2009 Dodge Caliber

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Change year or car

$16,460

starting MSRP

2009 Dodge Caliber

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

The good:

  • Quiet cabin
  • Good handling
  • Aggressive looks (SRT4)
  • Brake response and pedal feel (SRT4)

The bad:

  • Marginal score in IIHS side-impact crash test
  • Cabin quality
  • Steering feel (SRT4)
  • Rear visibility

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2009 Dodge Caliber trim comparison will help you decide.

Notable features

  • Choice of four-cylinders
  • Manual or CVT
  • Turbo engine (SRT4)
  • All-wheel drive no longer available

2009 Dodge Caliber review: Our expert's take

By Mike Hanley

The verdict:

Versus the competiton:

A car like the Dodge Caliber SRT4 says a lot about the person driving it. Maybe not as much as the home video your friend posted of you on YouTube, but it’s revealing nonetheless. What does it say? It says everyday practicality is on equal footing with performance in your world, and you’re OK with that (the SRT4 is a four-door hatchback, after all).

Knowing this, it seems worthwhile to determine how this performance-oriented compact car rates when it comes to everyday livability and utility. After driving the SRT4 for more than a week, my conclusion is a mixed one. The Dodge performed admirably in some respects but suffered serious deductions in others. (Performance junkies can get more background on how the SRT4 holds up in our review of the 2008 model, which carries over mostly unchanged for 2009.)

The Good
The SRT4’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine only comes with a six-speed manual transmission, but even during heavy stop-and-go commuting it’s easier to drive than you might think. One of the main reasons why is that the clutch pedal isn’t overly firm. The clutch also engages smoothly, so you won’t have to worry about whipping your passengers’ heads backward. Overall, the setup is easy to get accustomed to, and the location of the stick shift itself — right below the air conditioning controls on the dash — puts it within easy reach of your right hand.

For performance seats, the front buckets are comfortable. They’re big and have quite a bit of side bolstering, but because they’re pretty wide you won’t feel squeezed when sitting in them. The driver’s seat has manual adjustments that let you place it just where you want, and heated leather seats are optional.

If you plan on using the backseat as more than just a place to toss a backpack or briefcase, your passengers — even taller ones — should be comfortable on short trips. Legroom and headroom are acceptable. The seat cushioning is fairly soft, but the backrest has harder padding.

The Bad
Firm suspensions go hand-in-hand with performance cars, but the SRT4 will shake and rattle you all the way to work in the morning and on the way home at night. While the suspension keeps body motion nicely in check, it doesn’t play nicely with pavement that’s been roughed up by a harsh winter, as all the bumps and holes are felt in the cabin.

The other thing that starts to wear on you after a few days of driving this car is the turbo four-cylinder’s droning exhaust note; it sounds like an angry vacuum cleaner, and at certain engine rpm it feels like it’s boring into your skull. I like a louder exhaust note as much as the next performance-car enthusiast — just not this one.

The SRT4 offers 18.5 cubic feet of cargo room, which is more than the Mazdaspeed3 (16.5) but less than the hatchback Subaru Impreza WRX (19). My test car, however, was equipped with an option that significantly reduced its utility: The available Kicker audio system includes a subwoofer right behind the backseat that crowds the cargo area. The previous SRT4 I tested had a Boston Acoustics subwoofer stashed in the side of the cargo area wall, which, from a packaging standpoint, is better than the Kicker subwoofer’s location out in the open — that space is just too valuable in a hatchback. Fortunately, the subwoofer can be removed if you need more cargo space.

The Verdict
The SRT4 has the makings of an interesting track car, but most people shopping for a performance hatchback don’t have access to a racetrack. Instead, they have to make do with public roads like everyone else. For drivers in this situation, there are better choices available, like Subaru’s Impreza WRX, which gains more power for 2009 and does a commendable job balancing sportiness and ride comfort.

Send Mike an email  

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.1
  • Interior design 4.0
  • Performance 3.9
  • Value for the money 4.2
  • Exterior styling 4.3
  • Reliability 4.1

Most recent consumer reviews

1.3

Least reliable car I’ve owned.

I’ve had this vehicle for just about 4 years, and I’ve had nothing but issues. The front K frame rotted out and had to be replaced. The passenger headlight keeps shorting out due to wiring. This car breaks down all the time.

1.3

Not one of Dodges better moves!

This polished turd of a car was just that a turd, while test driving it, accelerating from a stop at a red light the transfer case locked up - and caused the transmission to sieze, not knowing what the xxxx happened, it was with out a doubt the worst car I have ever driven - needless to say I did not purchase this car, and from what I hear from other people who were - in their own words - dumb enough to purchase it, the car did not get any better over its short lifespan. Transmission and Engine problems plagued that car so bad that it ended up on the top of Dodge's scrap metal ideas heap!!!!

4.4

Great car

Good car for my needs. What it lacks in performance it makes up for in comfort and accessories. The chill zone is awesome for keeping drinks cool on long trips which is a big plus if you have kids. Plenty of cargo space and the seats lay down flat for the bigger loads. All around five stars

See all 35 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Dodge
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
36 months/36,000 miles
Corrosion
36 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
36 months/unlimited distance
Roadside assistance
36 months/36,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
5 model years or newer/less than 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
3 months/3,000 miles
Powertrain
7 years/100,000 miles
Dealer certification required
125-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

2009

Scion xD

$14,650

starting MSRP

2005

Chevrolet Cobalt

$13,625

starting MSRP

2002

Pontiac Grand Am

$17,135

starting MSRP

See all 2009 Dodge Caliber articles