Weekend Athlete: 2007 Dodge Caliber R/T

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For starters, flipping the seats is easy, but when I had the passenger seat set comfortably for me, the rear seat wouldn’t flip all the way down. This is common in smaller cars, but it’s something you should know if you’re shopping Calibers. The cargo opening in the rear was a bit small — again, common on smaller cars, but not the case on, say, the Scion xB.

It held the bike OK, but I couldn’t stand the rear wheel up behind the rear seats. The fact that the passenger seat folds completely flat doesn’t really help with carrying the bike either. Still, it would make carrying my cross-country skis sinfully easy, so it’s a nice feature to have.

As for camping stuff, this is really a two-person car. There’s not enough room to carry stuff and four people.

Camping and racing would be a bit of a challenge, but not impossible with the Caliber. I put the tent on the floor behind the passenger seat and had to think about where I was putting things and I still ended up with things jammed up against the bike.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

I really wanted to give the Caliber a better grade. It’s acceptable if you ask it to do only one task — take you to a bike race or take you and a friend to a campsite. It’s when you ask the Caliber to do both that it comes up short … and I have to ask the cars I test to do both.

Still, with the stain-resistant seats, lower price and flat-folding passenger seat, it’s a better car for the Weekend Athlete than, say, the Acura RDX, so it noses ahead by .15, but it’s just not utilitarian enough to displace the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, Scion xB and others.

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Former assistant managing editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email Bill Jackson

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