The 2012 Caliber is Dodge’s only representative in the compact market, and is a confusing one at that. Its size pushes it into the midsize territory, while providing the versatility of a wagon. It is versatile and uses the space provided well, with a number of interesting and useful features. The Caliber is brought down by poor execution and low end materials, and lacks the refinement and capabilities of much of its competition. It comes at a lower cost than many of its competitors, but will likely fail to hold its value like a Mazda or Subaru. Overall, the Dodge had a good idea that was not executed well, and instead has produced a vehicle that is behind its competition in almost every category.
New For 2012
The Dodge Caliber does not receive many changes in 2012, as there is a revamped model slated for 2013. However, there are a few:
- New naming convention and fewer models
- The high-output 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has been discontinued
- The continuously variable transmission has been improved
Although it is designated as a hatchback, the 2012 Dodge Caliber is hard to identify from the outside. The structure and appearance is similar to a sport utility vehicle (SUV), but is functionally more like an enlarged sedan. The crosshair grille in the front is uniquely Dodge. The tall greenhouse and large fender flares couple with the large headlamps to create a bulky front end. A black rail that runs along the roofline coupled with taillights that are set fairly high creates the illusion of a vehicle that is lower and sleeker than it actually is. The stance of the Caliber, meanwhile, gives it the appearance of being a half-size version of the Dodge Durango, although it is nowhere near as boxy in the front. The bumpers and door handles are available in body color only.
Interior & Cargo
Inside the passenger cabin of the 2012 Dodge Caliber, there is decent passenger space, but not as much as it appears from the outside. The rear seat is slightly cramped, and cup holders make the center seating position useless. The most noticeable part of the interior is the fact that it is made almost entirely of cheap, hard plastic. Looking past what it is made of, the interior is functional and overall fairly useful. Even the lowest trim comes with standard cruise control, power locks, power windows, and heated power mirrors, as well as satellite radio and a cooled glove box. The layout of the instruments and controls is good, which is something that Dodge has excelled in recently. Cargo room is quite good, but is still behind a number of the current hatchback competitors.
The 2012 Dodge Caliber has the usual safety features, with front and side curtain airbags, as well as a knee airbag that helps to keep the driver in the proper position during an impact so all the other restraints can perform correctly. An electronic stability system is not offered on the SE model, but is standard on the SXT and SXT Plus. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Dodge Caliber mixed reviews, with ratings of ""good"" for the most part, but with ""marginal"" on side impact crash tests. In government crash testing, the Caliber received three out of five stars overall, with four for frontal protection and three for side protection. The fact that antilock brakes are an option instead of standard is puzzling, especially in this day and age.
A 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is the only available motor in the 2012 Dodge Caliber, and its performance is mediocre at best. It produces a respectable 158 horsepower, but only 141 lb-ft of torque. This leads to poor acceleration and the inability to handle heavy loads. When it is coupled with the available five-speed manual, it can step up and move a bit, but is slightly rough. On the other hand, the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is convenient and a great idea, but is actually a bit poor as far as performance goes, and it provides a continuous, irritating droning sound for the driver and passengers. Dodge claimed to have modified the transmission for the new model year, saying it would have better response and acceleration with less engine noise, but it is hardly noticeable. The SXT and SXT Plus models get some suspension upgrades, creating a firmer ride that handles better, while reducing some of the body roll. Steering is firm, but is awfully truck-like for what is supposed to be a compact hatchback.
Key Competitors For The 2012 Dodge Caliber
- Mazda MAZDA3
- Subaru Impreza
- Hyundai Veloster