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#30

in 2009 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $8,292 - $12,268
Original MSRP: $16,460 - $24,840
MPG: 24 City / 30 Hwy
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2009 Dodge Caliber Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

There are varying opinions of the 2009 Dodge Caliber's performance, which generally can be divided among trim lines. While the top-of-the-line SRT4 has sporty aspirations, the other three Caliber models can't fake the funk. Most reviewers recount lackluster power and sluggish handling.

  • "Dodge likes to bill itself as a purveyor of fun-to-drive vehicles ('Grab life by the horns!'), but the 2009 Dodge Caliber must not have gotten the memo. Driving a run-of-the-mill Caliber is not an especially pleasant experience, even by the standards of budget-priced hatchbacks and wagons." -- Edmunds
  • "Dodge seemingly wants people to consider the Caliber as a downsized Magnum, and to believe this makes it essentially a sporty mini-minivan-cum-compact station wagon. Nice idea, but the package doesn't quite do this. Everything it does, it does well, but aside from the SRT4 model, it doesn't quite achieve the sporty part." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "As competent around town and an on the highway as most of the competition." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Non-SRT4 Calibers are adequate at best. ...The SRT4 has the most go of any Caliber, and it's not overly expensive." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

Standard for the Caliber's SE and SXT models is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 148 horsepower. It's mated to a  five-speed manual transmission. However, an upgraded 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower is available with a continuously variable transmission. While some reviewers find that both options are inadequate to support the Caliber's weight, others argue that the Caliber is properly equipped for a budget car.

Caliber R/T models come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 172 horsepower, and is paired with either transmission. An all-wheel-drive R/T model is available, though only with the 2.4-liter engine and CVT.

Lastly, the still-new SRT4 Caliber has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine that generates 285 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The SRT4's engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

According to the EPA, gas mileage for the Caliber ranges from 19/27 mpg city/highway to 24/30 mpg city/highway.  

  • "The 2.4-liter engine's 172 horsepower arguably does a better job of motivating this one-and-one-half ton hatchback, but the CVT was neither as comfortable nor as precise in its selection of gear ratios as we hoped, or as Dodge promises." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "One test SE suffered from ragged throttle response while the engine was warming up. It went away once it reached normal operating temperature. " -- Consumer Guide
  • "Acceleration is unimpressive whether you stick with the base 1.8-liter or ante up for the 2.4-liter in the R/T model, and all of the engines have an unrefined power delivery that's magnified when the CVT is specified." -- Edmunds
  • "In everyday driving the Caliber has one of the most refined CVTs we've tried, adapting to changing demands quickly, especially in city trafic." -- Motor Week
  • "While the idea of engineering artificial gearing into the Caliber's 'gearless' continuously variable transmission might seem counterproductive, the ability to control the transmission with ultra-responsive manual shifts is very useful." -- Kelley Blue Book

Handling and Braking

Impressions of the 2009 Caliber's handling and braking systems are somewhat mixed. Though test drivers find the hatchback stable on the highway, several compare the Caliber's dynamics to a truck.

  • "Its ride and handling fall short of expectations ... plowing through corners as if Dodge had benchmarked a full-size truck." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the highway the Caliber is uncannily stable, even at higher than posted speeds." -- Automobile.com
  • "Its stability is undeniable when compared to a truck, but one feels the car's height when flinging it around corners, especially in the SXT trim level, which has more compliant, touring suspension tuning and a bit more body roll." -- Cars.com
  • "SRT4 is the stiffest of all Calibers, but it's never unyielding. SE exhibits moderate body lean while cornering, but its modest-sized tires squeal early in fast turns." -- Consumer Guide

Next Steps: 2009 Dodge Caliber

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