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SAFETY | 7 out of 10
Five stars, front impacts and side impacts; four stars, rollover rating
Good," frontal offset impact; "marginal," side impact
important safety features are optional rather than standard
The 2008 Dodge Caliber gets low marks in safety not because its features are lacking in quality, but rather because they're lacking altogether--unless you're willing to pay extra.
The 2008 Dodge Caliber has been crash tested by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the results are largely impressive, with one notable exception. First up for the 2008 Dodge Caliber are the NHTSA results, which are strong across the board. In NHTSA testing, the Dodge Caliber earned a perfect five-star rating in both frontal impact tests, as well as five-star ratings in both side impact tests. The only minor blemish on the Dodge Caliber's NHTSA scorecard comes in the rollover category, where the Dodge Caliber earned four of a possible five stars.
IIHS testing produced similarly strong crash results for front impacts, where the Dodge Caliber earned the highest possible rating, "good," for the IIHS's frontal offset impact test. However, when it comes to side impacts, the IIHS rates the 2008 Dodge Caliber "marginal," which is the second-worst possible rating. The reason for this rating is that the IIHS claims "measures taken from the dummy indicate that rib fractures and/or internal organ injuries would be likely" for the driver in the event of a side impact crash.
For the most part, crash-test results for the Dodge Caliber are commendable, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that the safety features are not. According to Edmunds, the only real safety equipment that comes standard on most Dodge Caliber models is a set of "head-protecting side curtain airbags for all outboard passengers" and a knee-blocker airbag for the driver. From there, most safety features can be added as options, although ConsumerGuide notes that both the R/T and SRT4 trims get "antilock 4-wheel disc brakes." Otherwise, the options list includes "traction control" and "antilock brakes" for the lower trims, though, as Kelley Blue Book points out, "some competitors include" those items "as standard equipment." ConsumerGuide also mentions that "front side airbags" are available on all trim levels of the Dodge Caliber as a $250 option.
One important aspect of overall safety that can be overlooked at times is driver visibility, and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the 2008 Dodge Caliber suffers from some problems in this area. The most notable complaint comes from ConsumerGuide, which claims that "outward visibility to all directions is restricted by thick roof pillars, especially to the rear corners."
Sure, Dodge wants to keep the price down on the 2008 Dodge Caliber, but nobody should have to pay extra for ABS or front side airbags.