2012 Dodge Caliber Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Dodge Caliber was new.


Performance: 6.0

If you’re looking for one of the best-performing affordable small cars on the market, cross the 2012 Dodge Caliber off your list. The automotive press calls it underpowered, clumsy and pokey. But, if you just need a daily commuter, the Caliber may meet your needs – just make sure you can deal with its lackluster performance before you commit.

  • "CVT keeps the noisy engines droning, there's a lot of road noise, and the handling is dull." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Road imperfections are well absorbed on the highway, but Caliber is jittery over broken city pavement." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2012 Dodge Caliber is better to use than to drive." -- Edmunds 
  • "Unfortunately, the Caliber Heat lugs around 3,012 pounds worth of weight - nearly 400 lbs more than the Civic, 300 more than the Elantra and 100 more than the Focus. As a result, acceleration is more feeble than spritely." -- Autoblog 

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Dodge Caliber has a standard 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque, but the automotive press is far from impressed with its performance. They call it underpowered, unrefined and listless. Despite such negative reviews, automotive writers concede that the Caliber is fine for daily commutes.

According to the EPA, the Dodge Caliber doesn’t offer the winning fuel economy of small cars like the Ford Fiesta or the Hyundai Elantra. Calibers with the 2.0-liter engine will get 24/32 mpg city/highway with a five-speed manual transmission, while model with the continuously variable transmission (CVT) net less: 23/27 mpg city/highway.

  • "Unimpressive fuel economy." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Caliber is pokey even by compact-car standards. Around-town acceleration is barely adequate, and there are next to zero reserves for highway passing and merging." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood produces decent horsepower, but acceleration is leisurely at best, while the CVT dulls the response from the powertrain even further and produces a droning engine note during acceleration." -- Edmunds 
  • "While achieving highway momentum takes a country mile, once you're at speed, the Caliber is acceptably comfortable." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

By and large, reviewers aren’t impressed with the Caliber’s cornering ability. They call it heavy, dull and unrefined, and also mention that its high center of gravity makes the Caliber handle more like an SUV than an affordable small car. While one reviewer commented favorably on the Caliber’s brakes, another thought they were grabby, and disliked the Caliber’s large turning circle.

  • "Heavy for the segment, unrefined, dull dynamics." -- Car and Driver 
  • "Caliber handles more like a midsize SUV than a compact car. The steering is dull, body lean in turns is only moderately controlled, and one test model suffered from grabby brakes. A large turning radius adds further frustration." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "The suspension action feels a bit harsh and there's more body motion than we would prefer." -- Edmunds 
  • "The brakes on the Caliber Heat leave little to be desired, however. With 11.5 inch ventilated discs up front and 10.3-inch solid discs out back mashed by single-piston calipers, the vehicle has no problem shrugging speed, though we would appreciate a slightly firmer pedal feel." -- Autoblog 

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