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2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Road Test

2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Road Test
Sep 19, 2006
2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Road Test
by Rob Rothwell ,
Aggressive Styling Encompasses Tremendous Practicality

(Photo: Rob Rothwell)
My first stomp of the throttle had me thinking, "jeez, this is a noisy little buggy." I was driving this week's tester, a 2006 Dodge Caliber, equipped with a 2.0 litre, 4-valve per cylinder four-banger bolted to a continuously variable transmission- CVT for short. The Caliber is intended to replace the Dodge Neon, which was somewhat of a disappointment in terms of reliability and sales. The Caliber ascribes to the "tall" styling theme that has become so popular of late. Shaped more as a wagon, the extra height of the 5-door hatchback adds significantly to its versatility. It also gave designers more to work with in capturing elements of Dodge DNA.

Stylistically the Caliber is all Dodge, drawing design cues from the RAM series of trucks and the Durango SUV. Familial characteristics include a
(Photo: Rob Rothwell)
large grille punctuated by chrome crosshairs, pronounced front fenders and a high waistline. I must applaud those at the drawing board for penning such dramatic lines. Visually, the Caliber is one of the more exciting offerings in the compact, economy-class segment. Moving inside the 4,415 mm (173.8 in) long Caliber reveals a very functional, straightforward and attractive cabin that provides impressive headroom in all five seating positions. Front seat legroom is also generous when the rear seat is empty. Comfortably accommodating adults in the rear requires the donation of some leg space from the front occupants but once space allotments are equitable, the Caliber is very comfortable, provided three adults aren't "sardined" into the 60/40-split rear bench. Dropping space-conscious rear seat passengers in place of inanimate cargo enables the Caliber to haul 1,360 litres (48 cu ft) of volume when its rear seat is folded flat. Fold the front passenger seat flat and extremely lengthy items can be fed into the vast cargo hold.

In the driver's seat, one will find all controls and instruments logically laid-out. I found the HVAC and audio controls refreshingly simple to
(Photo: Rob Rothwell)
operate. The cluster of white-background gauges, which includes a tachometer, is plain but effective. At night these instruments glow a very easy on the eyes - translucent blue-gray. Less pleasing in the cockpit is a turn signal/headlight stalk that imparts a loose, weak feel when flicked to activate the turn signals. Dodge needs to improve the actuation quality of this control. They would also be well served by reducing the reliance on hard plastic in the cab- but hey, I get it. The Caliber is an entry-level economy car that hits the street at only $15,995- not an Audi A3 that costs more than twice as much. Thoughtfully molded into the expanses of hard plastic are many receptacles and bins adding further practicality to the Caliber's interior real estate. Clearly, Chrysler has tried to package a tremendous amount of usefulness into their haute, inexpensive compact in hopes of attracting youthful buyers with the goal of establishing life-long loyalty. From that perspective, Chrysler nailed its target dead centre. Where the bullet hits an outer ring is in the categories of performance and refinement.
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