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Dodge Caliber Test Drive - What Did You Think?

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 6,072
edited March 20 in Dodge
Have you been out car shopping and taken a Caliber for a test drive? Share your review with us in this discussion.

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  • Ride is a good. It is softer than a lot of hard sports cars so it absorbs bumps well and rides quiet. But it is harder than some other compacts, so it has more response when cornering. Overall, a good balance, in my opinion.

    Engine and wind noise are well muted for a car in this price range. Car is much nicer in every respect than the Neon that it replaces. Neons were known for some wind and engine noise, but this car is much, much better in that area and in just about every other way.

    If your mom drives one, I think she will like it. From the inside, she will not notice how "macho" the outside looks. :P
  • i found the ride in the hhr ok ,but the engine noisy. how do you compare the caliber engine noise to hhr noise? is the ride about the same? also do you feel the caliber will have adequate airconditiong? i thought about a toyota matrix and the airconditiong is weak , any thoughts?
  • The CVT I test drove did not rev up to an unusually high rpm - at least not in my opinion. It seemed to hold at about 3,000 or less, but that's just a guess, because it did not have a tachometer. Anyhow, it was not a really noisy high rpm operation. It did reduce rpm as we reached cruising speed - just like it should. Well done Dodge.
  • joey0708joey0708 Posts: 39
    i tried the caliber and i was very pleased with it , i found the ride as good as the matrix . i am thinking about buying one , do you feel it would be better to see how this new motor design works out ? i don;t know much about it or is it on any other cars ?
  • I've driven both and find them very comparable in practice. Each has advantages. I'm not sure which I would choose at this stage.

    My own impression of the Chevy HHR 2.4 l LT2 (high-line) was very positive. The driving was composed and quiet. The 2.4 was as silky in power delivery through a four-speed automatic as any Toyota four-cylinder engine I've driven and markedly better than the underpowered Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix that was also under consideration initially. The Chevy uses special laminated steel in the firewall to reduce noise and it worked well. (Other reviewers have complained about noise at high RPM, but I will confess I did not wring the engine out, nor would I normally do so.) The HHR, regardless, wins the noise battle as the quieter of the two.

    The Dodge Caliber SXT I drove had the 2.0 l CVT combination. It was noticeably slow off the line, but fine for passing acceleration once the engine was wound up. This is my biggest point of worry for Dodge. The response off the line may not be what the Dodge brand suggests. You can always get a five-speed manual, but most Americans don't.

    The 2.4 liter engines provide identical 172 horsepower ratings and both feature continuously variable valve timing. The Dodge 2.4 is only available with AWD. The Chevy does not offer AWD, but as a consequence offers better fuel economy with the optional 2.4 l engine.

    The Dodge is more sophisticated chassis with a multi-link rear suspension where the HHR has a simpler twist beam. The Chevy also has electric power steering (helps fuel economy at the expense of steering feel).

    The Dodge wins hands down in interior ingenuity, though the HHR has the nicer cargo area.

    The Chevy has NHTSA front crash ratings posted now. Five stars -- best in class. Side ratings are not yet posted. The Dodge Caliber is an unknown until test results are posted. Until last week I would have said an all new car should do well, but the Ford Fusion just proved that wrong. The Caliber does pack standard side curtain airbags (a smart move, maybe even a necessary move as Hyundai/Kia are making safety standard).

    The HHR has significantly more cargo space (less slope on the back glass and longer load floor with the back seat up).

    The backseat question is another point of differentiation. The Caliber scoops out the back of the front seat for increased knee room. The seat back in the SXT and R/T reclines. It still isn't enough to beat the HHR if back seat room is important. The HHR has more legroom with the front seat all the way back and has a much larger back door opening so you don't have to twist adult feet to get them inside the car.

    Both the Caliber and HHR are more truck inspired than other hatches in the class. Both will replace a more fuel hungry SUV if you don't need to go far off-road.

    It may come down to styling. For me, both the retro HHR and the masculine Caliber work.

    From the front seat forward, the Caliber wins hands down.

    Behind the front seat the HHR makes up a lot of ground.

    Both have the same 3 year/36,000 mile warranty (not enough when Hyundai offers 10 year/100,000 mile warranty with safety and reliability, if not yet the same design flair.

    DaimlerChrysler has a better track record of developing models in recent years, with better than average reliability and running improvements.

    I have a family of three to transport, one 6' 1" and the other two around 5' 8", so the back seat matters, but the opinion of my eighteen-year old daughter matters more. She loves the clever interior of the Caliber. She was sold before she started the engine. So it does come down to styling. I think the Caliber will skew towards a younger demographic than the HHR. Still, I like both and a rationale person could choose either in good conscience.
  • pacermanpacerman Posts: 62
    Well done, I haven't driven the Caliber yet, but I did drive the HHR 2LT and very loaded, I too felt the steering vague, and cargo space as far as cu feet go, the specs give the edge to the HHR by 6 or 8 cu ft behind the front seats. I was looking at Vibes as well but the 126hp set me off.I was hoping the Caliber would be a bit bigger or at least the same, cargo wise, as the Vibe-HHR. But will wait till the test drive.Thanx for your views. Both the HHR and Caliber seem to offer quite a bit more bang for the buck than the Vibe-Matrix.
  • gogirlgogogirlgo Posts: 47
    Thanks for a great review. I am trying to decide between these two. I have driven both and did like the steering feel of the Caliber better. I also like the larger cargo room of the HHR. I find the styling very different, but do like both. My daughters like the more modern look of the Caliber. I have done the build and price on the Edmunds site and the Chev and Dodge sites, as well. The difference in price between the two for what I want, automatic, side air bags, leather heated seats, puts the Caliber as the front runner. I also like the fact that the Caliber is build in Illinois. ;) My internet dealer offered around$300 off MSRP and then there is the $500 rebate good til end of March which he said applied even if I order one to get just what I want. I may just wait until the crash tests are out on the Caliber before making my final decision.
  • I stopped by my dealer today to test drive the Caliber. They were in the middle of training so the manager tossed me some keys and told me to have fun ;) . It was a blast such a wonderful ride. I had heard about how odd the CVT2 was and it is different. I floored it and watched the RPM jump to about 6100 but the engine noise was about the same. I never even really felt it shift. I also set the cruise then headed for a hill. Usually on other cars I felt the transmission head into the passing gear. With the Caliber...no such thing. I must say this car is very exciting. I expect to order one with in the next month. :P
  • pacermanpacerman Posts: 62
    Ya never thought about cruise control and kickdown in a normal auto. So the rpm stayed the same, say 3000 rpm and the speed stayed the same, or the rpm went up and speed stayed the same?? :blush:
    I didn't think the power was too bad as well, I think even a bit better in the 2.4......
  • The RPM still went up but not as much as normal. Also if I wasn't staring right at the Tach....I would have never known it. I didn't feel or hear any change. I would like to take a 2.4 as well but all I have around me is 2.0 SXT's. I didn't even see an SE until today and that was only because they were doing training on the Caliber and one of the Reps had a white SE.
  • pacermanpacerman Posts: 62
    Ya , shes snowmobile drive alright ;) , what really amazed me was how quiet the engine was, both in the cabin and from the outside, no ticking, no nothing!!!!!! I'm really torn between the caliber and the hhr.........I think more bang for the buck in the caliber, but more room in the hhr, from hhr forums I've read , looks like they have a fair bit of electrical problems....... :cry: :lemon: :)

    I think the caliber will get better mileage as well, even in the 2.4.
    I saw a white sxt at the local dealer, it actually looks pretty good, orange is my fav.....thats the one I drove.
  • baby01baby01 Posts: 2
    My dad just told me about this one. How roomy is it?
    I have 3 kids so I need the room. :surprise:
  • micwebmicweb Posts: 1,617
    It has pretty good rear seat leg room. I am 5'8" and adjusted the driver's seat to my preferred driver seat position. That left plenty of room for me, as an adult, behind the driver's seat. Assuming you are taller, there should be comfortable room for a kid behind you.

    This is a small car, though, remember it is in the Corolla/Matrix/Cobalt class. Therefore if you are tall and your kids are pretty tall, it probably wouldn't be your best choice.
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    Actually, baby01 may be more concerned about WIDTH (hip/shoulder room) rather than leg room. With 3 kids (ages unknown; car/booster seats involved?), it may be a question of whether or not they can fit 3 abreast in the rear seat or not.
  • Well I don't have any children but I can try my best to help. I'm 6' tall. Back seat leg room is a hug issue for me (I've never had any leg room back there...been driving a 95 Neon Sport). So one of the first things I did was get in the driver's seat, adjust it to where I felt comfortable, then jumped right into the backseat and was amazed at how much room there was for being it's class of car. Now as far as width...I don't know the children's ages (or how well they get along, I know at a young age my sister and I couldn't be near eachother in a car) but the back is really for only 2 adults in my opinion.

    In a really different subject. Has anyone heard the Caliber with the MusicGate system? I'm curious as to how it sounds before ordering one with it. :shades:
  • zugislandzugisland Posts: 21
    I have it and it is awesome.as far as the boston acoustic s9 speakers and sub it is an outstanding value for the 400 bucs....the speakers in the rar pop down off of the hatchbakc and if you fae al the sound to them it can get pretty loud...dont know where i will use it though my neighbors willkill me...but i can attest to the sound while driving...one caveat....if you get the upgraded radio it currently does not come with an aux input jack ofr your ipod.this i found out is a quirk ...i had the dealer credit me for the updraded radio and put in the standrad which does have it....i would rather have the aux input then the 6 disc cd changer big time...anyway the small pricefor this upgrade is well worth it!
  • Buy the MusicGate system. You cannot purchase a comparable or better sounding speaker system for the vehicle for $400, much less have it installed cleanly or do it yourself. The value here is remarkable. I'm not even sure if you can find a 450+ watt amplifier and subwoofer alone for $400. It is one of the best values of all the options.
  • mazda6iguymazda6iguy Posts: 365
    I think it would come in handy at the drive in theater. You could park in a spot with the back of the car toward the screen and sit in lawn chairs outside.
  • trav3491trav3491 Posts: 11
    i have a 6 &7 year old neice and nephew they had alot of room i also sat in the back and was comfortable but at 6 1 i dont know for how long ( also they didnt kick my seat back)
  • bruneau1bruneau1 Posts: 468
    I compared the Caliber and Chev HHR yesterday. While I prefer the styling of the Caliber, the Chev comes off as more refined. Both have growly engines, but the Chev is more fun to drive and has less road noise. The Caliber wins in the seat dept. Even without any adjustment, those are the best front seats in any vehicle in its price category. The CVT in the Caliber was ok, but the 4sp in the Chev is better.
  • pacermanpacerman Posts: 62
    I too test drove both, but I found the steering in the HHR to vague and lacked road feedback especially when cornering, maybe they need to put a bit more caster in the front end? Both rode the same. I liked more room in the HHR.I like the retro look of the HHR but the caliber is cool too. There seems to be quite a few electrical and water seepage problems in the HHR according to the HHR forums.I'm waiting to test drive an RT, I like the AWD option, one can get an RT awd for the same price (actually a bit less) as a FWD HHR......... as having owned a few snowmobiles the CVT in the Caliber didn't bother me. For me right now, it boils down to which one gets the best gas mileage and the price, I like 'em both.Both have the same towing capacity of 1000# which is pretty anemic....the Vibe is rated @ 1500#....... :confuse:
  • wcottwcott Posts: 35
    I just test drove the Caliber SXT the other day. It performed pretty well, and I was impressed with the styling and the little handy-dandy things that SHOULD be on cars these days.
    I think the full-sized spare is great, along with the lit cup holders and the cool-zone glovebox.
    I'd have bought it right then and there, except I'd like to wait for a deal on financing or some kind of incentive from DaimlerChrysler/Dodge. I think 6 percent on new cars is a tad high. They're offering 0 percent on trucks and vans, however. It's annoying.
    I am wondering about the 17-inch tires, though. I am feeling these tires are going to cost a fortune to replace, as the cheapest ones I can find are pushing 175 dollars (canadian) each.
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    So if you got a car with 16" tires you might save $30/tire? Or a $120 total when you have to replace them at 40K - 50K miles. You really shouldn't be looking at a new car if this amount of extra money bothers you. :) Buy a used Ford Escort with 14" wheels.
  • bookhudbookhud Posts: 9
    Drove a Marine Blue SXT today (nice color). Test drove it through driving rain and hail (quite a test drive!) and it handled quite nicely. Waiting for the keys I was struck by the front of the car. The headlights seem huge for a car of this size. The range of the front seats are amazing! I had the height adjustment up pretty high which made the rear legroom pretty good even with the front seat all the way back. However, with the front seat as low and far back as possible I couldn't even get into the back seat! Also the bass on the radio is almost too much. Even with the bass set in the middle I could still feel it pounding. I haven't quite sold myself on turning in my Pac yet, but I didn't talk myself out of it today either. That is what I was really afraid would happen when I got behind on the wheel of a Caliber. I did notice that there was quite a bit of splash on the sides (even before the torrential rain) I would think that mud flaps would be a good idea. Hmmmm, what to do what to do.
  • Hello people! I test drove my first Caliber SE with CVT yesterday. I didn't like the CVT transmission at all. It felt like I was riding a snowmobile. SO NOISY!! And I didn't feel the power of the 2.0L engine or any good acceleration. I am interested in the SXT sport package, 5 speed. Hopefully, the manual transmission will be better, but I have to wait 5-8 weeks since they haven't even started making them. I liked the car so far, the interior is quite roomy and the exterior looks awesome. But, I found that the interior needs refinement. All the plastic edges in the car were shoddy. I also wonder why the sliding console doesn't lock into place?! What's with the automatic transmission shifter, when in park, blocks you from adjusting the temperature gauges with ease? When seated, I find it pretty hard to reach the reclining lever... It's easier if you open the door... :confuse:

    For the exterior, on the sport versions, you get the "black out tape" on the door frames which is actually a rough piece of thin sticky plastic... It doesn't look easy to clean, and will peel off after a few winters.

    I think Dodge should of taken more time to refine some details... even for a car in that price range. Perhaps the delay in their launch date had something to do with it and they had to rush the production of the Caliber?
  • willsimwillsim Posts: 33
    Car&Driver agrees with you. In their comparision test they said "But as it stands, this sharp-edged box feels like it's seven-eighths of the way through its development--as if it needs more Caliberation."
  • my fiance is 6'5" male. we tested the caliber for me. i am only 5'7" . obviously i fit fine. he said he probably wouldnt buy it if it was for his main vehicle, but as a passenger it wasnt great,but it wasnt bad. I think for a 6' person, it would be more than sufficient. I was impressed with the viewablity. i thought the windows were too small from the outside, but was amazed by the view while driving.
  • gljvdgljvd Posts: 129
    Hmm interesting , I'm 6'4 and was going to look into the jeep patriot which is based on this platform but should be slightly bigger. IT sucks he doesn't fit well in it , I'm affraid now I wont fit well in the jeep.

    Sadly there isn't much choice for a 6 + drivers in the sub 20k price range
  • well, try it...he didnt actually drive it, so he didnt do the driver seat adjustments like others here are talking about. he just hung out in the passenger seat!
    good luck!
  • editor_karleditor_karl Posts: 418
    Hey Guys,

    I just drove a Caliber R/T about 100 miles yesterday and came away generally disappointed. The two areas that I felt the car under-delivered in were performance and interior quality. You can read my entire blog entry here, but the short version is that the interior plastics are substandard and the engine/CVT combination make it feel underpowered. I know "SRT" is the real performance designation at Dodge, but for this car to wear an "R/T" badge and still feel this sluggish is unacceptable IMHO. I've been generally happy with most of DCX's new product offerings in the last couple years, but this one leaves me cold.

    Karl
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