$23,500 – $23,500
Good: NOTE: DISCONTINUED IN AUSTRALIA DECEMBER 2012. Bold styling; practical interior; decent handling; good levels of standard equipment; could also be a competitor to a compact SUV.
Not so Good: Interior quality is better (post mid 2010) but still not class leading, uninspiring petrol engine is now the only choice.
Design and Engineering
Good : The macho American with bold styling arrived on our shores in August 2006. Designed to look like an SUV – check out the oversized wheel arches and big alloy wheels, 18 inches as standard ensures street presence. The Caliber is also noticeably bigger than the typical Small segment player.
Not so good: In truth this is a city cowboy (no surprise as this vehicle isn’t classified as an SUV) so we wouldn’t recommend taking it any further from the tarmac than say a Toyota Corolla. However with a truly useable interior and a cargo lamp that doubles as a removable LED flashlight, Dodge might question our earlier comment. The mid life facelift arrived late (July 2010) yet we’re struggling to spot the difference apart from more chrome in the front grille and a more shiny finish to the alloys.
Interior and Styling
Good : A truly roomy interior for a small passenger player; we like the commanding seating position (almost compact SUV like), the impressive amount of second row legroom, rear seats that recline and fold flat, the fold flat front passenger seat which can then be used as a utility table and the generous rear cargo capacity. Dodge have definitely been thinking of the end customer with a ‘ChillZone’ beverage cooler which can hold four cans of Dr Pepper (or more likely Coke in Australia) and the front two cupholders illuminate at night.
The mid-2010 facelift saw a big improvement inside with the dash and other parts of the interior restyled and finished with far more premium materials than previously.
Not so good : The new dash is far better than the pre facelift model, but it’s still not class leading. However the dash design will likely appeal to buyers after a macho, rugged layout. Luckily leather is an option for the seats as the front seat’s base is flat, lacking sufficient side bolstering, so we’d stick with the standard material for the extra grip.
Good : Only one engine on offer – a 4-cylinder 2.0L petrol with 115kW of power and 190Nm of torque linked to a CVT Automatic transmission.
Not so good : The sole petrol engine offers only on par performance compared to the competition and the official combined fuel economy figure of 8.0L per 100kms is nothing special. Chrysler Australia discontinued the 2.0L turbo diesel engine in mid 2010, dissapointing as we thought it was the pick of the Caliber’s.
Ride and Handling
Good : The Caliber’s handling stays relatively flat when cornering, grips fine and the ride is good for a vehicle riding on big 18 inch alloys.
Not so good : Competent handling? Yes. But inspiring? No. The steering also feels a little mute.
Buying and Owning
Good : Ticks the safety box with standard Electronic Stability Control with Brake Assist, Anti-lock brakes and multi-stage driver, front passenger and side-curtain air bags. The SXT’s (the only variant on offer) standard features include an Electronic Vehicle Information Centre, UConnect Media Centre with six-CD/DVD changer and aux connectivity.
There is also a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, power windows and door locks, heated side exterior mirrors, the Chill Zone beverage cooler, stain-repel fabric on all seats and the fold-flat front passenger seat.
Not so good : The Caliber’s resale rating isn’t near the best in the ultra competitive small family segment, Dodge is still a relatively niche brand here and the Caliber is one of the slower selling small players.
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