Competitor Showcase: The 2009 Dodge Caliber
Considering a Dodge Caliber? Drive These Cars Before You Buy.
The 2009 Dodge Caliber is a unique entry-level compact car. Introduced in 2007 as a replacement for the popular Neon, the Caliber is much more than just a sedan. In fact, this vehicle combines the characteristics of an SUV, crossover and hatchback into a package that is affordable, useful and easy to park. The Caliber's exterior appearance is much more masculine than the typical import hatch, and the imposing front grille firmly ties it to the Dodge family of cars and trucks. Inside, the Caliber's styling is oriented more towards functionality than making a statement, but front occupants will find themselves with loads of room. In the back there is a bit less space, but the vehicle is still fairly comfortable. 48 cubic feet of total cargo space await those who fold down the rear seats, which puts it on par with other compact wagons and hatchbacks on the market.
Starting at $16,460, there are four different models of the Caliber ranging from mild to wild. Most buyers will be content with the base SE and SXT models of the vehicle, which are powered by a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine that provides 148 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at an impressive 24 miles per gallon in the city and 30 miles per gallon on the highway. A 2.0 liter unit is also available as an option for either of these trim levels, and it adds 10 more horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission is paired with the 1.8 liter, while the 2.0 is only available with a continuously-variable automatic.
The quicker R/T trim shoehorns in a larger 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder engine that is good for 172 horsepower and 165 lb-ft of torque, with only a slight fuel mileage penalty. The real performer in the group, however, is the Caliber SRT-4, which slaps a turbocharger onto that same engine in order to squeeze out an astonishing 285 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission becomes the only available gearbox, and fuel economy is rated at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway for this econo-hatch beast.
The 2009 Dodge Caliber succeeds at offering compact car buyers with a different option than the standard sedans and hatchbacks that are usually sold at its price point. However, it is far from the only solid choice for first time shoppers looking for compact vehicle packing a lot of utility. This article takes a look at 4 other cars that should be driven before committing to the Dodge Caliber.
2009 Toyota Matrix - MSRP $16,290
When Toyota elected to stop building a hatchback version of its popular Corolla compact sedan, they filled the gap with the Toyota Matrix. The 2009 Toyota Matrix represents the second generation of Toyota's entry-level hatch, and it still shares much with its Corolla ancestor in terms of design. The Matrix's design makes references to the Corolla sedan in terms of front end appearance, but the interior of the hatch takes a different path, as Toyota uses more hip styling in an attempt to connect with a younger audience of car buyers. Aside from the cosmetic differences, the Matrix features storage bins and compartments scattered throughout the inside of the vehicle. This is in addition to the 48 cubic feet of space available with the rear seats folded forward, matching the Caliber. It also features an almost 20 cubic foot 'trunk' between the hatch door and the rear seatbacks.
When it comes to power, the 2009 Toyota Matrix does fall short of the Caliber's output. The base 1.8 liter found in the Matrix produces 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque, which is more than 10 ponies less than the Dodge - although fuel mileage is slightly better, coming in at 26 miles per gallon around town and 32 miles per gallon during highway cruising. The most capable engine available in the Matrix is a 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder unit that generates 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque while reducing fuel economy ratings by 5 and 4 miles per gallon, respectively. All versions of the Matrix can be ordered with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic except for the 2.4 liter all-wheel drive edition which is automatic only.
The 2009 Toyota Matrix is a traditional hatchback with sporty pretensions that ultimately aren't backed up by any real performance. Although not as fast or powerful as the Caliber, it does make a decent and less expensive compact hatch choice at the low end of the market.
2010 Mazda MAZDA3 hatchback - MSRP $19,900
MAZDA3" title="2010 Mazda MAZDA3" hspace="10" vspace="10" width="320" height="240" align="left" />The hatchback edition of the 2010 Mazda MAZDA3 has been updated and refreshed in order to keep pace with its competitors. From the outside, the general shape of the vehicle has stayed the same, although it has been festooned with more elaborate air vents, a louder grille treatment and more attractive headlight lenses. The MAZDA3 aims a little higher in terms of interior amenities than most other compact hatches, and the result is a passenger compartment that looks and feels as thought it has been lifted from a much more expensive car. This extends to technology options such as Bluetooth connectivity and an extensive driver information screen. Unfortunately, interior cargo room tops out at 44 cubic feet, smaller than the Caliber, and the vehicle's trunk measures a scant 11 cubic feet.
The 2010 Mazda MAZDA3 hatchback's engine options are a lot simpler than any of the other compact cars it is up against, largely due to the fact that there is only a single power plant available. Displacing 2.5 liters, this 4-cylinder motor cranks out 167 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque, giving the car brisk acceleration and excellent throttle response without sacrificing too much efficiency - the MAZDA3 displays fuel economy of 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. A 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission handle the gear shifting duties.
The 2010 Mazda MAZDA3 hatchback is definitely fun to drive, even if it doesn't pack as much punch under the hood as the Dodge Caliber. The interior's high end look and feel are also a plus, although there is a definite sticker price to be paid for the comparative luxury found in this compact automobile.
2010 Scion xB - MSRP $15,750
Having shed its original box-like shape, the second generation of the youth-oriented 2010 Scion xBÂ (2009 model pictured) is decidedly more mainstream looking than the vehicle which came before it. Bulked out and butched up, the xB's lines have been somewhat cluttered by extra body work but the overall effect is still that of a van shrunk down to compact dimensions. The interior of the xB reveals that bonus of its rectangular profile: a full 69.9 cubic feet of total cargo room dwarfs other compact options. Occupants don't benefit from quite the same amount of space however, and the second row of the vehicle is tighter than most adult passengers would like. The xB can be outfitted with a number of go-fast and gee-whiz components and options direct from Scion's personalization department, in an effort to help the company garner favor amongst the car tuner crowd. This may or may not be a selling point, depending on the point of view of the buyer.
Like the MAZDA3, there is only one engine available in the 2010 Scion xB, this time a 2.4 liter, 4-cylinder unit capable of producing 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The Scion weighs 3,000 lbs and is also somewhat top heavy, which means that while it never feels sluggish it doesn't enjoy the same handling or acceleration seen in other vehicles on this list. A 5-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic are the transmission options, and fuel mileage is a competitive 22 miles per gallon in the city and 28 miles per gallon on the highway.
Relatively compact but offering a huge amount of hauling capacity, the 2010 Scion xB is a great choice for anyone need a fuel efficient vehicle that can come close to matching an SUV in terms of cargo swallowing.
2009 Pontiac Vibe - MSRP $16,100
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is at its heart the twin of the Toyota Matrix - both were developed in tandem thanks to a joint effort between Toyota and General Motors. However, the Vibe has a much sportier look and actually offers the choice of a more aggressive suspension, larger rear brakes and seats which keep occupants firmly in place during high speed cornering, courtesy of the GT trim level. Options such as air conditioning, power door locks and windows and a moonroof help to dress up the Vibe and make it feel a bit more comfortable than it does in stock form. Total cargo room is 49 cubic feet, which marginally larger than the Matrix, although their trunk capacity is the same.
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe falls short of the Dodge Caliber in terms of power, which is no surprise given that it shares its drivetrain choices with the Matrix. The same 1.8 liter, 4-cylinder engine pulls duty under the Pontiac's hood, providing 132 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque, while a larger 2.4 liter unit offers 158 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. For those focused on fuel mileage, the 1.8 liter is the best bet as it turns in 26 miles per gallon in stop and go traffic and 32 miles per gallon on the highway. All-wheel drive is optional on versions of the Vibe with the larger engine, which uses a 4-speed automatic. All other editions of the Vibe can choose between this auto and a 5-speed manual transmission.
The 2009 Pontiac Vibe is a sleek and attractive-looking compact hatch that might not match its domestic Dodge rival but still offers good value for shoppers on the hunt for a bargain.