You know the 2010 Dodge Caliber has a really easy to use radio.
Perhaps we better leave it at that.
Have you noticed how the very best cars all have something special that gets you (no compels you) to fall in love with them?
The MazdaSpeed 3, the VW GTI (which we recently compared HERE) and the Subaru WRX STI all make your adrenaline surge just getting behind the wheel.
Or perhaps the more pedestrian cars like the Buick LaCrosse and the Ford Taurus (which we recently compared HERE) impress with their style and refinement.
Well…the Dodge Caliber R/T has none of these qualities.
As hard as we tried we could not find one notable feature of the Caliber that would make it stand out and make it worthy of love (or is it lust) among the dozens of competing daily drivers.
It's the kind of vehicle that you pick up that the local rent-a-car business when your car is getting repaired after an slight fender bender accident.
It will easily meet all of your rental car expectation but you'll never say to yourself, "Self, you know I should consider getting one of these babies."
Instead, you'll return it to the friendly rent-a-car counter guy or gal and never think of it again.
Part of the reason for the Caliber's lack-luster first, second, third impression is the CVT transmission that just doesn't work with our test car's 2.4L engine.
Imagine taking an exceptionally fluffy pillow and placing it on the gas pedal. Now combine that with the sound of a Soviet era tractor at full boil and you have the sensation of what it is like to floor the Caliber.
You notice lots of noise as the engine churns at just below the 6000 rpm red line with little in the way of real acceleration, and heaven forbid any driving excitement.
The Caliber seems to have also retained that old-fashioned American car quirk of actually being smaller on the inside than the outside.
For a substantial car (at least in European terms) the space inside the Caliber is tight for any small family. With the optional sunroof your head might just hit the ceiling if you are over six foot tall.
Part of the issue is that the Caliber shares much of its basic architecture with the Jeep Patriot. Which (BTW) we recently compared to (and yes we're not kidding) an Audi Q5 HERE.
On the plus side, Dodge recently updated the Caliber and it shows. There are thoughtful touches that give the Caliber a much needed image makeover. For instance our testers leather black seats had expensive white stitching that made for stylish accents.
We also like the simplicity of ergonomic design to all of the secondary controls. In a world of increasingly high-tech cars it is refreshing to be able to just turn on the heater or change the airflow without consulting the owners manual.
The Caliber also rewards (in base trim) with a reasonable MSRP of $20,555. That's good value for a car that we suspect will serve faithfully as a daily driver.
FYI: We got a respectable as tested 23.9 mpg with our Caliber.
Bottom line: If you really want the easy to use radio in the Caliber, plus a lot of the important bits like the engine and chassis we say buy the Jeep Patriot. Bonus suggestion: Get the trail rated Patriot with all-wheel-drive for vehicle that's pretty much identical to the Caliber (including similar gas mileage numbers) but much more all weather and off-road capable.
Plus, a Jeep is supposed to be a little rough around the edges while the Caliber can't use that excuse.
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
We give the Caliber a Rent It.
Look for our full review of the Dodge Caliber R/T soon.