By on June 8, 2011


At the suggestion of a well-wisher, I picked up the July copy of Motor Trend for my flight back home Iowa yesterday. Though some of the stories showed improvement in that publication’s quality of coverage, the item pointed out by our tipster [online here] was disappointing indeed. The piece, on Fiat’s ongoing acquisition of Chrysler’s equity includes the following paragraph:

Fiat is expected to obtain another 5 percent of Chrysler soon to bring its interest to 51 percent, provided it introduces a 40-mpg (highway) EPA-rated car built in the U.S. wearing a Chrysler brand badge before the end of 2011. With Fiat and Chrysler pulling the plug on electric car development, the 40-mpg car is likely to be a 1.4-liter Multijet-powered Dodge Caliber. The Caliber is scheduled for replacement in model year 2013, so the Multijet version could be a 2012 model only, with the powertrain carried on to its replacement.

So, what’s the problem? Well, as TTAC (and precisely nobody else) has reported, the government’s agreement with Fiat is not for that firm to build “a 40-mpg (highway) EPA-rated car.” It takes some digging through the corporate agreement between Fiat, Chrysler, the UAW and the Treasury, but it’s clear that the government requires that Fiat build a car that tests at 40 MPG combined, using the old “unadjusted” (Pre-1985) CAFE fuel economy rating. Which means that, although Fiat could build a car capable of 40 MPG EPA highway, the government’s agreement requires as little as 31 MPG EPA Combined. Which means M/T’s write-up technically falls on the wrong side of the truth. Although, to be fair, I have yet to find a media outlet that has got this story right…

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24 Comments on “Fact Check: Motor Trend Needs To Research Fiat’s “40 MPG” Car Commitment...”

  • avatar

    “MultiJet” is FIATese for diesel. A 1.4-liter diesel in the Caliber should clear 40 on the highway. But how long will it take to accelerate to highway speeds?

    One problem getting some specs–there is no 1.4-liter MultiJet, only a 1.3 and a 1.6. The former kicks out 95 horsepower, and is used in the tiny 500 overseas. Hopefully they meant the 1.6, as 95 horsepower is going to feel very, very slow in a 3,000-pound Caliber. As would the 500’s 101-horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir gas engine, if that’s the one they meant.

    • 0 avatar

      They confused multiair with multijet. It’ll be 1.4 multiair but with turbo charger, which is already used in several FIAT models in Europe.

      1.4 multiar turbo
      Fiat Bravo (C segment) – 140 hp, 170 lb-ft; 32/49 EU cycle, US gallons
      Alfa Giulietta (C segment) – 170 hp, 180 lb-ft; 30/50 EU cycle, US gallons
      So, with 140 hp, I’d expect 30/40 from EPA.

      As for the “old EPA unadjusted”, I don’t get it how Edward got 31 mpg combined “new EPA” from 40 mpg combined “unadjusted”.

      1984 Honda Civic – 40 mpg OLD/ 35 mpg NEW
      1986 Honda Civic – 40 mpg OLD/ 34 mpg NEW
      2007 Toyota Yaris – 37 mpg OLD/ 32 mpg NEW
      2007 Toyota Yaris – 36 mpg OLD/ 31 mpg NEW

      • 0 avatar

        A larger adjustment occurred back in 1985–reduced city by 10% and highway by 22%. The CAFE numbers don’t include that one, either. The 2008 adjustment cut another 10% or so. Combine the two and 40 becomes somewhere between 30 and 32. We split the difference.

        A 1.4-liter turbo certainly makes more sense. Should get EPA numbers similar to those for the Cruze.

    • 0 avatar

      I donno about 95 horsepower being slow in a 3000lb vehicle. The 96 horsepower that I had in my 3000lb Jetta TDI made for a fast highway car. A large part of it was suspension and torque (176 ft-lbs) that could hold the vehicle’s speed up hills and around turns. With all of that torque, the transmission was reluctant to downshift, so the engine always sounded “lazy” while hauling me along far in excess of the posted speed limit.

      Driving that car at 80+mph felt like a “canter”, for those of you who’ve ever ridden a horse. A TDI won’t really gallop, but it will canter through the mountains at all day, and it hold its speed in on climbs when all of the other vehicles on the road bog down. If you’re drag racing or autocrossing, a vehicle like this isn’t what you’re looking for. But if your goal is to cover the ground between you and your destination fast, 96hp in a 3000lb vehicle can really do it well. Provided that everything else in the car’s design is done well, anyway.

      Of course, all that torque is probably what killed the transmission. Repeatedly. Which is why I won’t buy another Volkswagen. But I loved my TDI, when it ran…! :-)

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        The 92 hp Iron Duke in my 1982 Chevy Celebrity was dog slow and could only hit about 80mph.

        But then this is certainly not 1982 and we’re not talking about TBI like my old Celebrity.

      • 0 avatar

        My Diesel Citroen diesel is a very fast car it has great torque and brilliant suspension ie no reason to slow for corners ,90hp in a petrol motor might be slow but not a Euro Diesel you guys need to learn more about yhese types of cars regular cars are slow traffic in comparism I easily hit 90mph in 4th

  • avatar

    In my quest to find an AWD statio wagon with LATCHes that can tow a 4’x8′ utility and handle external cargo, the Caliber has come up recently. (I assign bonus points for good MPGs, a CVT, a plugin drivetrain, and a diesel engine. Negative points for Volkswagen products, excessive size (especially height), MPGs worse than the 2.5L Ford Ranger it’s replacing, and poor roof-rack options.)

    The Calibar’s dimensions are reasonable, and the 1500lb towing capacity is a pretty good match for my needs. I’m a little reluctant to buy a Chrysler product because of the number of transmissions my mother-in-law has had replaced in her Grand Caravan, but getting the thing close to 40mpg and providing a good warranty would overcome that issue.

    However, that thing is really ugly — as in the “it makes a Subaru look pretty” kind of ugly. Is there any chance that Dodge will change out that 4-part grill for something less fugly? Or is it their “brand identity” and non-negotiable? Also, there’s something about the roofline that makes it look like a snap-tite plastic model.

    The Caliber looks like a pretty good match for my needs on paper, though, so I’m making every effort not to scratch if off of my list.

    • 0 avatar

      Caliber is here with TDI but anything with CVT trans should go straight to scrap, Nissan has already killed its sales by fitting this stupidity and Renault will be next either fit a proper auto matic or stick but leave CVT to belt driven Dutch crap where it belongs

      • 0 avatar


        Where is the here where you can get the Caliber with the TDI? I’m guessing it’s not the USA?

        As for the suitability CVT, it seems to me that it depends on what you’re used to and what kind of driving you do.

        I’ve driven manuals, so conventional automatic transmissions throw me for a loop by shifting at unexpected and unwanted times. In any case, I find conventional automatic transmissions to be an annoying middle-ground between manuals (which I like for sport driving) and CVTs (which I like for city driving). I’m not a fan of conventional automatic transmissions, but I’ll put up with them if I have to.

        My wife has driven mostly a Prius over the last few years and, she’s very-much accustomed to the CVT in that vehicle. Whenever she hears the abrupt RPM changes caused by the shift in a conventional automatic transmission, her first thought is that the car is malfunctioning. My wife doesn’t drive a manual. So, she’ll veto my manual, she’ll endorse a CVT. She’d probably put up with a conventional automatic if she had to — but she wouldn’t like it, and I’d have to hear about it.

        As you can see, a CVT is the only reasonable choice for a working vehicle my household.

        I often wonder if the anti-CVT folks dislike them because they don’t seem “sporty” without the engine RPMs jerking all over the place? Or is it something else?

        One other thing that just occurred to me is that, here in the US, we don’t have many roundabouts. Instead, we have lots Stop signs, and they’re often one after the other. If I drive from my house to downtown using the most direct route, I have 5 or 6 stopsigns over one mile. This is a lot of work in a manual, wheras a traffic circle might be less work and more fun? I donno — there really aren’t enough traffic circles here for me to test out this hypothesis in my manual-shift vehicle.

    • 0 avatar


      I drove a 2010 Caliber with the CVT around as a rental for three weeks last summer…it whined more than my ex. I hated, hated, hated that car.

      If you can do without AWD, check out an Elantra Touring – the drive is light-years better, and it’s a lot roomier than the Caliber.

      • 0 avatar


        I haven’t driven the Caliber yet. Perhaps it sucks.

        I rode in a 2010 Subaru Outback with a CVT the other day, though, and the drivetrain seemed to be very smooth and well-behaved — and much nicer than any of the automatic transmission cars I’ve rented lately. My friend (the owner) is a big fan of it, and we tend to have similar opinions about cars.

    • 0 avatar

      If you like CVT’s, hang on for the new Impreza, probably more room and equal utility than the Caliber – however, I don’t think towing is good for any CVT at this stage of the technology.

      • 0 avatar

        The 2012 Impreza 5-door and the Forester are at the top of my list. They have good roof-racks, towing a 4’x8′ utility trailer won’t void my warranty, and the interior space looks about right for my needs. The enthusiast community is technically literate, and parts seem to be available for the long-haul, too.

        The Forester is about an inch taller than I’m comfortable with (for loading the roofracks) but, if the 2012 Impreza doesn’t have a tow rating, the Forester might be as close to a compact AWD wagon that can tow as is actually available in the US market… I inquired with Subaru as to when the Forester (which is based on the Impreza) will get the CVT, and they declined to answer but said they’d talk about the 2012 Forester in the fall.

        Having put our Prius through a lot of WOT mountain driving, I’m not too worried about towing with a CVT, if the owners manual says I can. Sustained WOT is sustained WOT, regardless of whether you’re climbing a mountain or gently accelerating a load. [Treatise on towing with a small vehicle deleted]

        But, I want to make sure I’ve fully examined the other options, which is why I started reading up the the Caliber, despite my strongly negative reaction to its looks. And, on paper, the thing really does look like it’s designed for people like me.

        P.S. The Toyota Matrix / Pontiac Vibe is another promising car that’s in the same size-class and has a 1500+lb tow-rating. But the Matrix lacks the CVT (for now), and the factory roofracks are downright wimpy.

    • 0 avatar

      The Caliber’s CVT is made by Jatco, a subsidiary of Nissan. So if you think Nissan tranny’s are reliable, then I would scratch that concern off your list. I rented a Caliber a couple of years ago (with the old interior). It was for the most part a solid smallish car. I didn’t try out the back seat, and I just putted around town with it. It handled fine and the automatic shifted like it should. No strange noises or handling issues. What I didn’t like was the sense of tunnel vision because of the slanted A pillars. Quite a difference from my Ford ZX2. But all the cars are like this now (just look at the new Elantra), and with the new roof crush standards they are thicker then ever too. I wouldn’t want to be a motorcycle rider with these new designs.

      • 0 avatar

        Good info – thanks!

        At least it’s not ZF. They’re the bastards who made all of the Volkswagon 4-speed automatics that I owned…. I’ve owned as many transmissions as cars, but every one of them except my Jetta TDI has been a manual. Go figure. :-)

      • 0 avatar

        Good info – thanks!

        At least it’s not ZF. They’re the bastards who made all of the Volkswagon 4-speed automatics that I owned…. I’ve had as many transmissions as cars, but every one of them except my Jetta TDI (and my wife’s Prius) has been a manual. Go figure. :-)

  • avatar

    I love standards. There are so many to choose from :)

    • 0 avatar

      That’s why they call them standards, because they are so unique and uniformly interpreted.

    • 0 avatar

      I always thought it was funny that the abbreviation for “standard” is “STD”.

      They both kinda spread from person to person… And they’re usually exciting to get, but they can be frustrating day to day.

  • avatar

    It’s as if like they wrote the FIAT-UAW-Fed agreement in such a way to deceive the ignorant and the lazy!

    Who would’ve thunk?

  • avatar

    You were expecting the dinosaur dead tree-media to do their homework?

  • avatar

    Currently, in the real world without a turbo, nor hypermiling, one CAN get above the EPA in the 1.4L MultiAir motor in the little 500 here in the states with a manual.

    So far I’ve read of an average of 40-42mpg highway, around 32 city.

    But with the blunt nose things DO go downhill if you get above 70mph and these are folks who post their mileage over on Fiat500usa blog’s forum.

    So even the base multiAir 1.4 is pretty efficient.

    But I would agree that perhaps either the 1.3 or better yet the 1.6L multiJet diesel may well be the answer.

  • avatar

    You would think that when they said 40mpg they meant 40mpg and not 31mpg. Whatever. I was confused as well and just assumed it meant 40mpg hw. Obvi Motortrend got this wrong (as they so often do).

  • avatar

    I don’t think that a vehicle of the Caliber’s height could achieve 40 mpg (“real numbers”) unless it has a diesel – too much wind resistance.

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