When it comes to firearms, the word “caliber” refers to the size of the bullet a gun uses. And – generally speaking – the larger the caliber, the bigger the bang you can expect when you pull the trigger. The new 2007 Dodge Caliber is an exception this rule. As the Dodge brand’s new small car built for both domestic and worldwide markets, this compact crossover vehicle seems poised to make an impact on the small car segment that goes well beyond its modest size. That’s because the Caliber is a car that manages to blow away the time-worn maxim that small, inexpensive cars are nothing more than basic transportation for folks on a tight budget.
With its oversize headlights and bold fender flares, the 2007 Dodge Caliber tends to look like a much bigger vehicle than it is. Despite this visual heft, the 30/70 ratio of glass-to-sheetmetal in its proportions actually manages to make it look more sleek than stubby.
All car designs are intended to make a visual statement and, to our eye, the combination of those larger dimensions and the 2007 Dodge Caliber’s rakish profile says both “sporty” and “capable” in one glance. It is a look that’s hard to categorize, however, as it shares styling cues with both Dodge’s Magnum station wagon and Durango SUV.
With a cargo area floor covered in tough vinyl, the 2007 Dodge Caliber is ready for a rowdy tailgate crowd, and is designed to make bringing home a load of landscape materials on a Saturday morning a no-worries affair. With that in mind, we find it curious that the backs of the rear seats are carpeted, which means you’ll still have to throw down a tarp when hauling messy cargo with the seats folded down.
Without doubt our favorite feature on the 2007 Dodge Caliber is up front. The “Chill Zone” beverage cooler built into the tri-level glovebox of all air-conditioned cars can hold four 20-ounce water bottles.
The 14 additional horses under the 2007 Dodge Caliber R/T’s hood didn’t make nearly as much difference as we expected. The 172-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine’s pickup was only marginally better than its smaller sibling, a result we attribute to the additional 269 pounds of curb weight it has to cart around thanks to the standard AWD system.
Overall, the 2007 Dodge Caliber displays sure-footed handling that inspires confidence both in traffic and on the open road. There’s a good amount of body roll in enthusiastic cornering, but the car always feels stable and its handling secure and predictable. The Caliber’s four-wheel independent suspension gives the car a better than average ride quality, especially when compared to most small sport-utes.
Whatever its hopes for the North American market, Dodge is counting on the 2007 Caliber to help the brand gain a toe-hold in both Europe and Asia. It will be sold around the globe exactly as you see it here, but a not-for-U.S.-sale turbodiesel engine is available in other regions of the world.