- Awesome available features
- Comfortable seats
- Impressive interior flexibility
- Interior materials are subpar
- Difficult access to the backseats
- Sharp edges of center stack can be a pain in the knee
The Caliber has a very practical layout and quite a few innovative features to get excited about, but it's lacking in driving enjoyment or refinement--even compared to its low-priced competition.
The Caliber was introduced for 2007, replacing the Neon sedan as the small car in Dodge's lineup. Available only as a five-door hatchback, the 2008 Dodge Caliber comes in three different models and with three different engines: 1.8-, 2.0-, and 2.4-liter four-cylinders. An all-wheel-drive system is available only on the top Caliber R/T model and can send up to 60 percent of engine power to the rear wheels. At the top of the range is the high-performance SRT-4 model, which adds a 285-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged four along with a bevy of high-performance equipment and a racier appearance, but it goes without all-wheel drive.
The Dodge Caliber is quite impressive at first glance and has some very clever and thoughtful interior features available, including a beverage cooler, an easy-clean cargo floor, and a setup that includes rear-facing speakers for tailgating. Seats are supportive, though their positioning is a little low, and there's a generous amount of space in back for combinations of passengers and cargo. However, the execution is lost in the details as many of the interior plastics and surfaces are (literally) rough around the edges.
Unfortunately, the Caliber's road manners are entirely unremarkable. Skip the 1.8- and 2.0-liter engines if you're considering the optional CVT automatic and go with the R/T model, but even then with the CVT, it's accompanied by a noisy drone. The R/T with the manual transmission is our favorite. The 2008 Dodge Caliber has a decent ride but doesn't handle as nimbly as most small cars. The SRT-4 wasn't as comfortable or as fun to drive as its 285 hp might suggest, due to a hard, unforgiving suspension that's out of place on rough roads. Across the line, fuel efficiency is very disappointing for a small car, with ratings as low as 21 mpg city for the R/T AWD model.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber gets mixed marks for safety and doesn't offer all the features that are standard on some competitors. Head-protecting side-curtain airbags covering front and rear occupants are standard, but torso-protecting supplemental side airbags are optional. Although it received five stars in the federal government's frontal and side crash tests, it was only rated "marginal" in the insurance industry's side-impact tests and in rear crash protection, which is based on seat tests and assesses neck and whiplash injuries. Electronic stability control is optional.