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2010 Dodge Caliber ReviewThe Good
An appealing exterior design, unique and useful cabin features, comfortable seats, and utilitarian cargo space keep the 2010 Dodge Caliber from total obscurity.The Bad
Issues with reliability and quality, as well as anemic engines and insipid handling, mire the 2010 Caliber toward the bottom of the list of preferred hatchbacks.
The CarGurus View
All style and little substance pretty much describes the 2010 Dodge Caliber. Despite its bold looks, comfortable seating, and innovative amenities, this hopeful hatchback has too much going against it, including lazy performance and marginal customer service as well as tepid quality and reliability, to become a true class act.
At a Glance
Though touted as a value leader, the 2010 Dodge Caliber is a prime example of getting what you pay for. Economically challenged Chrysler/Dodge has, nonetheless, traditionally been a styling giant, and the Caliber is no exception, with bold lines and an aggressive stance. Unfortunately, nearly all reviews of this midsize, five-passenger, five-door hatchback lament its poor acceleration, limp handling, less-than-inspired interior quality, and so-so record of reliability. A 2010 cabin redesign that includes standard cruise control as well as air conditioning and a chilled glovebox for beverage cooling have bolstered the Caliber’s image, but only marginally.
The 2010 Caliber is available in five oddly named trims: Express, Heat, Mainstreet, Rush, and Uptown. All trims are front-wheel drive (FWD) only, with no all-wheel-drive option available. Cargo capacity for the lineup is a fairly respectable 47 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, while adequate cubbies and pockets keep cabin storage space above average. If nothing else, the Caliber exhibits a bit more utility than the average compact wagon.
Two engines, including a more-powerful 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder (I4) powerplant that replaces the old 1.8-liter I4, and two transmissions are offered with the Caliber, but, again, performance is below par according to most reviewers, though mileage figures are at least in line with its major competition, the Honda Fit, Scion xB, and Chevy HHR. The vast majority of reviewers suggest looking at all of the above before deciding on the Caliber.
Basic power for the 2010 Dodge Caliber comes from the new-for-2010 2.0-liter I4 that replaces the old 1.8-liter I4. With its standard five-speed manual transmission, the 2.0-liter I4 puts out 158 hp at 6,400 rpm and 141 lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm. Efficiency for the 2.0-liter I4 is estimated at 23/31 mpg with the five-speed manual.
Available in all the higher trim levels and standard in the Rush is a 2.4-liter I4, also with the standard five-speed manual transmission, that’s capable of 158 hp at 6,400 rpm and 165 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The EPA estimates 23/29 mpg for the 2.4-liter powerplant.
Additionally, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available for the Heat and the Rush and standard in the Mainstreet and Uptown trims.
Reviewers note the Caliber’s acceleration to be tepid at best, with the 2.0-liter I4 especially lazy, both from a stop and on the highway. Mileage, however, is adequate, according to most reviewers, and thus adds, at least marginally, to this hatchback’s perceived value. Additionally, reviewers complain of some laziness on the part of the CVT when on the highway, though it performs well in city driving. The five-speed manual transmission seems to many reviewers a bit hesitant at times, requiring frequent shifting to maintain ideal acceleration.
Ride & Handling
Suspension-wise, the 2010 Caliber is equipped similarly to much of its competition, with a four-wheel independent suspension, MacPherson front struts, front and rear stabilizer bars, and a multi-link rear suspension. The base Express rolls on 15-inch steel wheels, the Mainstreet and Uptown both sport 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Rush and Heat ride on 18-inch alloys.
Reviewers complain that ride quality in all trims could be better, with little absorption of road imperfections. Body lean is described as moderate in cornering, and the smaller tires on the Express have an unnerving squeal at faster cornering speeds. According to reviewers, however, the larger tires found on the Heat and the Rush dampen tire noise and improve traction.
Altogether, reviewers find the Caliber’s steering to be adequate, though somewhat numb, with its front disc and rear drum brakes decently powerful and straight in hard braking, but handling and ride quality are given low marks by most. Others, however, rate the Caliber as no worse than the majority of hatchback wagons on the market.
Cabin & Comfort
Let it not be said that the 2010 Caliber neglects passenger comfort and convenience. The base Express trim, for instance, lists premium cloth upholstery, remote power locks, one-touch power windows, heated power outside mirrors, tilt-wheel steering, cruise control, air conditioning with a chilled glovebox, a 66-watt single-CD player with four speakers, and Bluetooth communications technology among its standard amenities. The Caliber Heat adds a fold-flat front passenger seat and reclining rear seats, while the Mainstreet ups the ante a bit with Sirius satellite radio and 12 months of free satellite service.
In the semi-heady atmosphere of Caliber’s higher trim levels, the Rush includes standard steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB connection, heated front seats with six-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and nine Boston Acoustics premium speakers, while the top-end Uptown adds leather upholstery to the mix.
Options run the gamut from UConnect/Bluetooth wireless, remote start, premium audio technology, and upgraded wheels and trim, as well as many of the standard goodies found on the higher trims for the Express and Heat, to a universal garage door opener and power sunroof for the Heat, Mainstreet, Rush, and Uptown trims. GPS-based DVD navigation is additionally available for the Rush and Uptown trims.
Reviewers find the Caliber’s cabin to be roomy and well-stocked with storage cubbies and pockets, while gauges and controls are deemed easy to distinguish and logically placed. Unfortunately, the effect of all the technological doodads and convenience features is considerably dampened, in the opinion of virtually all reviewers, by the liberal use of distinctly subpar materials, including far too many hard plastic surfaces, throughout the cabin. Occasional color variation among interior materials also seems to need some work, according to several reviewers. Leg- and headroom are noted as adequate, but visibility will be a tad iffy due to the Caliber’s thick roof pillars.
Standard safety features for all 2010 Caliber trims include front disc and rear drum brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, active front headrests, front and rear head airbags, and driver’s-side knee airbags. The Heat, Rush, and Uptown trims add standard four-wheel disc ABS, while the Mainstreet offers this as an option. All trims except the Express are also delivered with standard front fog/driving lights. Optional for the Heat trim level and higher are ESP traction and stability control and dual front side-mounted airbags.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Caliber high marks for passenger safety, with five stars in front and side impact testing, as well as four stars in rollover tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is not so generous in their praise, giving the Caliber its highest rating of Good for front impact testing, but only a next-to-last Marginal in side impact tests.
What Owners Think
Say what you will about Dodge and Chrysler products, innovative and appealing exterior styling has traditionally been a strong point. Topping the list, therefore, of owner kudos for the 2010 Dodge Caliber is its brash, macho, and downright Eastwood-esque styling.
Unfortunately, poor reliability, the non-availability of four-wheel or all-wheel drive, pricey options, marginal-to-poor workmanship and cabin material quality, and poor side and rear visibility keep many owners befuddled as to Dodge’s true commitment to its customers. Additionally, owners continue to lament the lackadaisical performance of both I4 engines in acceleration, both from a stop and when merging and passing, with the 2.0-liter powerplant getting an especially bad rep, despite its gain of 0.2 liters over last year’s base engine.
Owners of the 2010 Caliber do, however, praise its interior spaciousness, decent mileage, Chill Zone feature, high stance, comfortable seats, and, last but certainly not least in these days of financial strain and elevated bang-for-the-buck frugality, its plain and simple value.
Have Laptop, Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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