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The Caliber five-door hatchback succeeds the four-door and two-door Neons in the Dodge lineup. But just so we’re clear on this upfront, it’s no Neon replacement. With its tougher, vaguely militaristic connotations right up front in the title, the Caliber drops the perky Neon overtones for a classier, more substantial, and far more upscale feel.
subscribeThe problem is, it’s also more
expensive than the Neon, in an age where sub-Neon cars are winning converts.
Sans Neon rebates, you pay the price for the cargo-loving body style, for the
standard curtain airbags and superior back-seat room. Dodge crows the $13,985
Caliber is only $410 more than the last base-model Neon, but the Caliber you
wouldn’t rent starts out well over $16,000 — and in top R/T form hits the
$20,000 price barrier than sends cheapskates scurrying for smaller Korean cars
with less pretension and less price.
The questions are multiple: are Americans raised on cheap four-doors and three-door ziplets like the Ford Focus okay with the five-door hatchback? Yes, there are five-doors aplenty on the market, including the Focus, Mazda3, Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix, and Hyundai Elantra. But none of those vehicles come only as a five-door — and none of them has the 150,000-a-year sales volumes to live up to, either.
Who will buy the Caliber when it shows up at dealers before the end of spring? Young couples, Dodge thinks, as well as parents putting their teens in a first car. The PT Cruiser sort of does the same thing, we think, but for an older crowd.