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TheCarConnection.com has driven the 2010 Dodge Caliber to bring you this hands-on review that covers styling, performance, safety, utility, and features from on-the-road observations. TheCarConnection.com's editors also researched reviews from other sources to give you a comprehensive range of opinions from around the Web-and to help you decide which ones to trust. High Gear Media drove a manufacturer-provided Dodge Caliber to produce this hands-on road test.
In 2007, the Dodge Caliber debuted to replace the outgoing Neon small sedan. The 2010 Dodge Caliber is available in one body style, an aggressive-looking five-door hatchback. For the new model year, Chrysler's deleted the all-wheel-drive option, the optional turbocharged engines, and the SRT4 high-performance model. With a base price of $17,090, the Caliber competes against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, the Kia Soul, the Mazda3, and the Subaru Impreza. The Caliber will be retired after the 2011 model year when Chrysler replaces it with a new vehicle based on products designed by Italy's Fiat Group.
The 2010 Dodge Caliber has a sporty hatchback look that seems tall and narrow from some angles, but overwrought from others. For 2010, the dashboard design and interior materials are brought up to par, with soft-touch plastics and judicious use of chrome trim.
Appearances can be deceiving, since the butch exterior you see when parked belies a tame and docile car in motion. The 2010 Caliber comes with a choice of two engines, both four-cylinders: 2.0 liters and 2.4 liters. The base SE and SXT versions have the 158-hp 2.0-liter four, while the 172-hp, 2.4-liter four is offered on the SXT and R/T. The top-of-the-line R/T performance model also gets four-wheel disc brakes and larger 18-inch wheels. Both engines can be ordered with a continuously variable transmission (CVT), but it encourages the engines to rev at their noisiest, and its performance is unimpressive. The Caliber has a decent ride but doesn't handle as nimbly as most small cars, and fuel economy is middling to below-par for the class. It is rated at 23/31 mpg for the base engine and five-speed manual gearbox, and 23/29 mpg for the larger 2.4-liter and manual. The CVT automatic-a transmission that's supposed to enhance fuel economy-delivers 23/27 mpg paired with the 2-liter, but a truly disappointing 21/25 mpg with the larger engine.
The cabin is large, with good, supportive seats that sit driver and passenger high in the front. It offers plenty of space for both people and cargo, including a large load bay and several different cubbies and storage bins.
Safety is hardly a strong point, as the 2010 Dodge Caliber stints on some standard features found in competitors. Anti-lock brakes are optional on the Caliber SE and SXT, and side-seat bags are an extra-cost option available only on the SXT and R/T. It doesn't offer electronic stability control either. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Caliber five stars, its highest rating, for front and side-impact protection. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls the Caliber "marginal," its second-worst rating, for its performance in side-impact testing.
The 2010 Dodge Caliber can make a good first impression with interior features, especially for some of its clever options. Standard features on the base SE model include roll-up windows, cloth seats, an AM/FM/CD player, and 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers. Almost all the good stuff is an option on the Caliber. There are better sound systems available on order, with Sirius, navigation, and USB connectivity built in; an optional set of rear-facing speakers that drop down from the tailgate for outdoor parties; and an optional beverage cooler between the seats, along with a "Chill Zone" glove box and cooling cup holders. The Caliber can be trimmed in leather and offers available heated seats, too. With many of these options, the Caliber can easily exceed the $20,000 mark-an unremarkable value, especially compared to the new Korean-built compacts like the Kia Soul.