Sunday, June 12, 2011

Super Special Sunday Post- Husband's Car Review

Special Guest Blog Appearance by Husband

It's been suggested that after Leigh-Ellen's car review that her husband contribute to the blog with a full car review. I am that husband (I hope!).

Leigh-Ellen Note- Yup, that's you.

We had a Dodge Caliber for two days in total while my Mazda was in for repair. I was offered a Nissan Altima and would have taken it in a heartbeat, but for the requirement for a hatchback that day.


I know this is subjective, but the looks really don't cut it for me. The appearance also seems to have an impact on interior space, which we'll come to later. In the world of "what we look for in a car" the Caliber competes directly with other hatchbacks such as the Mazda 3 Sport, Volkswagen Golf, station wagons like the Elantra Touring and even compact sedans. The Caliber looks completely different to all of these, which I suppose could be a good thing?


Poor. Starting with the dashboard - it's high, intrudes too far in to the cabin, the gauges are hard to read, areas of the centre console are poorly designed and built and the steering wheel is uncomfortable to hold. Some effort and money has gone in to improving the cabin for the 2011 model (that we had), I can't imagine how bad it was before. The seats are also hard and strangely shaped - with a bump digging right in at the bottom of your back. The seats adjust for height, but without a telescopic steering wheel I struggled to get comfortable. Build quality seemed patchy. Visibility through the small windscreen, tiny back windscreen and small mirrors was dreadful. Space in the back seemed good, but wasn't used. Boot/trunk space was half decent (Leigh-Ellen's Note- no photos were taken of us in the trunk cause we hated the car), with flat folding seats, but the loading lip was higher than almost any other car I can think of.


Sucks (thank you Leigh-Ellen Leigh-Ellen's Note- always happy to help with technical terms). The engine is mated to a CVT, we like the CVT in our Sentra, but in the Caliber it seemed to lack some finesse in the programming of the installation. Worse than the gearbox by far was the engine, which was very noisy and never seemed to have anywhere near the stated power output from a 2.0 petrol/gas in a smallish car (152bhp). Luckily (or not) once you were above 40kmh you couldn't hear the engine at all due to the overwhelming tyre and road noise making its way in to the car. Highway trips of more than 10 minutes were tiresome. Some blame must lie in the tyres which picked up different resonances at different speeds - but they were the OEM fitted tyres.

Ride and handling? Some cars do one, some great cars do both, the Caliber does neither. Superficially on slow, smooth roads it doesn't seem bad, but get on to a typical Canadian road (think Kosovo 1999) and it all falls apart. It's under-damped and bounces all over the place, quite worryingly so, but those large, hard tyres pick up every imperfection in the road surface and transmit it to the cabin. Corners are best taken slowly, with excess body roll and zero steering feel. Brakes were spongey and soft, even braking hard (thank you Deer) they were woefully inadequate. Were we keeping the car more than two days I would have returned the car for being unsafe.


Want a car? Don't buy a Caliber. It is a spectacularly bad car in so many areas that even with the Dodge rebates, low list price and, to some, different looks, means that it shouldn't even make it on to your "long list", let alone a short-list! I used to get excited about hire cars -getting to try out something different. We're lucky to have bought two new cars in the last two years - we tried all the decent cars in the compact and compact mini-van class - we bought what we liked and until the class moves on, or they give us bigger rental cars, I will fail to get excited. Oh, did I mentioned it sucked?

David happily in Mazda
Final Leigh-Ellen Note- Isn't he too cute being all British calling it a "Hire Car" and spelling it "Tyres"?

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