First Impression: Dodge Caliber

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So I went by a Dodge dealer today to check out the new Caliber up close.

They only had a SXT 2.0L CVT on lot so I looked at that...

Exterior
It's not bad looking but definatley not my style. Little too edgy and the rear is just plain ugly. The hubcaps were actually pretty tasteful, but I would like to see real wheels (no hubbies) on a nearly $19k stickered vehicle.

Interior
This is where I really came to the conclusion: "I dont know why people are in such a amazement with this vehicle". Frankly put, the interior is horrible in many aspects. The only thing I liked about the interior was the seats, which were comfortable for an econo-car. Here's my list of gripes about the interior...

A. The dash plastics are pathetic. Has Dodge ever heard of SOFT TOUCH plastics? They tried to take away from the negative aspects of thenplastics by painting them cool silver colors...too bad you still have to touch them and man do they feel cheap. I felt like the dash in my 90 Accord was more pleasing, and it's definatley nothing to write home about.

B. Guess what? The plastic tirade continues... Now I haven't actually ever seen this in a car, but now I have. A STEERING WHEEL made of HARD plastic. I sat in the car for the first time, put my hands on the wheel and said "Did they seriously make a steering wheel out of hard plastic and not put a cover over it". They did. I was in amazement. It was very uncomfortable, I could easily see my hands slipping when driving it etc... etc... Hell even my 90 Accord has a soft vinal wrapped steering wheel (even feels like leather). How can they cheap out like this?

C. Backseat....Oh what a pain. Another serious design flaw here. I knew I wasn't going to have much headroom and I was right (being 6'4/6'5). That didnt suprise me...what did was when my 5'11 friend sat in the back seat in the back and I noticed something, his head was being PUSHED to the side by the roof because where at the top where the door closes (that top frame part of the door sill) it BULGES out severely and anyone over 5'8 could feel the effects. Very awful design design. Let's see, I can sit in the back of my 90 Accord sedan and not have this problem, and the Caliber is a WAGON and it has this problem! Perplexingly weird. On another note it does provide adequete leg room, but I guess that wont matter much if your head is being shoved sideways.

D. The rear didn't have nearly as much space as I expected this hatch to have. It was actually very tinny looking. Kind of suprised me and wondered why they just didnt make a sedan.

E. The way the rear windows are it created (as I expected) some very severe blind spots. Now I cant judge how severe until I drive it, but I could already notice it being an issue.

Overall this vehicle is a big let-down w/o even driving it yet in my opinion. The new Civic totally outclasses it in almost every aspect I could find (didnt have a problem with the interior or the backseat in the new Civic). Even being in my 90 Accord made me feel better than being in the Caliber (that's saying a lot, while I love the Accord, every new vehicle I've sat in since the past 2-3 years I've liked much better). Everybody was hyping up the Caliber to be this great new vehicle and it really isn't that much better than a Neon, in fact, I liked the Neon better in many areas. My friend that was with me was very unimpressed with it as well. I even had my girlfriend with me and she absolutely thought it stunk too. I guess Dodge just had another "swing and miss" with a econo "world beater". I really dont know what will sell this vehicle other than nice rebates.

I'll try and update this as soon as I get to drive it, maybe that will be a pleasant suprise?

posted by  thunderbird1100

I thought they started at 13,000? What idiot would pay sticker price?

posted by  OombaIsBack

I thought it would at least be roomy in there because it's so big...Probably won't sell too good then :2cents:

posted by  chris_knows

They start at $13,985 (so $14k) for a base no options 1.8L 5spd SE.

The SXT (2.0L) I saw based at $15,985 w/o destination and any options. It had quite a few options on it. These were the options...

CVT II w/ 2.0L - $1100
Smoker's group - $30
Speed control - $200
Power sunroof - $750
6-disc changer - $320

$18,435 was the final price less destination.

Apparently he said they've sold many at MSRP...which really suprised me. I wondered if the people who bought them even looked at them before buying them! I'm sure the Caliber will go on Dodge's "giveaway" list soon enough. Fully optioned out $23k-$24k R/T's going for $16k.

posted by  thunderbird1100

The Pontiac Aztek does need a buddy in the "giveaway" category. What a shitty replacement, even if it was just replacing the Neon. I'd still rather have a Neon. The SRT-4 has alot more power than the Neon SRT-4, yet is SLOWER. What a pile.

posted by  OombaIsBack

I think theyre okay.... but even more funny is that if dodge stops making the stratus they will be out of cars completely:doh:


BTW, saw a SRT8 charger at the dodge dealership today myself. very nice:clap:

posted by  nighthawk

Charger? Soon the Challenger? Viper?

posted by  OombaIsBack

and i mentioned the charger in my post too :banghead: :laughing:

but I meant regular, non performance-oriented cars lol

posted by  nighthawk

I saw a "Daytona" edition Charger today with the crazy yellow/black paint. It didn't look too bad, but still the four door Charger is pretty ugly. A paint job cant save it for it's life! Can't wait for the Challenger.

posted by  thunderbird1100

Charger isnt all performance oriented. It doesnt only come as a SRT8 or R/T. Theres also the Magnum (its a car-ish... depends on if you classify a wagon as a car).

Challenger is gonna be sweet.

posted by  StiMan

Yeah, we don't have the Stratus up in Canada anymore. We have FAWK all for Dodge low end cars now. They're going to lose a chunk of market share with the Caliber.....they have nothing to compete with the Civic, Cobalt, Focus, Aveo, Sentra, Mazda3...so on so forth. There is no way in hell I'm going to compare that crossover MiniUte to any of those...

posted by  dodgerforlife

dodge sends the nicest cars to the small town dealers i think :hi:

we had a 06 viper here recently.....
weird for a town with only about 12,000 people

posted by  nighthawk

I live in a town of aroun 50k and our dodge dealership we have 3 vipers. But I think its because our area has several dealerships and service the entire north central wv pretty much.

posted by  Aondor

The Caliber has been winning all sorts of fans - people in Autoweek say it's flying off the lots. :clap: for DCX. Detroit News just put this up today about how people are flipping for all the little features like the iPod holder and flashlight...
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060419/AUTO03/604190333 /1149/AUTO01

posted by  boothe

Sales should slow down quick. I dont understand how anyone can like the interior of that car. It's cheap, badly put together/thoughtout and doesnt make too good use of a wagon design.

I guess they'll sell pretty well for a few months then really slow down.

posted by  thunderbird1100

I don't know, people said the same thing about the Neon and it stuck around forever. The Caliber is supposed to go after the first time car buyers (20-30 years old) - and definitely attracts them with the exterior styling and the gadgets like the iPod holder, musicgate speakers, etc. I'm going to test drive one soon, so I'll let you know what I think.

posted by  boothe

I haven't driven one, but of the reviews online I've read none seemed too impressed with the test drive. Most people thought the CVT couldnt find it's way around and the car feeled incredibly slow until you reached about 30-40mph when it actually started to "Accelerate". I can see how the exterior attracts buyers but I seriously think this thing honestly cant last long if they dont put some typical massive rebates on it, like they did the Neon. IF people just test drove this and other cars around it's class (MAtrix, Civic, MAzda 3) they would most certainly buy one of the latter vehicles. All are much more impressive. The only thing I think that reels in most buyers is price compared to competition, but if you option up the Caliber to other cars it's actually near the same price. Even the SXT I was in was $18,400.

posted by  thunderbird1100

I saw one on the highway here yesterday,
im guessing it was one of the loaded-up ones
It was a silver one with nice looking alloys(not covers)
I dunno about everyone else but I thought it looked pretty good
for a hatchback/wagon:thumbs:

posted by  nighthawk

Alot of people thought that the PT Cruiser wouldnt do well, and it has, according to what I heard, been selling fairly well every year since it came out. Of course, the Caliber may just die as you said, but who knows. We will just have to see what the market thinks about it.

But again, who needs a fridge glovebox? It is supposedly to hold your water and keep it cold... wtf...

posted by  StiMan

Sales for the Caliber are pretty strong, this was in a Yahoo business article about Dodge's sales improvements this year (1% up over this time last year) - partially credited to the Caliber.

Led by strong retail performance and driven by new products such as the Dodge Caliber and Jeep® Commander, Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales for March 2006 of 216,412 units, an increase of 2 percent over March 2005 sales of 212,978. Quarterly sales for the Chrysler Group totaled 562,244 units, an increase of 3 percent compared to 2005 first quarter sales of 546,732 units. All sales are being reported as unadjusted since the number of selling days is equal to last year...

Monthly sales for the Dodge brand rose 1 percent to 113,719 units, compared to March 2005 sales of 112,105. Sales of the Dodge Ram improved 9 percent to 38,709 units. Sales totaled 35,531 last year. The all-new Dodge Caliber posted sales of 6,541 units and established its popularity by remaining on dealer's lots an average of 10 days. Sales of the Dodge Sprinter rose 49 percent to a monthly record 2,060 units as the company continues to make significant progress in the commercial vehicle market. March 2005 Dodge Sprinter sales totaled 1,384 units.

As far as comparos, I think the issue the Caliber has is that no one's clear on what "class" it's in and it's getting compared against a whole range of vehicles, and they often use the base model Caliber - there are several engines available - all of which have gotten a :thumbs: from C/D and others...

I'm going to test drive soon so I'll keep all this in mind and let you know what I think.

posted by  boothe

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