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Dodge Caliber Test Drive - What Did You Think?

PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAMember Posts: 9,372
edited March 2014 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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Comments

  • nonnemachernonnemacher Member Posts: 98
    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
  • joey0708joey0708 Member Posts: 39
    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?
  • nonnemachernonnemacher Member Posts: 98
    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 Member 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 ?
  • basiliskstbasiliskst Member Posts: 55
    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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • trgbassguytrgbassguy Member Posts: 21
    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 Member 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......
  • trgbassguytrgbassguy Member Posts: 21
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • trgbassguytrgbassguy Member Posts: 21
    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 Member 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!
  • clockmakerclockmaker Member Posts: 9
    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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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 Member 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.
  • blackcaliberblackcaliber Member Posts: 11
    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 Member 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."
  • moonhunt18moonhunt18 Member Posts: 33
    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 Member 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
  • moonhunt18moonhunt18 Member Posts: 33
    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 Member 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
  • canoenutcanoenut Member Posts: 12
    What a ridiculous opinion piece! How about comparing comparable vehicles? Why not take another AWD hatchback or wagon with an automatic transmission and then you'd be comparing apples with apples.
  • clockmakerclockmaker Member Posts: 9
    Amen, brother! I think Karl has driven too many super cars to appreciate the Caliber for what it is: a tremendously smart, useful and comfortable vehicle at a very competitive price. Let the tuners whine about the Neon, I want a car i can USE!
  • new_calibernew_caliber Member Posts: 6
    Karl,
    I had been driving my Caliber STX about 1800 miles before I found about the step in the gas pedal. You push down on the gas, and it is like pushing on air up to a point. Most people would never know to go further. Try pushing it further you might even think you are going to break something. And I think you will be surprised at the power.
    I think you are under rating the performance; you should go back and try it again. You will be surprised.
  • lablover2lablover2 Member Posts: 115
    i went to a dodge dealer and test drove the caliber sxt yesterday and i loved it! it drove much nicer than the vibe or matrix in my opinion and i liked the added horsepower but still decent gas mileage. the dealer only had one on the lot so i am waiting for more cars to come in-i may go back and put some $ down so i get what i want. seems like they are only taking $500 off sticker plus the $500 rebate, is that about right?
  • orangertorangert Member Posts: 41
    Yea about right. I got a little over 1300 off. On the lot not an ordered car.
  • blackcaliberblackcaliber Member Posts: 11
    Hello people! I just wanted to let you know... I bought a black Caliber SXT, 1.8L, 5speed about 2 weeks ago. I'll only get it in 4-6 weeks, but when I bought the car, it was only after test driving an SE with CVT2. I personally don't like the CVT2 at all. It's clumsy and very noisy! I just can't stand it! I am more of a manual transmission car type guy. With manual, I feel a lot more control over the car. It's easier to get the power you want, when you need it! Anyway, my point is, I went back to the same dealership where I ordered the car this past weekend and, I was pretty surprised when I saw a 1.8L, 5 speed, orange SE Caliber on the lot... Last time I checked, the guys at the dealership told me that they were only going to start getting manual transmissions Calibers in mid-may. So, I'm thinking, maybe I'll be able to drive mine before mid-june... I just can't wait...
    And of course, I asked my salesman to go test drive the orange 1.8L, 5speed... by myself!! You see, I am not a mechanic, but I know enough about cars to be able to tell what's good on a car, what's wrong and what's gonna be my next mod. :shades: Seriously, when you go test drive a car, you should always go by yourself. You can take "all the time you want" to have a look at the car. Nobody to disturb you, to take your attention away from the things you should be able to check when you're by yourself... So, I drove away, test drove the car on highway, curvy roads, city streets, dirt roads... for about 30 minutes. And then I stopped in a parking lot and I listened to the engine, looked under the car, the hood, everywhere! Looking for noises, weakness, things that will fall apart after a couple years. I did find a few little things, but nothing that can't be handled and fixed by the dealership. EX: Look for missing rubber pieces around the doors, the hood and the trunk. These are little things, but it makes a lot of noise when you shut a door and there is one missing. Metal against metal = No good. The car was very quiet, except when you make the engine rev to 6000rpm... but that's normal! The 5speed was never as noisy as the one with the 2.0L with CVT2. Not much road noises. Good stability, good brakes, good suspension. A bit of steer when you accelerate very fast, which could be a problem if you are driving 6 months of the year in winter conditions and you don't have a lot of driving experience. ;) When you are test driving a car by yourself, you can listen to the car without the radio on, with the radio on, windows up, down, etc. I really think it's important to do all those things. That way, you are making sure that you will like the car. An other thing, some car reviews on the Caliber are saying that the 5speed isn't "smooth", it's hard to shift and needs some refinements. I think it's not bad at all, and if you really know how to drive standards, you should know that every new transmission needs a little bit of time to break in and that at a certain engine rev, it's easier to shift. Once I got use to the feel of the 5speed manual transmission of the Caliber, I loved it... and it was very smooth, and fast!!! :)
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Member Posts: 402
    THANK YOU! for sharing that. We ordered the 5 speed too and only test drove the automatic. Probably a bit risky since we both felt the car we drove had some engine "problems" which is probably the noise from the pulley system but I digress...

    I am glad someone drove the car we ordered and found it to be a good choice! I hope we get ours soon, this Thurs is 6 weeks..
  • blackcaliberblackcaliber Member Posts: 11
    Hi caliberchic! Which trim are you getting? What's your location and how much are you paying for it? Did you get a good deal?

    Thanks!
    I can't wait to get mine. I've seen 3 or 4 Calibers so far while driving around and they were all from an other province!! It's getting pretty warm and sunny here, I can't wait to take mine for a drive... but I'll need to get it first... :P
  • silvercalibersilvercaliber Member Posts: 30
    :mad: :mad: Hello blackcaliber. What City/Town did you see that orange 5 - speed in? I'm approaching an 8 week wait for a 1.8 5 - speed. Very frustrating!!!
  • blackcaliberblackcaliber Member Posts: 11
    Airdrie, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Member Posts: 402
    Hi! We are getting the SXT Sport in Sunburst Orange. We are in MI and are paying apx $19,500. We pretty much paid sticker but we are trading in so we don't have as much leverage as someone else.

    There is ONE white SXT around here. It's the car we test drove, it was actually already sold. I didn't care for that one, it seemed pretty basic. No sunroof, styling extras or anything. It will be funny when I run into that owner with my Caliber, I bet they kick themselves for buying the one on the lot that was missing a lot of the fun things.
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Member Posts: 402
    I expect my wait will be similar for my 1.8 5 speed. I was told yesterday that it's at a D1 status at the plant and should be moving along now but then again I don't have faith that my sales person really has a clue.

    Be sure to report when yours arrives!
  • gnoonangnoonan Member Posts: 1
    I just picked up my Caliber RT yesterday, they had to go to Colorado to get it, I live in Oregon.
    I have only had it a little over 24 hours but I love it.
    I do agree they should have put some padding on the console and armrests,oh and the white interior is a little scary.
    I bought the Inferno Red and it is such a hot color, beautiful !
    I think it drives great so far,I will check back in a month or so after I have a little more time with it. :blush::blush::blush:
  • moonhunt18moonhunt18 Member Posts: 33
    where in oregon did you purchase? i got my sunburst caliber sport Dick's Country Dodge in Hillsboro. :D
  • micwebmicweb Member Posts: 1,617
    The Caliber is on our short list of vehicles to replace our totalled minivan. Although I liked the spaciousness of the minivan, and it got good gas mileage for a minivan (23.5 on a freeway commute, 24-25 on long road trips, Dodge Caravan with 4 cylinder), I am a small car fan at heart, and especially love hatchbacks.

    The Yaris liftback, '07 Rabbit, Caliber, and Impala (wife's choice) are on our list of cars.

    The best Caliber configuration I have found to date is the SXT; only a few hundred dollars separate the SE and SXT once you add air con to the SE and a power window etc. package, and the SXT gives you the larger wheels, a little dress up chrome, and, in my opinion, easier resale since the SE's will come to be viewed as "stripped down" even when they are optioned back up (I'd rather by the cheapest version of the next trim level up, than the most expensive version of the next trim level down).

    It is hard, of course, to find SXT's that aren't loaded up to $18-19K but still include speed control. Basically, we want a Caliber with SXT trim, CVT (which automatically adds the $100 larger engine and the free ABS brakes), and speed control, which stickers here for $17335 or so. Discounts are scarce, just the $500 rebate and between $200 and $600 off from the dealer. IF you can find the exact color and options you want, which is hard, since the cars are selling off dealers' lots quickly and two that were listed on the computer search early in the week were gone by the time I called later in the week. Fortunately, the dealers I contacted through their internet departments are not asking above MSRP or, worse yet, adding senseless accessories and then bickering with you about them. (I still resent Honda dealers in the 60's and 70's for taking a fine, low priced car and turning it into a mid priced car with pinstriping and other garbage.)

    Anyway, the real issue is how the car drives, and it drives very well based on a 15 mile or so test drive last week of an SXT with 2.0 and CVT.

    First, the CVT posed absolutely no issues for me. It felt very much like a conventional automatic, unlike the CVT in a Justy, MINI, and Five Hundred that I have driven before. There was no lurch as the CVT engaged/disengaged when stopping, no run up in rpm (motorboating) while the car speed chases after it. The car just drove away smoothly, accelerated without any oddness, and on the freeway when I wanted more acceleration, "downshifted" slightly and took off. I am sure there is stuff I didn't notice that I would notice over time, but it is obvious that Nissan/JATCO have done a MUCH better job on CVT's that the notoriously suspect European manufacturers used by MINI, Chevy, and Ford(who were so bad, that Chevy just tossed in the towel on their experiment with CVT's in the Saturn).

    Nissan is deeply committed to CVT's - the '07 Altima will be offered with only the CVT as its automatic transmission option next year, and the Altima is a key vehicle in Nissan's lineup. Ghosn talked in an article about having a target of 1,000,000 CVT units sold per year. While this is no assurance the units will be defect free or not have some issues over the years ahead (which is also a problem for the next generation 5 and 6 speed conventional automatics), it does mean resources will be there to fix problems and, like hybrids, there will be a sturdy market in repairs and replacement units. (Unlike the Five Hundred CVT which looks headed for orphanhood.)

    It helps that the CVT in the Caliber is the CVT2 or "second generation" Nissan/Jatco CVT. Since Nissan's own Versa is reportedly coming with a conventional automatic due to CVT shortages, hopefully Dodge has a good contract to keep their own CVT pipeline full and avoid production shortages.

    YMMV - be sure to drive your sample carefully, and if it doesn't feel right to you, drive other samples to see if they are all the same. And if you are worried about reliabity, you have, I understand, until the end of the initial warranty period in which to buy the extended warranty (price is the same during the first year, subject to mileage, but goes up thereafter; you can buy these online from any Dodge dealer separate from your car purchase so check online before you pay full retail at your dealer).

    The Caliber feels much more like a midsize car than a compact. It is solid, heavy, and stable on the freeway. It is VERY quiet in acceleration and cruising, comparable once again to a midsize car. For that matter, cabin room is comparable to a midsize car. Only the "trunk" space suffers - it is shorter than a Malibu, for example, and although the brochure numbers look good, I think they assume stacking above the car's waistline, and aren't based on the space availabe with the tonneau cover in place (which is optional).

    Since I am so close to purchasing, I already started developing some personal strategies for maximizing the use of the Caliber. For example, the car has a "full size" spare tire, at least full size in diameter although the actual tire is not a full-duty tire - it is designed to be taken off as soon as possible (but doesn't have that horrible 50 mph constraint, so far as I could tell). I am not sure is a true spare tire will fit - the existing spare tire might be slightly narrower than was is fitted to the car - but my thinking goes the other way - to removal of the spare tire to open up the resulting large area under the floor forstorage.

    The problem in urban areas is that an "open" trunk design, common to minivans, SUV's, and now the Caliber, is an invitation to theft, even if you dark tint the glass (and the Caliber does NOT come with privacy glass standard). Although all I carry is a little extra oil, tire inflator, and such stuff, maybe an emergency jacket and old pair of walking shoes, potential thieves can't tell the difference between a bag full of non-resaleable stuff and a bag with a laptop or Ipod or cd's. So having an out of sight place (the spare tire compartment) to stuff things would be great.

    The tonneau cover mostly just gets in the way and reduces available haul space for shopping trips. It isn't as bad as a solid cover that becomes a storage issue in itself, but still it gets in the way. After a visit to Costco, we really need to stack high and just leave enough room to see our the rear window!

    So if I were an owner, I might take out the spare tire and store it, put in a can of tire inflator/repair and a small air pump to fix repairable flats, if any; and use the remaining space for storage. The hatch area would also be open on road trips to the kids could reach over to get food and toys. I might also play with the idea of putting a full size tire, but no rim, in the spare tire compartment, which would leave a lot of storage space but give me a back up if I had a non-repairable flat and a tire in my size was hard to locate while on a road trip or after hours.

    I hope other people are thinking of creative ways
  • cuda2000cuda2000 Member Posts: 3
    I went for a test drive of the SXT version with the 2.0 engine. The car looks cool, but there were a lot of seemingly 'stuck on' body panels, such as the wing on the back of the roof, feels like you could just rip it off with your hands, and cheap plastic compartments, like theres one on the back thats just a molded plastic flap that opens by the wheel well, that remind me of a cheap toy.

    Anyway, the car had only 4 miles on it, so I didn't beat on it, but flooring it from 30mph to 50mph had no power. And at 30 you *had* to floor it to get it to increase speed, the salesman even told me to floor it, because thats the way it drives. It was very strange must be the CVT.

    I'm currently driving a 97 Chevy Cavalier with a 2.4L Twin cam engine and 156,000 miles, which gets 22 city and 32 hwy mpg, so I figured a 10 year newer caliber had to be as peppy, but no, its a dog. I have rented PT Cruisers before and they are even faster than the caliber from my experience. I think I would take a used PT Cruiser over a Caliber. They have more room too.

    And whats with AirConditioning adding $1,000 to the base model? Holy cow, what is this 1975? Since when is AC not standard?

    Sorry to burst all your bubbles guys, but this Caliber all show and no go. For as doggy as the motor is, it should get more than 32 mpg.
  • gljvdgljvd Member Posts: 129
    Interesting , i just test drove this and the vibe . I like it alot more than the vibe ( i was driving the 2.0l caliber) The cvt2 takes a bit to get used to but once i got used to it , it felt fine .

    It may not get the mpg of the vibe or matrix , but its much bigger inside and on a trip to florida (From jersey) I'd rather get in the caliber than the matrix
  • gregoriusmgregoriusm Member Posts: 61
    Excellent write-up! Thanks! And you've given me some serious thoughts for that spare tire area. I DO like the "full sized spare with no wheel" idea!

    If anyone can try that and see if a full sized tire will fit, I'd LOVE to know!!!

    Great ideas! :)
  • neely2005neely2005 Member Posts: 70
    I thought that I'd post this again since there has been a lot of CVT2 Transmission talk in the last few posts:

    "All-round, I love this transmission. Its among the best CVTs Ive ever tried. Interestingly, what might be the best CVT Ive driven overall is fitted to Nissans Murano crossover, a transmission that just happens to be made by the same supplier that builds the Calibers CVT, Jatco; a Japanese company thats partially owned by Nissan. The Caliber CVT is a more sophisticated gearbox than that in the Murano, however, being a newer, more updated CVT2 example, and is probably only bested by the Nissan due to the larger vehicles torque-laden V6 engine - kind of an apples to oranges comparison."

    http://car-reviews.automobile.com/Dodge/review/2007-dodge-caliber-road-test/1680- /2
  • caliberchiccaliberchic Member Posts: 402
    And that is why I opted for the manual transmission. The spoiler isn't a solid fixture, it is bolted on at the dealership. Well the larger wing spoiler is anyway.
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