I think you would have noticed the lack of power much more when test driving the CVT model seeing as CVTs don't make strong starts.
I agree with the CVT comment.
Also, how does the car manage to exhibit strong torque steer, but also not have enough power?
Unequal half-shafts. Since more power is being transferred to one wheel, the car will pull to one side.
Torque steer only happens under hard acceleration with high rpms, you cannot experience it by casually going from a stop with CVT.
I just test drove several Calibers and would have bought one if the dealer had been willing to pay Kelly Bluebook on my trade-in (they wouldn't, and I don't trade unless I get a fair bid). I have tried out several small wagon type vehicles, including the Vibe, the Scion, the Saturn Vue (an SUV) and the Toyota Matrix (same car as the Vibe, just pricier). As far as I'm concerned the Caliber puts them all to shame. The 2.0 Caliber I drove had far more power than any of the other vehicles I drove and certainly has more pleasing styling. I found the ride smooth and quiet, and in a test of merging onto a freeway ramp I hit 70 easily before the end of the ramp. My V-6 small pickup hit exactly the same speed on the same ramp. Having owned several Chrysler products I have zero concern about reliability or repairs. My Dodge Daytona went 100,000 miles without a single repair, and my '90 Dodge Omni had 240,000 miles when I sold it. It had had two brake jobs and two timing belts, and that was it. The CV joints were just beginning to make noise at 240,000. They were clattering like crazy at 40,000 miles in our '85 Honda.
I took the Caliber on a trip of 500 miles, and averaged 35.8 mpg at 70-85 and some around town driving. Pretty happy about that, considering the window sticker rates it at 32 highway.
Maybe here is the reason your & my Dodges' real-world MPG beat the EPA mileages. Most car brands gear their cars' transmissions to get the best mileages in the specified EPA dynamometer tests. Maybe the Dodges & other brands gear their cars to give best results on everyday highways?
Comment 22:24 may have a good point there. I've always wondered why everyone I know (including my family) has always seemed to get better than EPA estimated mileage with Chrysler products, but less with every other make.
Initial review writer here...
I got rid of this car back in October. Currently I'm driving a 98 Galant, and am much happier in it than I was in the Caliber. Mid to late summer, I will be getting a Toyota Yaris liftback.
I have a 5 spd Caliber with 30,000 KMs on it.
The stalling issue only affected the very early models and was fixed by reprogramming the computer at the dealer.
The 1.8 litre engine is weak before the 5,000 km mark... don't ask me why, but as soon as I hit 5000 KMs, I gained an extra 1000 rpm of usable power band; prior to that the little pepper mill would run out of steam at 3500 rpm, now it pulls albeit weakly (it's a 1.8 after all) to 4500-5000. I've talked to other Dodge owners, and there is an opinion, accurate or not, that Chrysler programs their computers for a "break in period".
Anyway on the highway my mileage is better than rated as well, with 6.8 liters for each 100 KMs, and I love how quiet & solid the car is at speed... not 300c quiet, but not bad either.
There is noticeable body roll due to its higher center of gravity, but it comes with the territory. I love the functionality of the interior, kudos to the chill zone, but with the plastic came across as better quality, not a deal breaker, but noticeable nonetheless.
Very much love the car, and for 2010 they are revamping the interior all round while ditching the 1.8 and offering a 5 spd with the 2.0 litre... that will pretty much make it perfect for what it is.
I also own a 07 Caliber with the 1.8L and 5 speed manual transmission. The engine has next to no low end torque, and the transmission gear ratios were probably chosen for fuel mileage over acceleration and drivability.
First gear isn't low enough to creep along at low speeds without the engine stumbling, so you have to slip the clutch much more than on other cars. The weak engine and drive by wire throttle set up won't allow you to drive at engine speeds lower than 1150 RPM. At 1100 RPM the engine stumbles, you depress the clutch, the computer revs up the engine so it doesn't stall, and you adjust the throttle and slip the clutch (PITA!). I have driven cars with smaller engines, including one with a 2 barrel carburetor and manual choke, that were far better than this much newer Dodge.
5th gear doesn't give much of a overdrive reduction over 4th. And there's a TSB for de-laminated blocker rings (synchros) causing hard shifts with grinding or popping out of gear. The fix requires all the blocker rings be replaced, along with any damaged gears or shift forks. Meaning a total rebuild.
I would recommend not buying a Dodge Caliber with the 1.8L 5 speed or even the 2.4L 5 speed RT; try to find one with the 2.4 and CVT transmission. Or better yet, buy a Honda or Toyota with a few more miles on the clock or a year or two older to compete on price.
The low price on Dodge Calibers lure people to give these cars a chance, when they just don't measure up. American auto companies keep thinking of ways to build small cars for less money, instead of building them better. And it really shows with this Dodge Caliber. Cheap interior, lack of sound proofing, ABS is optional when it should be standard equipment, lots of faults and technical service bulletins, not much aftermarket support, the gutless engines don't really respond to CAI and free flowing exhaust mods (they just get noisier not faster), and the SRT-4 is over priced.
You can tell this car is based off of the PT Cruiser, with SUV like clunky styling, and a steering wheel and shifter that are more suited to an old pick up truck than a newer car.
Owners and prospective buyers should check out http://www.caliberforums.com