Dodge, it’s shorthand for Dodgy. That was my first concern about the new Dodge Caliber; my second concern was that it was from America. But I didn’t want to judge a book by its cover, so I grabbed the keys to see what this American brute was all about.
I must admit, the exterior styling is quite dramatic and appealing. The Caliber certainly looks like a large vehicle from the exterior, but it doesn’t feel big or cumbersome whilst driving, along with parking. The American styling turned quite a few heads, signifying the fact that the styling is on par with what consumers are after.
Once inside, the tables turn quite quickly. It doesn’t take long to realise why American vehicles are loathed so much. Almost everything used to build the interior is plastic – and I mean everything! Although most things felt solid in terms of their build, there simply weren’t any quality materials used that resembled the Caliber’s German and Japanese competition.
Build materials aside, the interior was very roomy for a vehicle in this sector. The sound system packed quite a punch, easily exceeding that of its competition. Boot capacity with the seats upright is 352L, on the other hand, with the seats down, a mammoth capacity of 1013L can be achieved. Below the boot floor is a space-saver spare tyre.
On the road, the Caliber doesn’t leave all too much to complain about. The SX model being test driven comes with a 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder engine which produces 110kW and 168Nm of torque. The vehicle being test driven was optioned with the Continually Variable Transmission (CVT). This fancy piece of kit isn’t like a regular transmission which has segmented gears. A CVT can infinitely vary gear ratios and never ‘changes gears’. It’s an odd sensation as the revs seldom move from their position.
There are four Dodge Caliber models on offer – the ST, SX, SXT and R/T. There are also four, four-cylinder engines available – a 1.8-litre, 2.0-litre, 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and a 2.4-litre. The four engines use (on average) 7.4, 8.1, 6.1 and 7.7-litres per 100km respectively.
Standard features include: Particulate and odour air filter; air-conditioning; cruise control; central locking; fog lamps; power mirrors; folding and heated mirrors; CD-player with 4-speakers; security alarm; rear spoiler and power windows.
Safety features include: 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS; driver and passenger front airbags; side curtain airbags and front seatbelt height adjusters. Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is available as an option – this feature should come standard with the vehicle in my opinion.
The Caliber range starts at $23,990 for the 1.8-litre ST and goes right up to $31,990 for the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel SXT. The test vehicle I drove was valued at $28,490.
With ambitious looks, it’s not hard to see that Aussies will fall for the Caliber. Aside from the reign of plastic inside the car, I quite enjoyed driving around in the Caliber. Visibility was adequate and fuel economy was excellent. With that in mind though, it stacks up against some pretty rough Euro competition. If you’re after a small-medium sized vehicle, test drive the new Dodge Caliber, you never know, you might just like it.
- by Paul Maric
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