The Dodge Caliber’s unconventional styling (at least for South Africa) and fair pricing should impress some consumers, but stay away from the kooky crossover’s interior, and if you have to get inside, try not to drive it.
In its defence, the Caliber will only be officially introduced to the local media about two weeks from now. We hope for Dodge’s sake that the launch fleet will be stocked with some redeeming specimens, but until then, our introduction to the Caliber has been rather underwelming.
From the outside, the styling certainly stands out. Chunky American styling is refreshing, using a large, imposing grille, coupé-like sloping roofline, and an ample behind emphasised by the large tail lamp cluster.
It’s on the inside that things start to go horribly wrong. The test unit was finished in a lovely shade of blue, but using the same hue of blue for the fascia was not a clever idea. Parts of the seats are finished in the same colour and that’s okay, but the (shiny blue!) centre console was something else. The rest of the facia is a more sobering light grey, though the expanse of hard plastic does resemble, very closely, a puddle of molten Tupperware containers.
Getting comfortable seemed quite a challenge (I have the bruised knees to prove it). The only way that I could find a bearable driving position was to adjust the seat to a point that I was half lying behind the wheel – and that’s no fib.
The model driven was the 1,8-litre five-speed with SXT specification, which includes cruise control, power windows and exterior mirrors, illuminated front cupholders, among other things. Niftily hinged rear speakers (part of the nine-speaker system) and 18-inch alloys, are optional features. It may sound sad, but the best thing about the Caliber, for me, is the positioning of the remote audio controls on the back part of the steering wheel and the awesome sound generated by the Boston Acoustics set.