Dodge Caliber used car reviewUsed Car Reviews Motor Reviews Motor News
2006 Dodge Caliber.
- Badge Description
- Engine Configuration Description
- Gear Num
- Build Country Origin Description
- UNITED STATES
- Car Size
- Overall Green Star Rating
- Fuel Type Description
- Petrol - Unleaded ULP
- Drive Description
- Front Wheel Drive
- Warranty KM
Some cars achieve greatness, others have greatness thrust upon them. And then
others appear on the market, are completely ignored and fade away a few years later with nobody even noticing.
Meet the Dodge Caliber, the Eleanor Rigby of the recent motoring market in this country.
It’s not that the Dodge was the wrong vehicle at the wrong time concept-wise, because it landed here in 2006, just as the compact SUV market was about to explode.
It didn’t seem especially overpriced, either, with prices starting at about $24,000 at its launch (more of that later).
Yet it didn’t sell in the numbers Dodge had envisaged and it remains a true orphan in the Australian market.
So what was wrong with it?
Mainly the presentation, we think; while the vehicle had some of the standard equipment buyers wanted, it lacked things like front-side air-bags which, even in 2006 were starting to become gimmes.
Of course, when the first facelift turned up in 2010 and those same side-front bags still weren’t available (the car did have side-curtain air-bags) more eyebrows were raised.
And, as such, the Caliber scores only four out of five crash-test stars.
Originally available in a range of trim levels and engine options, the 2010 update sliced those options down to a single model and one trim level.
Side-front bags aside, though, it had some interesting features including optional fold-down speakers for picnics with the tailgate raised, a standard chilled storage bin and a rechargeable LED light that could be detached to use as a torch. Make sure that’s still fitted to any car you’re looking at second-hand.
If you’re buying an earlier car, then there are more choices including 1.8 or 2.4-litre petrol engines, a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and a range of manual and CVT gearboxes to suit.
From the facelift, though, the only trim level was the upmarket SXT specification and it was the 2.0-litre petrol engine and a CVT transmission or nothing.
Such range rationalisation is one of the signs that things are not perfect in Retail-World, but the other is when an importer takes a knife to the price.
That happened to the Caliber over the years with Dodge actually carving almost $6500 from the sticker of the SXT in 2011.
Nice if you were in the market right then, not so good if you’d bought a Caliber a few months earlier.
The vehicle itself is a front-wheel-drive hatchback that looks more like a wagon.
It has the raised ride-height of its major competitors but its off-road credentials are nil.
That said, its on-road smarts are not of the highest order either.
The main problems seem to start with the suspension which is basically underdone.
The ride can be choppy and the vehicle is noisy with sloppy cornering and a steering system that is over-assisted and wandery at speed.
The Caliber didn’t score too many driveline points when new, either.
The CVT transmission does the usual thing of feeling like the engine is outrunning the car. Some owners get used to this, others never do.
The other driveability issue concerns vision out of the thing.
The view to the rear is the most restricted thanks to those thick C-Pillars, but the view out of a Caliber is restricted in pretty much every direction.
If fuel economy is an issue, then the turbo-diesel is worth a look because it is appreciably more frugal than any of the petrol options.
As with any family-oriented vehicle, make sure the interior hasn’t been shredded by kids, dogs and mountain bikes, and be sure to check that all the electrical gear works, as this can be a real issue down the track.
Like a lot of US-inspired cars, the Caliber lacks a quality feel in the way its interior is put together and in the materials used.
This is something that many owners have complained about and with a few kilometres on board, the interior can get pretty rattly.
Cracks and damage to the hard, brittle plastics used is not uncommon, either.
Some Calibers have also needed front ball-joint replacement fairly early in life, and this seems to be a real trend.
The best advice is to check the tie-rod ends carefully, too, as a car with worn ball-joints will often have wear in the tie-rod ends as a secondary problem.
Make sure the engine starts easily and idles smoothly at the correct speed. We’ve heard of a few throttle-body problems with the Caliber’s petrol engine, and the throttle body is a likely cause.
The same goes for CVT-equipped cars.
Any whirring or screeching noises or loss of drive from the CVT is seriously bad news and while examples of this are not exactly common, we’ve heard of enough to warrant a professional check if you’re not sure.
Recalls for the Caliber include vehicles made in 2007 which could have a sticking accelerator pedal.
Obviously, should this jam at the wrong time, the consequences could be pretty dire.
The other recall was for very early build-number cars (made in the latter part of 2006) which potentially had an anti-lock brake system with iffy software that could allow the rear wheels to lock in some circumstance.
If you’re in any doubt about a particular car and whether it was affected and/or fixed, a Dodge dealership should be your first port of call.
The interesting thing is that while it didn’t have broad appeal, the Caliber must have had something going for it, because the buyers it did attract seem pretty loyal. (The Chrysler PT Cruiser from the same family is another great example of this phenomenon.)
Which possibly explains why second-hand prices for the things are still higher than they probably should be.
Normally, such an orphan would be a bargain a few years down the track, but it seems the unconventional Caliber bucks even that trend.
Our rating: 2/5
Nuts and bolts
Engine/s: 1.8-lityre 4-cyl/2.4-litre 4-cyl/2.0-litre turbo-diesel
Fuel economy (combined): 7.4 litres per 100km (1.8)/8.0 litres (2.4)/6.1 litres (turbo-diesel)
Safety rating (courtesy of www.howsafeisyourcar.com.au): 4 stars
- It’s a different look, if that’s what you’re after.
- Turbo-diesel variant can be economical.
- Nice little convenience feature inclusions as only the Americans can.
- Plastic interior is cheap and nasty and prone to falling apart.
- Ball-joints and tie-rod ends can wear early.
- CVT requires acclimatisation even when it’s working properly.
- Driving experience lacks polish.
Nissan X-Trail – Front-wheel-drive version of the X-Trail is big and cheap. Hard plastic interior can show wear early and some repairs are more expensive than the competition. 3 stars
Mitsubishi ASX – Another SUV that can be had as a two-wheel-drive. Turbo-diesel variant would be the pick but for the fact that there was no automatic transmission option with it. Well built. 3 stars
Toyota RAV4 – Least likely to scare buyers off thanks to legendary reliability and engineering. Not the best drive out there, but not the worst, either. Choice of four or two-wheel-drive. 3.5 stars
What to pay (courtesy of Glass’s Guide):
Model Year New Now
ST 2006 $23990 $8900
ST 2007 $23990 $9700
ST 2008 $23990 $11100
SX 2006 $25990 $8900
SX 2007 $25990 $9700
SX 2008 $26990 $12700
SX 2009 $26990 $14100
SX 2010 $26990 $15400
R/T 2006 $29990 $11400
R/T 2007 $29990 $12600
R/T 2008 $29990 $14400
R/T 2009 $29990 $15900
R/T 2010 $29990 $17300
SXT 2006 $29990 $8000
SXT 2007 $29990 $12600
SXT 2008 $31990 $16600
SXT 2009 $31990 $17700
SXT 2010 $31990 $19200
SXT 2011 $23500 $15400
SXT 2012 $23500 $16300
SXT 2013 $23500 $17000