The Caliber looks chunkily attractive from a distance, but closer inspection reveals many weaknesses
The Caliber is remarkably inept on the road
The dash is one of the cheaper American offerings - and that's saying something
Not even an £11,495 starting price can rescue the Caliber
Talk about defensive. I haven’t uttered a word about the Caliber and already the man from Dodge is reminding me that it’s all about value, and that yes, though the interior has been criticised, the price is cheap. Besides, they aim to sell only a few thousand a year.
I see why he’s concerned. If the Jeep Grand Cherokee was one of the most disappointing car we drove last year, then DaimlerChrysler is shaping up for a repeat performance this year with the Caliber.
What's it like?
Starting, but by no means finishing, with the interior, materials are poor: plastics hard, hollow and iffily-fitted in places.
Dynamically it’s no better. The ride is reasonable, but test the suspension and you’ll find body control lacking as it crashes into potholes. The steering is unresponsive, blighted by torque steer and prone to tramlining. Frankly, few new cars are so dynamically inept.
The drivetrain is also wanting. The Volkswagen-sourced turbodiesel is powerful enough but laggy, while the gearshift is vague and the clutch pedal has a sticky point mid-travel from which it belatedly and reluctantly boings free. It’s sufficiently irritating on open roads for you to leave it in fourth, ride the torque and accept the noise. Both are ample.
Should I buy one?
No. The Caliber is big, chunkily attractive, reasonably equipped and, at its entry price (£11,495, rather than the £15,430 of our test car), fairly cheap. There’s some clever oddments storage, too, but in the end that’s not nearly enough. Cost and value are two very different things.