Review of the 2007 Dodge Caliber Compact Car

There are a lot of choices when you rent a car for your vacation in Hawaii ranging from the open air Jeep Wrangler to the more budget conscious economy class. By far, the most popular class of rental car though is the compact. They are economical, easy on the gas and come with enough room and features to suit most travelers. For years, the standard bearer of the class was the 4-door, Dodge Neon. The Neon was a pleasant car. It just seemed a tad too small though.

Well, the Neon is gone now, replaced by the Dodge Caliber. The Dodge Caliber is a cross-over vehicle which brings a much more rugged styling to the table. Some folks really like the styling, others feel that it is very overdone. Personally, I feel that if you set aside all discussions on the subjectivity of styling, with it’s roomier interior and more solid feel, this is the ultimate vacation rental for a small family.

Early sales on the Dodge Caliber have been brisk. When compared to it’s predecessor the Neon, you would have to say the new sheet metal is a success. Looking at the Caliber’s styling, you wouldn’t say it was sleek. The new SUV/small car/something or other hybrid is more rugged, substantial and just a little sexy. The basic body comes with a four door format and a rear fold up hatchback. The front end of the Caliber looks like it was inspired by Dodge’s popular line of Ram trucks. Whether you love the look or not, it is certainly unique and fun.

The interior is excellent. It comes jamb packed with features such as a/c, c/d player, cup holders that light up at night, and most also have a cell phone / ipod hookup located in the armrest. Typical of most Dodge cars, the instrument panel is clean, easy to see and purposeful. Most importantly, it’s very roomy inside as well. The official passenger-room rating is 95’ and the trunk area carries offers 18.5 cubic feet for your luggage. If you lay down the second row of seats with a couple of simple lever pulls, there’s a full 48’ of space in the back.

After checking out the unique styling and seeing the outstanding layout of the interior, the performance of the car is a little under-whelming. I wouldn’t call it a bummer, just not as exciting as the other aspects of this auto. Most of the Caliber’s in Hawaii come fitted with a standard 2.0 liter 4 banger which puts out a decent 158 horsepower. The engine is mated to an automatic transmission with gearing that feels a tad too high. Zero to 60 times are around 9 seconds. Certainly acceptable. The only downside to the beefy engine is that actual mpg is coming in around 27 mpg on the highway.

The suspension is Dodge’s tried and true strut/multi-link system. It handles well but does offer some lean if pushed hard. The rubber on the rentals tends to be the 15” size. All in all, the driving feel is very solid and comfortable.

I have to give this car a very high rating as a vacation wagon. The styling is certainly unique. The interior is very roomy with a lot of nice features. The safety features, including front airbags, are excellent. The performance is solid but not breathtaking. With base rental rates starting at around $150 per week, this compact rental offers incredible value.