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2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Sport Road Test
The low price proves a surprise
By Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan
The Dodge Caliber is a car that is just full of surprises. In fact, I got a pretty big one as soon at I arrived home in my test vehicle.
You see, I like to play a little game that I call “guess the press car sticker price.” Basically, I drive maybe an hour or so in my test vehicle, guess at the price, then open the press package from the manufacturer to reveal the answer. Ok, so it's not exactly Jeopardy or the Price is Right, but it amuses me.
Usually, my guess is reasonably close. After all, I've been in the car business for a number of years now.
With the Dodge Caliber SXT Sport, I was off by a mile. My guess was $24,000; the actual price was $21,340. That is quite a large spread for a guy who is supposed to know a thing or two about cars. I was quite shocked, so I thought that I would ask a colleague who is also in the publishing business. His guess was $28,000. That evening, one of my friends guessed at an astonishing $32,000.
Now, either my paperwork is all wrong, or I've stumbled onto the sale of the century. Let's take a closer look and try to figure this one out.
The 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT Sport certainly has the looks. It appears from the outside to be well put together. In fact, the build quality is, dare I say it, of quite high caliber. The vehicle has obviously been designed to stand out in a crowd and it follows the brand's other offerings by being instantly recognizable as a Dodge product.
Upon entering the vehicle, it immediately becomes apparent whom exactly Dodge is targeting with this model. The interior has a real 'young' feel to it and is loaded with features that will appeal to the younger buyer.
The first thing which grabs your attention is the large section of dashboard, which is colour-matched to the exterior body colour. The instrument panel has been designed to be easily read and it gives a pleasant ice-blue glow to the white gauges when illuminated at night.
I tend to notice silly little things and printed just above the fuel gauge in small script is 'Fuel Door' and a little arrow. Now, you might think this rather pointless as most owners know which side their fuel filler is on, but think about it for a moment. The price of this car makes it an attractive rental vehicle, and those drivers now won't have to hang their heads out of the door before pulling up to the pump. This is one thing that gets me each time I drive an unfamiliar vehicle. To me, it shows forethought and demonstrates the attention to detail that the company has put into this car.
The glove box is also rather clever in that it boasts a Chill Zone, which has been designed to keep your cold drinks cold. Is that cool idea or what? Then there's the holder specifically designed for your cell phone or Ipod, which then plugs into the auxiliary input on the vehicle's stereo system.
Speaking of sound, the Caliber SXT Sport boasts six Boston Acoustics speakers with an additional subwoofer in the rear. It also has a unique drop-down speaker box built into the rear hatch. This just screams to me 'tailgate party'! Dodge even offers an available 115-volt built-in power outlet, although I wouldn't try plugging your electric guitar amp into it.
Other nice little touches include the interior light, which detaches and becomes an LED flashlight (an industry first), the illuminated cupholders, and the seating arrangements, which include a fold-flat front passenger seat and reclining rears. Speaking of seats, these are well designed, stylish, comfortable, and my test vehicle carried rather sharp-looking colour-keyed insets.
Now, I have been known to have a little poke at Chrysler now and again for its interiors, but I have to take my hat off to the company on this one. It suits the vehicle, and the materials are of better quality than you would expect in this price range.
Ok, so it looks good and sports a well-designed interior, but what is it like to drive?
The power is supplied by a smooth-running 2.0-litre, four-cylinder DOHC engine with 16 valves and Variable Valve Timing. This is then fed through a Continuously Variable Transaxle (CVT) transmission to the front wheels. This setup doesn't give exactly mind-blowing acceleration from a standing start, but it does work well when performing passing manoeuvres, and is extremely smooth in operation. It is also a large part of the reason behind the Caliber's great fuel economy (9.0 l/100 km City, 7.3 Hwy). That's 39 miles per gallon! I'd call that great fuel economy, as I can still remember when I was young and had to find gas money.
The ride is a little on the semi-firm side. In fact, it feels like a European car in many ways. The Caliber SXT Sport comes with anti-lock front disc/rear drum brakes that are more than adequate for the vehicle. All in all, I thought that the Caliber handled very well. In fact, I've driven vehicles that carry a much higher price-tag that came up short of it.
I think that Dodge has a real winner on their hands here, and that the younger buyers are going to go wild for it. On the other hand, I was talking to an older gentleman the other day who was thinking of trading in his minivan for one. He felt that the fold-flat front seat would be great, as he could lay a six-foot-long stepladder in there. I have a funny feeling that the younger folks might have other ideas for that particular feature.
Kevin 'Crash' Corrigan is a regular contributor to CarTest! and a member of AJAC.
Posted 3/21/08 © CarTest.ca 2008