Dodge Caliber

It's a family affair for Dodge's latest offering. We find out if the all-new Caliber SXT Sport has got what it takes

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The Caliber is a unique model in a sector where the norm is to blend in. Its bold looks and price are sure to appeal. However, boot space is tight, and cabin quality lags behind the class leaders. What's more, the Caliber has the dynamic drawbacks of an SUV with few of the benefits. So while Dodge dares to be different, the Caliber's strong points are limited.

Forget the loud, brash Viper - Dodge is about to butt into the family car market with the new Caliber. It's the first mainstream model to wear the distinctive ram's-head badge, and it's aimed at attracting potential Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf buyers who want to stand out from the crowd.

We've already driven the car in the US, but now the Caliber has hit Europe, will it shoot to the top of the class? As with models from Dodge's stable-mates, Chrysler and Jeep, the Caliber's styling is pure Americana.

Designers have gone for a shrunken SUV look, giving the hatchback swollen wheelarches, big alloys and bold headlamps. The off-road crossover appearance is a result of the Dodge's high ground clearance, but don't be fooled into thinking this is a 4x4. While an all-wheel-drive Caliber is sold in the US, European variants feed power only to the front wheels.

So does the Dodge have the practicality of a genuine off-roader? Unfortunately not. There's plenty of space for front and rear passengers, yet the boot is small for this class. But there are some nifty touches, such as the neat iPod holder built into the armrest, and an optional boot-mounted, fold-out sound system. Still, we wish Dodge had concentrated on quality rather than gimmicks.

Plastics are hard and cheap, and there are too many sharp edges. Rivals are leagues ahead. On the road, the firm aims to establish performance as a key plus point, offering 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, plus its own version of VW's 2.0 diesel. It develops 148bhp and will account for most UK sales.

While it's not the quietest, the CRD is punchy and flexible, thanks to the standard six-speed manual gearbox. In fact, the torque can be too much for the chassis. But the Caliber is nowhere near as agile as the Golf, Focus or Honda Civic. Its tall body rolls through bends with little steering feedback.

However, there is one aspect of the Caliber that rivals can't match - price. Loaded with standard equipment, entry-level variants start at £11,495, while the flagship diesel is £15,430. It's far from perfect, but the Caliber's head-turning looks and bargain price should be enough to make it a hit in the UK.

Most Popular

New 2021 Volvo C40 joins brand’s electric car line-up
Volvo C40 - front
Volvo C40

New 2021 Volvo C40 joins brand’s electric car line-up

The new Volvo C40 Recharge will take on electric car rivals such as the Tesla Model 3 and forthcoming Audi Q4 e-tron
2 Mar 2021
New Audi e-tron GT 2021 review
Audi e-tron GT - front
Audi e-tron GT

New Audi e-tron GT 2021 review

The tech-packed Audi e-tron GT EV is a landmark model for the German brand
2 Mar 2021
'Genesis’s aim is to lure Jaguar Land Rover customers'
Genesis
Opinion

'Genesis’s aim is to lure Jaguar Land Rover customers'

Mike Rutherford thinks luxury brand Genesis could take sales away from Jaguar Land Rover when it lands in the UK
1 Mar 2021