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Editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2009 Dodge Caliber and offer their expert opinions on how the Caliber compares to other vehicles. TheCarConnection.com has also researched the latest reviews on the Caliber in order to bring you this conclusive report.
The Dodge Caliber debuted in 2007 as Dodge's replacement for the Neon small sedan. The Dodge Caliber is available exclusively as a rather sleek five-door hatchback, though it comes in three different models, each featuring a different engine; 1.8-, 2.0-, and 2.4-liter four-cylinders are available on the 2009 Dodge Caliber lineup. While the Dodge Caliber previously offered an especially fuel-sucking all-wheel-drive R/T trim, that option has been discontinued for 2009. The top-end Dodge Caliber SRT4 packs a 285-horsepower, 2.4-liter turbocharged engine under the hood and includes a bevy of high-performance equipment and styling changes.
Most shoppers will have a positive initial impression of the Dodge Caliber, which is understandable considering it is packed with clever features, such as a beverage cooler, an easy-clean cargo floor, and a setup that includes rear-facing speakers for tailgating. The cabin is also comfortable, featuring supportive seats and a surprisingly large interior that affords plenty of space for both passengers and cargo. Unfortunately, a closer inspection reveals questionable interior materials, including rough plastics and poor finish throughout the interior.
Despite its aggressive appearance, the Dodge Caliber is decidedly docile on the road. An available continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the 2.0- and 2.4-liter engines is underpowered and noisy with either engine, while overall handling performance is disappointing. The SRT-4 isn'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. Fuel economy isn't what you might hope for a small car, with the SRT4 getting as little as 19 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. TheCarConnection.com has seen figures in the low 20s in SXT and R/T models.
The Dodge Caliber certainly isn't atop the heap when it comes to safety either, as it fails to offer all of the standard features that some competitors do. For example, while anti-lock brakes and side curtain airbags are standard, side impact airbags will cost you extra. NHTSA does rate the Caliber a perfect five stars for both front and side-impact protection, but the IIHS gives the Caliber a second-worst rating of "marginal" in side impact tests.
- Roomy interior with impressive flexibility
- Good seats
- Awesome, innovative options
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- Tepid acceleration in SE and SXT
- Engine noise with CVT automatic
- Subpar interior materials
- Sharp edges of center stack