The Dodge Caliber is one of those vehicles you don’t think about very much as you see them everywhere. But if you’re in the market for an economical family sedan, maybe you ought to start wondering why you see so many. It’s because the Caliber is a solid, attractive kid hauler, and the folks at the Dodge house have made it even more attractive this year.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that 158-horsepower from a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine, sending that massive power through the front wheels isn’t the stuff that a boy fantasizes about. They tried that with the much lamented SRT4 model with it’s killer suspension and turbocharged, 285-horsepower mill and it just wasn’t worth the marketing because to most buyers, that wasn’t what the Caliber was. It was a stylish alternative to an Escort or Cobalt or Corolla.
So the hot rod is gone, but the car that remains will still make you smile. Not because you leave in a haze of tire smoke, but because it is just so darned satisfying. The ride is smooth, and if you opt for the R/T version, you can opt for front or all-wheel-drive. The all-wheel will cost you in mileage, so unless you think you really need it, and most don’t, leave that box unchecked on the order form and get 23 miles per gallon city, 31 highway.
There are two optional engines, a 2.0-liter with a continuously variable transmission, and a 2.4-liter with a bit more grunt when you need it.
The caliber came along in 2007 as a replacement for the Neon, and it has fulfilled that mission with style and basic goodness. It’s an honest little hauler that doesn’t pretend to be an SUV or a sports car. Prices will run from the mid to high teens if you exercise a little restraint on the options list, and for that you get exactly what you see here. A good car at a good price. And that, in these perilous times, is a pretty good deal.