

    I love the PT Cruiser and the original Neon. They had distinct personalities that came through in a way that this car is unable to imitate.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I’m somewhat amazed at all of the hate directed to this car, but I didn’t think it would get a sterling review, either. I could see this kind of vitriol directed at cars that have a long string of bad repair records, but this seems rather harsh.

    Did any of the people who RENTED (emphasis intentional) one of these at the airport become disfigured or have a limb amputated involuntarily? It sounds like NO ONE here actually OWNS one. Their impressions would have a lot more bearing than a bunch of folks who got stuck with the rental-grade cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Roundel

      When I rented one, It was an unimpressive white appliance. I didn’t die driving it, but it was no more exciting or better than the Spectra I rented, was more comfortable than that car.
      The car is alright, sure it could use some polishing. Sure they may seem a bit pricy new, but these things are bargains on the used market, if I needed an appliance I wouldn’t have a problem buying one.
      I think the whole vitriol that people have towards cars is a bit strange.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “I’m somewhat amazed at all of the hate directed to this car”

      Welcome to TTAC! I see you’re new here…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Denver

      A. Lack of disfigurement is a pretty low threshold for a vehicle. Maybe with Toyota SUA in the mix, this could be a new ad slogan – “Try test driving a Caliber – it wouldn’t kill you.”

      B. There’s a reason no one owns one of these, especially not well informed TTAC reader types. It’s no co-incidence. And the “rental grade” cars are not much different than the kind that you pay to own.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Jack Denver: The disfigurement comment was an attempt at a TTAC level of snarkiness, but reading it now, it really doesn’t work. However, I DO like your idea about the ad campaign. (snarkiness intended).

      I have never rented one of these (and only ever once have sat in an R/T level version), so frankly I wouldn’t know what level is being rented and what is being retailed.

      To each his own however. There are plenty of cars that are being sold today you couldn’t pay me to sit in.

      Whether or not TTAC readers would own one of these or not, the level of criticism seems out of proportion.

  • avatar
    baggins

    I had a red 2007 model as a rental last month. I didnt think it looked too bad, and one quite stylish woman at work thought it was kinda cute. Looks better than a corolla.

    It had good headroom also, which is key for me at 6’4″ with only a 32 inch inseam.

    As noted, the interior was pretty crappy, and the engine loud.

  • avatar
    jonnyguitar

    Hey now, leave Cy Twombly out of it.

  • avatar
    Kamaka

    I drove a rental Caliber R/T AWD with the 2.4L. It drove decently but it definitely felt bigger than it was outside aggravated by poor view out. The hood is tall and the rear window is tiny, but so many others also have poor visibility. The CVT was surprisingly inoffensive. Inside it was hard, shiny, sharp plastic but very colorful. My sample had a red/gray interior, I hadn’t remember red in an interior since the maroon Chryslers interiors of yore. I think the outside styling needs more refining and more expensive materials, otherwise it’s at least distinctive. It’s a tall wagon that drives big in a bad way.

    Chrysler needs to offer more for the your money, not feel like you’re getting less. This looks like a very small step in the right direction.

    My friends Gen1 Pontiac Vibe was a much nicer car which likewise drove taller and leaned more than other small cars but it was taller inside. Plastic covered trunks seem like a good idea but stuff just slides back and forth in turns.

  • avatar
    davejay

    A few years ago, I had a nice, low-mileage 1993 Protege with two of the original tires on OEM steelies. I drove it around for a while with no issues, then threw on a set of 2nd-gen Miata wheels with Yokohamas that I had laying around, to avoid buying new tires. Same overall diameter, but effectively a +2 conversion (13″ to 15″) and a bit wider (roughly the same offset, though.)

    They looked great and it handled well, but they were noisy as hell, and the brakes on the car went from perfectly ordinary and effective to feeling exactly like you describe the Caliber’s. I drove it that way for months, then went back to the original wheels/tires before giving it to a friend, and all the noise/brake issues went away.

    This wheel/tire combo is just too much for the brakes on the car, I suspect, just like with my little Protege.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    oh please..can we get off the Chrysler Bashing bandwagon!
    Its a cheap car that will probably run way past the payments!
    and people that don’t read this site Will buy them!
    How about lets talk about the worst looking car Ive seen in years:
    That new Acura hatchback????
    This site is notorious for allowing pompous anti-American car dorks to let off steam…

  • avatar
    newcarscostalot

    I wonder what the SRT4 model is like?

  • avatar
    JimothyLite

    I’m not a “pompous anti-American car dork” as mentioned by oldyak, above. I’m just anti-Chrysler. I had a ’98 Town and Country LXi, all wheel drive, that didn’t last 90,000 miles. All oil changes on time, all recommended services, and the thing fell apart. Watch the following from about 2 minutes in, and you’ll get an idea of what I was dealing with during the last 15,000 miles of the Town and Country’s life:

    I have to admit, though, the darn thing was comfortable. And the paint wasn’t puke green.

  • avatar
    Don Gammill

    Hi guys. I’ve got to say, I’m surprised at the number of comments generated by this review in just one day. Obviously, the Caliber (and what it stands for regarding the state of Chrysler) is quite polarizing. As always, I tried to be as objective as I could when writing the review of this vehicle, and I assure you, I harbor absolutely no anti-domestic bias whatsoever. To hit on a few of the questions posed in the comments above:

    - My since of smell isn’t all that great (this is often a good thing); however, I didn’t notice any distinct odors emanating from the interior.

    - With the windows down at 40-60 MPH, I noticed some buffeting. Anytime I was above those speeds, the windows were up, so I can’t report on that. There was no noticeable buffeting with the moonroof open, though.

    - I asked to drive a 5-speed manual; however, 100% of the dealer stock was CVT-equipped. If I had to guess, I believe I may have disliked the coarse, underpowered engine even more had I driven a manual.

    - I agree with everyone who said that you’d be crazy to buy this new over a comparably-priced, nicer/higher quality USED car. However, as I stated in the review, some folks are only in the market for a new car, so I restricted my focus to the Caliber’s position with regard to other new vehicles. Also, for historical purposes, someone shopping for a 2010 Caliber several years from now will likely be best served by reading a review that compares it to same-model-year competitors.

    Finally, I didn’t mention reliability in the review, but I should say that even though the Caliber’s design and engineering have been clearly outpaced by the competition, the example I drove seemed to be put together very well. All the panel gaps were surprisingly consistent, I heard no squeaks or rattles when traversing challenging asphalt (just the worst tire noise you can imagine), no components (inside or out) felt as if they might come off in my hand, and I never got the feeling that I was driving a “Friday-at-4:30 p.m.” car. If Mr. Karesh says that TrueDelta scores the Caliber “Average” in the reliability department, my tester’s apparent build quality would certainly support that.

    Again, thanks for your comments. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Mr. Gammill: I thought your review was fair. And Consumer Reports has borne out what Mr Karesh is saying: average reliability. [Better than avg in the Patriot !!?!!!!].

    When these first came out I hated them. Now, perhaps as a result of all the hatred toward them, I have reevaluated my initial dislike of the Caliber and am curious about it and the Compass and Patriot. And other Chrysler products flamed by the masses. Word of mouth from the arm chair gallery has prodded me to give Mopar a second look.

    Besides, having a 63 Valiant in my garage, it’s logical for me to be a bit prone to Chrysler’s current offerings.

    The Caliber seems solid, perhaps overbuilt, the mechanicals may be coarse but seem to hold up well under real world use, it’s useful, gets good crash scores and if the seats are comfortable, I’d be interested in buying an 08 or 09.

    As a matter of fact I will be requesting one as a rental toward the end of April. It looks good on paper. I may hate it after 500 miles behind the wheel.

    I don’t think it looks that bad and have the same reaction to that heinous Mazda 3 as people do to the Caliber, so I guess we’re even.

    This Caliber has the 21st Century road toad look the 60 Valiant had in the 20th. I have become a fan of both it seems.

    Thanks for the great reporting.Very objective and if you had some sort of unhinged hatred for Chrysler,you did a good job of masking it.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      If you’re going to get one of the Caliber/Compass/Patriot triplets, to me the Patriot is the only way to go. The taller/flatter sides and more upright rear cargo area make it much more useful and I’m sure the visibility has to be better. You can get a FWD Patriot so if you don’t need the 4WD, there’s no need to take the MPG hit. Granted it’s still not a “true Jeep”, but at least it sorta looks like one.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Dweezil, I rented a caliber last year when a snowstorm knocked a large branch onto the hood of my truck. If I had rented anything bigger I would have had to pay the difference over what my insurance covered, and since it was only for a few days I went with the caliber.
    It was a black sxt model like the one pictured, with 41k on it. I’m not that big of a guy, 5’9, 195 lbs. But there was plenty of room inside, and entry and exit seemed pretty good. My biggest complaint with the car, though, was the seat. After only about half an hour of driving my back was hurting big time, but that was me, it may be different for you, and possibly the 2010 model has better seats.
    Someone posted that the hood was too tall, but actually the hood is invisible from behind the driver’s seat.
    I found the shifter placement odd at first, but quicky became accustomed to it. The driving position seemed pretty good, and the gauges were excellent.
    The handling, while not nearly as good as my daughter’s neon was still plenty good enough for the type of driving that most people buy these cars for. The biggest thing that I noticed compared to the neon was more lean in the turns, but the caliber is taller, so that is a given.
    I did not experience any trouble braking like the author did. The structure seemed very stiff, which it should be with the big pillars.
    Visibility to the rear wasn’t the best, but it was ok. It may be a bit troublesome for shorter drivers. Like the author stated, there was quite a bit of road noise over joints in the road, but I could tell that it was from the stiff tires.
    The plastic inside had a cheap, shiny look to it, but seemed pretty durable, there were no squeaks or rattles. I’m not into sitting in cars rubbing the plastic, lol, so that stuff does not matter to me.
    The heater and defroster worked well, and this was during single digit temperatures.
    My other big complaint, besides the seat was that it did not seem to be very good on fuel for a 4 cylinder, but half of my driving was in the city, and engines use a bit more fuel in cold temperatures.
    I could not really hear the engine from inside the car except when accelerating heavily, but I don’t mind a bit of engine noise anyway.
    What happened to the good old days when people liked to hear their engine “talk to them?”
    I hope this helps some.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Windswords, I read that chrysler was sitting on 22 billion dollars when eaton sold them out to the germans. One thing’s for sure, if it had been the other way around we’d be hearing about it to no end.
    Seems funny no one likes to mention the diamler group being robbers and thieves.

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      Moparman,

      The 22 billion is too big, but, it may come from this: Besides the “rainy day fund” evaporating, the parts that Daimler sold to Chrysler (such as the suspension pieces for the the 300/Magnum/Charger – it was never an old Mercedes chassis (a modern myth)) were way overcharged. The Mercedes engineers that came over to “help” Chrysler were also paid exorbitant consulting rates. There is more than one way to rape your “partner”. So maybe after the ten years were done it came out to 22 billion, I don’t know. All I know is that Chrysler specifically had that money to weather the next recession, whenever it came, so they could keep right on developing new product and not cut back – a strategic competitive advantage. Remember when comparing money with Ford and GM that Chrysler didn’t need nearly the money that the other two needed for both operations and development. Especially Ford, which at that time spent way too much for what they got back. They seem to be much better about that now.

      I’m sure your familiar with Bob Sheaves and his stories over at Allpar.com. If not, go over there and type his name in the search box and read. Incredibly illuminating.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      +1 windswords

      People just don’t understand all the ways that companies can rape and pillage their subsidiaries. Remember the Crossfire? Just a convenient way for MB to get top dollar for their obsolete SLK tooling – Chrysler kept building (well, buying from Karmann) that car for more model years than any other rational company would because they didn’t have a choice in the matter. All that money on the hoods to move them certainly didn’t come from the Daimler side, that’s for sure.

      And how about that 5-speed MB automatic? Sure it’s an excellent transmission, but you’ll note that MB only sold it to Chrysler once they had their new 7 speed almost ready to go. Nevermind the fact that Chrysler already had a decent 5-speed automatic in the Trucks and Jeeps…

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Poeple can say what they want about chrysler, at least they don’t make trucks that literally break in half. check out this taco.
    http://forums.caranddriver.com/showthread.php?p=1597053

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      You do realize that is a custom job on that Taco, right?

      Cut the frame behind the cab, install hinges, weld in a hydraulic ram or two. Nothing too wild, not the first one I’ve seen.

  • avatar
    BigDuke6

    When this car came out it was obvious to me that Chrysler was trying to capture the individuals that think an SUV is an attractive looking vehicle (why, I’ll never understand, but to each his own). I immediately dismissed it as another Chrysler styling exercise. I didn’t read anything about it until now. And this report confirms my thoughts.

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Moparman426:Thanks. We’re about the same size and weight.

    And of the same mind about the relative “deal breaking” aspects of plastic and the sound of an actual engine doing it’s job.I happen to like the agricultural sound of the Saturn SL1 as it goes through the gears.That’s part of it’s character for good or bad.

    I like the idea of 60s “big car ride” as mentioned above. With the right tires to enhance that, a lot of those ill chosen aspects would be eliminated.

    The engine and trans and sturdiness of the the package appeal to me, can’t help it.

    Since I am writing the check all those “better cars out there” mean nothing because someone else thinks it’s true. The only person that car has to please is me.

    Worries me about the seats. The ones in my current car are rock hard, but ease of entry and exit is good. And mileage and the long term elements are there : Ecotec, GM automatic, polymer panels, space frame inexpensive to repair.

    Still: I think I’d be happier in this funky Caliber than a lot of other cars. Hope I like the seats.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    These comments warm my heart. There is intense interest in Chrysler. She is one polarizing lady, and as soon as she can rework some good components and isn’t being run in a fashion that looks to some to be intentional train-wreckery– she’ll be fine.

    Hate’s really just love turned upside-down, ya’ll.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I’m with you iNeon, I’m finding myself interested in this car now.

      I’ll probably be in the market for a small little hauler in the next year or two, and one of these might be the ticket. Currently I’m looking at the PT and the HHR, as SWB minivans have all but disappeared.

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      please. for the love of all that is good and pure . . . go test drive a mazda 3 hatchback.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @shortthrow: What, the torque steer queen of the new millenium?

      I’m looking for a hauler, not a hot rod. It would be nice to have both, but I really need the hauler more. What I would really like to find is the equivalent of the old T115 vans, but I’m forced to look at this size of car (PT, HHR, etc.) since there really isn’t a direct replacement for them. Oddly enough, I haven’t considered these cars, until this article, but examples of these in my local auto trader are listing for more than I’m willing to pay.

      I’ve looked at the Mazda 5 van/thing, along with the Kia Rondo, but, again, those are too new for what I’m willing to pay. They don’t seem quite as roomy, either, but I would have to drag out a tape measure to be sure.

      Looks like I will wait a little longer.

    • 0 avatar
      brokeguy

      @geozinger: Really, the HHR or PT isn’t a bad choice. As far as the HHR goes it’s suprising roomy and considering it’s size a pretty good hauler. I’ve fit a Nissan SR20 drivetrain (engine and transmission) with lots of room to spare in the back of mine with the rear seat folded down. The drivetrain is pretty near bulletproof (2.4 ecotec with the 4 speed auto) and it gets decent fuel economy relative to the PT. I know they aren’t popular on this forum but you really get a lot of car for the money and you could get into an 07 or 08 model for around 10k or less and avoid GM depreciation. Something to think about.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @brokeguy: As it turns out, I have a fair amount of exposure to the PT’s from having rented them for so long. Like others, I go to rent a midsized car, and I get a PT instead. I do like PT’s and I think it would do what I want them to do. Additionally, I’m looking to spend ~$5K for a car, the PT’s are old enough to be that cheap.

      Around here I cannot find any HHR’s for less than $8K. Many of my neighbors have them, love them, and no bad reports (mechanically) on them. I have a couple of cars with Ecotecs in the driveway already, so nothing new there. And yes, the PT is OK in town on fuel mileage, but not so great on the freeway. It sounds like the HHR does better than the PT in that regard.

      I’m keeping my eyes open for any good deals I can get on a PT or HHR
      since they seem to be the ones most folks like the best.

      BTW,great screen name.

    • 0 avatar
      brokeguy

      @geozinger: Thanks, as a “public servant” who hasn’t had a raise in over 4 years, it’s way too descriptive. It’s really a testament to the Pre-Damiler Chrysler that they engineered the PT platform well enough to soldier on this long without any major changes. You shouldn’t have a problem finding a good PT for under 5K, and personally I like the earlier models a little better than the later ones when Damiler started cheaping out the interiors. Don’t forget about the 2.4 turbo models, i think some Neon SRT4 parts will work on those, just want to be careful if it’s an automatic, not sure how much torque those will handle once the engine is boosted.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @brokeguy: FWIW, I hadn’t had a raise since 2003 when my company was sold to a competitor last summer. I was one of the 6 out of 24 that survived the merger, after a 10% pay cut and loss of bennies. It’s been a hoot. Which is the reason why I’m looking at cars ~$5K.

      I’m right there with ya…

    • 0 avatar
      shortthrowsixspeed

      @ geo: I really meant just a base Mazda3, not the Mazdaspeed version. In fact I prefer the older model to the 2010 nagare inspired wind wave whatever. However, i doubt you’d find one for under 5K, even going back to 04 or 05.

      If it’s really just a hauler you want, then perhaps the HHR / PT fit the bill – particularly in the cost category. As is demonstrated by the sentiments in this posting, few are looking to pick one up, so you have the upperhand on the supply-demand score. Otherwise, maybe an early model Focus hatchback or even an old Accord wagon?

      Either way, happy hunting.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @shortthrow: My bad, I saw Mazda 3, but read Mazdaspeed 3. Where I am in Michigan, anything much older than 10 years, and it’s returning to iron oxide, especially for cheaper cars.

      I have considered cars as diverse as the Chevy Aveo hatchback to the Focus wagon and the Focus hatch to the Elantra wagon, but those are rare birds in this neck of the woods. The Caliber has my specifications, but now that I’ve looked around, it seems they’re a little too new for my budget. I would imagine the 3 wagons are too new, too.

  • avatar
    Moparagain

    Moparman426w Heard the same thing about Eaton. Got a $500 million parachute for himself and no one has seen him since. Hope you still have the big wedge. Great cars. Had one myself in the day.

  • avatar
    Z72_Silvy

    Funny the number of people that would take a Ford Focus over a Caliber. If the Caliber has 158 hp from its 2.0l engine and is underpowered, where does that place the Focus which can only wheeze 140 hp out of its 2.0l?

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    prshcespeed, thanks for clearing that up. I was wondering if it was photoshopped or something. But living in the rust belt, trust me, i have seen a few of those things bent the opposite way due to the frame rusting out.
    A while back, right before the recall our local newspaper did an article on two tacomas on which the frames snapped in two when they were put on the lift at the dealer for an oil change.
    Dweezil, you’re welcome. The 2010 model may have better seats, let me know how it works for you.
    Windswords, the 22 billion figure I got is from mopar action. They did a story a few months ago about the way mercedes raped chrysler. It also mentions eaton disappearing over the rainbow with his 500 million. However much it was Chrysler had we all know was stolen from Daimler.
    From what I have read lately things are supposedly going much better with Fiat. They are letting the guys In the Mopar Performance division do their jobs, and they say that they have gotten more approvals for projects within the past few months from Fiat than they got from Diamler in 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      I hear you on the rustbelt – some brands do better than others, but none are immune.

      It’d be interesting to find pics of a Taco breaking a frame on the lift, that’s a nasty rust issue.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      I keep hearing the same thing about Tacoma frames breaking, but it sounds like one of those urban legends — I know somebody that worked with somebody in the emergency room etc. I’m glad someone explained about this picture above, because I’d have thought a broken truck wouldn’t defy the laws of physics like that.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Porchespeed, go to Akronbeaconjournal.com, you may be able to find it there. That is the newspaper that did the story. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was sometime in the fall. It was within a few days from when the recall started, I believe.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I remember shopping around for a car early last year and being interested in the Caliber SRT4 (along with the Mazdaspeed3). The sales guy wouldn’t even offer me a test drive to see if the promise of a heaping helping of turbocharged HP would help offset the downright plasticky interior….and then had the added nerve to charge $30k (plus taxes) when a similarly equipped MAzdaspeed3 was going for $6k less.

    Now I know why that dealership closed down (before Chrysler went bust)

  • avatar
    jimboy

    Unbelievable amount of comments on this car. Everyone seems to have an opinion, good or bad. A couple of short ones from me. First, I see a lot of Calibers where I live, (Alberta, Canada), I mean a lot. They seem very popular here, along with the Journey. We also see a lot of Mazda 3′s, Canadians like that size of car, apparently. I have to say though, that I just can’t warm up to the new face of Mazda, that retarded smiley face grill just gags me. That would kill any sale for me – it even makes the Caliber look good! An unfortunate redesign from Mazda, whom I consider to be the best of all Japanese auto designers.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I kinda like the looks of the caliber, it’s a small car that I actually would not be ashamed to be seen in. I like the crosshair grille and the hard edges as opposed to the soft look of most small cars, that make you want to squeeze one when you see it.
    I think the caliber makes a decent car for it’s intended buyers, it’s not nearly as bad of a car as the “plastic caressers” make it out to be.
    If it had the neon engine and was built on the neon chassis I wouldn’t mind having one myself.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    And don’t forget that dreaded pacifica that MB dumped on them.

  • avatar
    jimboy

    Sorry Moparman, but the Pacifica was a pre-Daimler design. There wasn’t so much wrong with it, well built, great interior, fit and finish, but they couldn’t figure out how to market the bloody thing. It still has presence, a few of my neighbors own them and I still admire the looks, nearly bought one until I saw the Magnum RT. (Which I did buy!)

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    lectrobite, if you think the tacoma frames breaking is an urban legend then maybe you should visit the northeast sometime. Here is a website with a pic of a tocama frame, along with info on the recall. There are other websites regarding the subject as well, just google in “tacoma frame recall.”
    http://www.tacoma-upgrade.com/2009/06/info-on-the-19955-through-2004-toyota-tacoma-frame-recall-for-rust.html
    jimboy, the pacifica did not come to market until 2004. It was a mixture of chrysler and daimler engineering, but who do you think was calling the shots?
    Whether or not it was well built, it was way overpriced, combined with a look that no one liked, and the public said “no way.”

  • avatar
    TCragg

    As a regular renter from Enterprise for business, I have had the unfortunate privelige of driving just about every Chrysler turd on the market. I once told the Tip Top-attired Enterprise associate that I had a “no-turd” policy when renting, but the only alternative he had to the Avenger turd was a Caliber turd or a Charger turd. They recently have taken delivery of a few Kia Fortes and Megentis, which are definite improvements over the Chryco cars.

    A friend at work recently purchased a FWD Jeep Compass (the turdiest of all turds). He is so proud of the thing that he insists that he locks the steering wheel with “The Club” anywhere he parks, and he constantly refers to it as “the Jeep” (like a rock-crawler would talk about his lift-kitted CJ-7). He’s not a car guy, and I haven’t the heart to tell him what I really think of his ride.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    @brokeguy: FWIW, I hadn’t had a raise since 2003 when my company was sold to a competitor last summer. I was one of the 6 out of 24 that survived the merger, after a 10% pay cut and loss of bennies. It’s been a hoot. Which is the reason why I’m looking at cars ~$5K.

    I’m right there with ya…

  • avatar
    shortthrowsixspeed

    @ geo:

    I really meant just a base Mazda3, not the Mazdaspeed version. In fact I prefer the older model to the 2010 nagare inspired wind wave whatever. However, i doubt you’d find one for under 5K, even going back to 04 or 05.

    If it’s really just a hauler you want, then perhaps the HHR / PT fit the bill – particularly in the cost category. As is demonstrated by the sentiments in this posting, few are looking to pick one up, so you have the upperhand on the supply-demand score. Otherwise, maybe an early model Focus hatchback or even an old Accord wagon?

    Either way, happy hunting.

  • avatar
    davey49

    At least the Caliber stands out styling wise. When it goes by I see a Dodge Caliber not a hey there goes a whatsit, oh sorry that was a whoozit.
    For all the love the Mazda3 gets you figure it would outsell the Caliber 3-1. It doesn’t. The Caliber up until the Chrysler bankruptcy outsold the Mazda3 on a regular basis, and that was without the aid of a sedan model. The Caliber probably outsells the 3 hatch by 3-1

  • avatar
    NoChryslers

    Please tell me Ralph Gilles did NOT design this mondo-ugly car….

  • avatar
    rcdickey

    I have an 02 Neon R/T. 160K without problems. Not even a clutch. Just maintenance as per the shop manual. I have a 2000 Grand Caravan. 1 starter, replace front cover gasket, and valve cover gaskets for leaks. Replaced the solenoid valve on the trans for leaks. No major costs involved and it has 145K now. I don’t see Dodge as being unreliable any more than the average car. I have them because of employee discount not because I am a big Dodge fan. This brings me to the offerings available now. There isn’t one thing Dodge now manufactures outside of the Grand Caravan (we have a wheelchair van) that I have a desire for. I love a drivers car but not one that is fuel thirsty as Chrysler’s current offerings. I couldn’t believe it when I found the Calibur was replacing the Neon. It’s a joke to someone that isn’t in love with the tall stance and seating position of a ute. If I had to buy anything other than a Grand Caravan now the only choice I see is the aging PT Cruiser. It’s heavy for a small vehicle and not my first choice by a long shot. Now that I do not get an employee discount I’m free to choose something different when I decide to shop. At this point I can say it will be different! And, it won’t be a gubment motors car either.

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    in the gun world, SXT means “same exact thing”

    ironic then that this ‘update’ is also SXT

    yes… the more things change the more they stay the same

  • avatar
    kdilkington

    I had one of these as a rental car back in 2007 and had to drive it through the desert for 3 hours. It was easily one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven – one step above the Chevy Aveo, which isn’t saying much. The one thing I remember the most about that car is how loud it was on the highway. I always had to jack the radio volume up considerably once I reached 60 mph.

  • avatar
    mr.auto

    Toyota frames do break..major recall for Tacoma and Tundra,they completely rust out !! along with Toyota’s blowing up camshafts,sludged engines,cracking tailgates,ball joints,drive shafts ect..

  • avatar
    Ralf Topoli

    I LOVE my Caliber!!! I bought a 2007 with 13000 miles in 2008 for $13,000. I have a leather interior and a sunroof. What more could I ask for?

    It’s good on gas, the cadet blue color has not faded and all I’ve done to it since buying it is change the oil and rotate the tires.
    I could afford a more expensive car but I am perfectly happy with this and plan to take it with me to nevada when I move there in September 2011.

    Please don’t say nasty things about this car. For the price I paid I am very HAPPY!!! And the refrigerated glove compartmnet is an added plus!

  • avatar

    Wow, after reading all the negativity, I feel compelled to share my experience with my 07 Caliber SXT.  I purchased it in March of 07 when I worked for Chrysler, as my commuter car. I drove it 120miles roundtrip 5 days a week, and never have had any probs, sans the Mitsu sourced alternator which tanked at 60,000 miles. I’m 6’4″, 350 weightlifter, and once inside the car I find it very comfortable!  It is hell gettin in and out, due to the low roofline, but once in, headroom is fine!  The interior has held up remarkably well, shows very little wear and I especially like the chill zone for bottled water, and YES it does keep it cold!  The car currently has around 116,000 miles, has the 2.0/cvt combo.  I find the handling/steering excellent, holds the road in rain like my surburban!  I dont find the ride to be floaty, uncontrollable or numb like in previous posts.  In fact I find it fun to drive, with its sporty feel.  Cargo space is great, have taken it from Houston TX to Key West, FL, twice in the past two years and loved it, especially when carrying all our luggage, dive gear, two adults, etc, and still returning 29 mpg!  I think the styling is exactly what sets it apart from the competition. It is very masculine, and there is no doubt it is a Dodge. The huge 17″ alloys look great, and you’d never mistake it for any of the cartoonish looking competition that is on the road today!  The Caliber was lucky to inherit a lot of German DNA in the safety arena, earning a 5 star front and side safety rating.  The Caliber is just about the heaviest car in its class as a result.  I can tell you after a 30mph side center hit in Dec 08 by a Subaru Sedan who ran a red light, I was uninjured and thankful to have been in this car! The Suburau sustained 2000.00 more damage than did the Caliber!  I drove it home that night, and the doors still opened and closed!
    All in all, my ownership experience has been great with this car, and I ‘d certainly buy another!

  • avatar
    crickmeister71

    I agree with Mark. I own a black 2010 sxt with the 2 liter with a 5 speed manual dressed up with 18 inch alloys and lots of options and it’s actually not a bad looking car when accessorized right. I’ve had this car for almost a year and it’s grown on me, I love it. I’m 6’2″ tall and this is the only small fuel efficient car that fit me. Forget the mazda3 or focus or cobalt if you’re a full sized male. I’m also an avid mountain biker and love that my bike easily fits into the back end, much more secure than a bike rack. My only complaints, rearward vision and it is freakin slow! I did find it a bit odd feeling when I first started driving it, my previous ride being a chevy camaro, this was quite different, but after a short while I was flinging around with abandon and quite enjoying it.

  • avatar
    gurrrl

    Well…I test drove one of these cars today, and I liked it. It is a serious contender for my next vehicle. The only problem I had with it was the rear visibility issue. Also, it was green. I just wanted to see what it was like to drive, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. I thought the interior was better quality than what was in an Elantra wagon (touring) that I also looked at. I don’t know…I don’t think it’s that bad. I even kind of forgot about the weird green colour after driving it.

  • avatar
    mega_cruiser

    What is all this negativity about the Calibers.??? Is it because they are selling way too much maybe that is bothering some of you?? I got a 2009 sxt, and am soo fine with it!! Everyone who’s ever driven with me, or seen the car comments on how nice looking it is, and how nice it rides.!! I dont hear any engine noises, ( a little when accelerating) defrost works perfectly ( i live in germany and it’s COLD HERE!), lots of room inside, perfect for road trips, SOUND system – awesome! …Great on gas!! A car is definetely a PERSONAL choice..! Like the food we eat, or what kind of house we prefer to live in…I dont understand the bad mouthing here..IT’s like saying, this animal is better than that or, this fruit TASTES better this…you may think so, but others not….So why bash about something instead of making a comment….. By the way also, I noticed within the two years we ‘ve lived here in Germany, there has been an incredible amount of INCREASE of Caliber sales around here :)) I dont wonder why… Two years ago, you could see only a few of Calibers around, but now I see 3 out of every 5 car is Caliber.. They must see alot around and ask why it sells..No it’s not the best, but if you dont have alot of money to drop on other ugly looking suv’s and want an suv feel like car, then why not,..??? It drives like an SUV, but it’s a nice, CUTE hatchback :)) or a high sitting hybrid style….. (it doesnt look any different than Mazda cx-9 in my opinion..)) Not only females, but I see alot of men driving it too.. Sorry, but opinions and tastes cannot be argued over…Have a nice drive in your own cars, people, and stop TRYING TO put a decent car down that others are happy about :))))

  • avatar
    Burnout

    The Caliber is a good little car and articles like this get tiresome, especially b/c the review seems to start with a bias and simply continues that way. It’s a disservice to consumers b/c they’ll avoid the car when they are shopping. They will miss out on a fine small car, at a good price, which would be a good purchase and serve them well.

    I had a 2009 Caliber and agree wholeheartedly with the last few comments (mega, gurrl, et al). My 09′ did a fine job for the past two and half years. I put almost 50K miles on it, it ran great, averaged almost 31 mpg (5-spd manual), and I have to say that the radio was fantastic for a factory-installed system (it had the upgraded Boston Acoustics (BA) system). The hard plastic interior was a bit chintzy, but then again when you’re talking about small economy cars, you have to be realistic about what you’re buying and the quality to expect.

    Overall, I really liked my 2009. I liked it so much in fact, that I traded it in today for a 2011 Caliber. The new Caliber is even better than my 09′. It’s much quieter and the new interior is much nicer…soft touch armrests, and better quality fabrics and carpet. The only thing I’ll really miss is my radio…the 11′ that I bought didn’t have the upgraded amp/speaker setup from BA.

    So if you’re looking for a small car, consider the Caliber. Nice features, safe design, good price…everything a consumer wants.

  • avatar
    2Calibers

    We have 2 Calibers, a 2010 and a 2011. I traded a Cad. SLS for the 2nd one. The Caliber is quieter than the Cad which had a ton of wind noise, so much so that a conversation was almost impossible on the highway. My last 3 cars have been Cads., no more. Engines went out (can’t be repaired, can’t get the heads off for just a little blown head gasket). Transmissions went out around 100k, cost $3000 to fix. We have German and Japanese convertibles and it’s hard to find anyone out here on the great plains to work on them. I now have 3 Dodges and can call any shop anywhere, anytime to get service.

    We especially like the high shoulder styling on the Caliber, similar to the 300 and the Magnum. The interior features are excellent. We don’t have many of the extras which end up needing repairs, no power or heated seats, no climate control, no auto headlights, just the standard items. I think Dodge did an outstanding job of selecting just the right level of features for the Caliber, the sliding center arm rest is great. We have a tilt wheel, adjustable seats that can be raised and lowered, and intermittent wipers. My last Cad. had 22 driver adjustable settings that varied from Driver 1 and 2. What a waste that is.

    We look forward to driving our Calibers for many more years. We are getting 30 MPG with ours with CVTs. I do wish I could have found at least one with a manual trans, but they’re just not out there (used) unless you go for the high HP versions.


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