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Buying a Used Dodge Caliber

Dodge-Caliber_2008-01

Shopping around for a used car is a great way to save money. Unfortunately, it can also be a slippery slope. What looks like a steal of a car, might actually be a lemon. Lemons are costly. Without careful research, you might find yourself behind the wheel of a steal that ends up costing you more than what you would have paid for something new and reliable.

Don’t worry. The experts have done their research and I’ve got your back. Why not take a look at the used car inventory at a used Dodge dealership?

While there are lots of reliable used Dodge models to choose from, allow me to suggest the Dodge Caliber, Dodge’s response to the void left by its Neon in 2006.

By definition, the word caliber measures the degree of ability and the Dodge Caliber is one able and affordable used car.

What happened to the Dodge Neon?

You might remember the Dodge Neon. Another affordable Dodge option, produced for America consumers for a little more than a decade, manufactured between 1994-2005. Available as either a sedan or coupe, the Neon was ultimately discontinued due to safety concerns, consistently ranked “poor” in a variety of crash tests.

Safety is not something most consumers are willing to sacrifice, no matter how affordable the car might be. So, in 2005, Dodge pulled the Neon off its production lines and refocused its efforts.

Enter the Dodge Caliber – Anything, But Cute

dodge caliber - red

In 2006, Dodge released the Neon’s replacement. The Dodge Caliber, however, was neither a sedan nor coupe. It was a five-door, four-passenger, compact hatchback/wagon.

The first model year brought much improved safety features and technology to this affordable vehicle. While the Neon routinely ranked “poor,” the newly designed Caliber earned the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s highest rating of “Good.”

Affordable and reliable safety were finally introduced and paired up by the Caliber.

Actually, the Caliber earned the distinction of being Dodge’s smallest and most inexpensive car, until it was later succeeded by the Dodge Dart in 2013. But, calling the Dart the Caliber’s successor is a bit misleading, as the Dart is a sedan, not a hatchback or wagon. However, they are both considered a part of the compact segment.

Now when I hear the word “compact,” I can’t help but think “cute.” This car is not cute. It wasn’t designed to be and it wears its non-cuteness like a badge of honor. In fact, the entire marketing mission for the Dodge Caliber was to prove just how not cute this car was.

Take, for example, the Dodge Caliber commercial in which some darling little fairies go around transforming the cold, jagged edges of a metropolis into a frosted, candy-coated, cherry-topped wonderland, all set to a whimsical tune. One of these misguided little pixies levels her magic wand at the Caliber, and a fails to transform it a few times before the car fires back, leaving a flattened fairway on the sidewalk.

Clever Details on the Dodge Caliber

Consumers and reviewers alike were excited to drive the Dodge Caliber based on its unique features, like flip-down tailgate speakers and an iPod-exclusive holder. These were pretty fun little features considering the Caliber was introduced nearly a decade ago.

Aside from that, the Caliber had enviable space, thanks to its hatchback body style, whose cargo area could be expanded to 48 cubic feet, once the rear 60/40 split seats were folded down. Additional room was available by folding the front passenger seat, which allowed ample space for transporting longer items. The Caliber’s headroom and legroom proved adequate for drivers and passengers, particularly given the car’s compact size.

Trim Levels of a Different Caliber

dodge caliber

Originally available as the base SE, SXT, and R/T, Dodge later rebadged those trim levels by introducing options like the Express, Mainstreet, Uptown, Heat and Rush. More on those in a moment…

But first, the base Caliber SE, built on the same platform as the Jeep Compass and the Dodge Avenger, the SE came with more standard features than one might normally expect from an economical compact wagon. Equipped with a 1.8-liter four cylinder engine, generating 148 horsepower, operated by a five-speed manual transmission, the base model was ultimately discontinued in 2010.

As a used car, this is a nice option, considering the fact that drivers could enjoy features we’ve now come to expect from our current model year vehicles, like Bluetooth, air conditioning, cruise control, a USB audio jack, and satellite radio. Depending on how much power you’re looking for, you might find yourself disappointed with the base SE.

The SXT was similarly equipped as the SE, but also offered additional standard features, like power seating for the driver, a reclining rear seat, and bigger wheels. Not to mention fun features like the Chill Zone beverage cooler located inside the glove compartment.

For added power, the R/T was outfitted with a 2.4-liter inline four cylinder engine able to get 174 horsepower, with available all-wheel drive, but it was ultimately discontinued in 2012.

Dodge released a high-performance Caliber SRT4 for the 2008 and 2009 model years, which had a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder generating 285 horsepower with 265 lb.-ft. of torque, operated by a standard six-speed manual transmission. Performance on this model was enhanced by the larger engine, of course, but also upgraded brakes, a lowered suspension, sport seats, 19-inch wheels, and a performance trip computer.

The U.S. market was the only one to offer the same trim levels rebranded as Main Street (SE), Heat (SXT), and Rush (R/T) .

For the 2010 model year, Dodge decided to release two additional options, variations on similarly equipped themes: the luxury “Uptown” edition, and the base “Express.”

If you’re concerned about fuel efficiency, as most people are especially when shopping for used vehicles, you’ll likely want to choose the Express. The rebranded base SE, or Express, offers a fuel economy of 24 city/32 highway miles per gallon; while the more powerful Uptown’s fuel efficiency flags at 23 city/27 highway miles per gallon.

No matter which model you choose, industry experts found the Caliber to be best-suited as a daily driver. A commuter car with versatility and convenient cargo space.

The Caliber – An Important Chapter for Dodge

Although the Caliber was discontinued in 2012, it remains an important model for Dodge from a longer, historical perspective.

The Dodge Caliber was among the first modern-day Dodge releases in Europe and Asia. In fact, until 2008, the last time Dodge had sold a vehicle in China was during the 1940s. Australians hadn’t been able to purchase something new from the Dodge line since the early 1970s.

So, the Caliber’s presence abroad was important in reintroducing Dodge to the world and adding expanding its market reach.

Customization of a Higher Caliber

Over the course of its short six-year production, the Caliber was offered in nearly three times as many colors as model years, including:

  • Black
  • Blackberry Pearl
  • Bright Silver
  • Bright White
  • Brilliant Black Crystal Pearl
  • Dark Charcoal Pearl
  • Deep Water Blue Pearl
  • Inferno Red Crystal Pearl
  • Light Khaki Metallic
  • Light Sandstone Metallic
  • Mango Tango Pearl
  • Marine Blue Pearl
  • Mineral Gray Metallic
  • Optic Green Metallic
  • Redline 2-Coat Pearl
  • Solar Yellow
  • Steel Blue Metallic
  • Stone White
  • Sunburst Orange Pearl
  • Surf Blue Pearl
  • Tungsten Metallic

In addition to choosing the color best suited to your preferences and personality, the Dodge Caliber could be customized with mud flaps, slush mats, air deflectors, carpet floor mats, door sills, side moldings, fuel doors, and hood covers.

The most recent 2012 model year was originally priced between $17,380 – $18,765, according to U.S. News & World Report, with the average priced paid ranging from $12,191 – 13,136, depending on trim level and options.

Affordable, safe, and spacious, the Dodge Caliber is a solid choice for a used vehicle. You don’t have to drive new to grab life.

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