The Dodge Caliber, launched in 2006 and retired in 2012, was the smallest and cheapest Dodge on the market during its time in the Dodge range. Dodge hasn’t had the most successful presence in the market, with the last Dodge ute assembled by Chrysler Australia back in 1976. The Dodge Caliber was badge’s attempt at a return to the market.
When it launched in 2006, the Dodge Caliber was a five-door hatchback that replaced the discontinued Dodge Neon. It remained the smallest entry until it was superseded by the 2013 Dodge Dart. Designed to appeal to buyers interested in a small hatch or 4x4, it featured a distinctive, blocky style that was met with mixed opinions. Nevertheless, this style made it stand out from similar hatchbacks, so it really depended on a buyer’s personal taste.
The Dodge Caliber launched with three trim levels, including the entry-level ST, the mid-spec SX, and the top of the line SXT. Shortly after, a sporty R/T trim was added, plus an option for a turbo-diesel that completed the range. Over the course of its production run, the Dodge Caliber received several small updates. In 2010, it featured a refreshed interior and options that were previously exclusive to the R/T. Dodge also released a few additional models in 2010.
In 2011, the Dodge Caliber saw new paint schemes, stability control made standard on most models, and some other upgrades and equipment options. After 2012, the Dodge Caliber was discontinued to make room for the smaller Dodge Dart.
As a more affordable hatch vehicle, performance was neither the Dodge Caliber’s aim or strong suit. As hatches go, it is bigger and heavier than many in its class, and the engine options are not all ideal. Still, the engine gives the vehicle adequate poke for most, and it keeps the price in a good range.
The 2007 1.8L SE or SXT trim levels of the Dodge Caliber features a 5-speed manual transmission and FWD, plus an engine with 110kW of power, 169Nm of torque, and average fuel consumption of 8.7L/100km.
The final 2012 model of the entry-level Dodge Caliber wasn’t much changed as far as engine specs. The included 2L petrol engine available from day one was still used in the base level, featuring 118kW of power, 191Nm of torque, and average fuel consumption of 10.9L/100km. What changed in the meantime was the availability of an optional turbo-diesel engine, which was paired with a 6-speed manual transmission and proved to be pretty brisk. This engine featured 103kW of power and 310Nm of torque.
The Dodge Caliber has pretty impressive kit for a car in its price point. The initial ST Dodge Caliber came standard with dual front and side-curtain airbags, a one-touch driver’s side power window, heated folding power mirrors, remote keyless entry, and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel. The SX trim was a step up, including reclining rear seats, a 6-disc CD changer, 17-inch alloy wheels, and a fold-flat passenger seat.
The standard kit on the SXT trim included air conditioning, heated leather seats in the front, cruise control, chrome grille treatment, and front fog lamps. One of the most important changes in the Dodge Caliber was the upgrade to interior furnishings in the 2011 update. Prior to this, there was a hard plastic that wasn’t particularly comfortable and didn’t seem to match the overall quality of the rest of the car. Later updates added new standard features, and made certain R/T features options on lower trim levels.
The Dodge Caliber’s main benefits were price and uniqueness in style and size. It might officially have been a resident of the small hatch class, and was priced that way, but it had a bigger and bolder exterior. It also featured a roomier interior and plenty of space for four adults. It almost overlapped the small and medium segments, and faced competition from the Toyota Corolla, Opel Astra, Ford Focus, and Mazda3.
The Dodge Caliber appeals to plenty of consumers by offering a unique take on the small hatchback. With plenty of excellent cars to be found in its rivals, it was definitely a tough sell, but the fact that the Dodge Caliber’s successor is still selling is a testament to Dodge’s successful strategy.