• (4.0) 27 reviews
  • Inventory Prices: $2,070–$10,774
  • Body Style: Hatchback
  • Combined MPG: 23-27
  • Engine: 172-hp, 2.4-liter I-4 (regular gas)
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel Drive
  • Transmission: 2-speed CVT w/OD and auto-manual
2009 Dodge Caliber

Our Take on the Latest Model 2009 Dodge Caliber

What We Don't Like

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

Notable Features

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

2009 Dodge Caliber Reviews

Cars.com Expert Reviews

Editor's note: This review was written in December 2007 about the SRT4 version of the 2008 Dodge Caliber. Little of substance has changed with this year's model. To see what's new for 2009, click here, or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

Performance hatchbacks are an interesting automotive breed. They try to harness the excitement of a sports car in a decidedly unsporting package — the hatchback — that's better known for its ability to hold a ton of stuff. The Caliber SRT4 is one of the newest entrants in this class and is the latest product from Dodge's Street and Racing Technology group.

This is SRT's first attempt at a fast hatchback, and the SRT4 leaves a few things to be desired, especially in terms of the powertrain, steering system and cabin quality. In the end, it's not as entertaining as the Mazdaspeed3, one of the SRT4's prime competitors.

Styling
The transformation performed on the Caliber in turning it into the SRT4 is rather impressive. The angular hatchback has been turned into a serious-looking muscle machine, carrying itself with a swagger that even some of the bigger SRT models, like the 300C SRT8, would be hard-pressed to match. The SRT4 wears a unique grille that gives it a much more aggressive appearance than the regular Caliber. Add a hood with a scoop and extractors, a lowered stance and 19-inch alloy SRT wheels, and the SRT4 quickly becomes the Caliber's mischievous twin.

Changes are also evident at the rear of the hatchback, which gets a new rear diffuser and a large spoiler that Dodge says is designed to reduce lift. There's also the de rigueur oversized exhaust tip poking out beneath the rear bumper.

Going & Stopping
The SRT4 features a turbocharged version of the regular Caliber's available 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The four-cylinder has special pistons, forged connecting rods, an external oil cooler and special fuel injectors. Total output from the four-cylinder is 285 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 265 pounds-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. The only transmission offered is a six-speed manual.

The turbo engine revs smoothly and makes enough power to move the SRT4 from zero to 60 mph in a little more than 6 seconds, according to Dodge. Most of the time, the car emits a droning exhaust note, which may or may not be music to your ears. Unfortunately, the engine doesn't have the dramatic turbo power that the Mazdaspeed3's turbocharged four-cylinder provides. This makes the SRT4 a less entertaining performer, especially with the clutch Dodge put in the car.

Many modern performance cars have clutch pedals that are easy to depress over and over again when driving in heavy, stop-and-go traffic, but the SRT4's clutch reminds me of the designs used on high-performance cars of just a few years ago. It's heavy to the point where it's tiring to work it again and again when plodding through rush-hour traffic.

As for the manual transmission, it isn't particularly slick-shifting, because it requires a good nudge to move the shifter from gear to gear. It is, however, positioned high on the dash and it falls easily to hand.

The SRT4 also features larger brake discs and two-piston front calipers. The brakes give the car a performance-oriented feel with firm pedal feel, linear response and powerful stopping power.

Ride & Handling
Like its powertrain, the SRT4's street moves are just OK. It corners with an impressive lack of body roll, and the stiff ride isn't excessive when you consider the car's mission. The steering system's lack of road feel, though, lessens the SRT4's appeal as a driver's car.

The Inside
The SRT4's aggressive exterior is paired with a cabin that loses points for its lack of uniform graining on the dash plastic and unremarkable fit-and-finish. The all-black interior gives the SRT4 a purposefulness that fits the car's performance aspirations. One SRT-specific cue is a turbo-boost gauge on the left side of the steering wheel that looks pretty cool, but it isn't optimally positioned to glance at quickly when driving the car hard. A center tachometer also replaces the regular Caliber's center speedometer in the SRT4.

The SRT4's front sport seats have enormous side bolsters, and they're finished in leather and a mesh material. They're comfortable overall, but the seat-height adjuster is positioned in such a way that it's hard to use.

Those sport seats factor into how much legroom there is for rear passengers; when sitting in the backseat, my knees hit the back of the large front seats. Otherwise, the SRT4's backseat provides decent room for adults. The bench seat's backrest, though, is somewhat hard and it doesn't recline. The seat doesn't slide forward or backward, either.

Safety
Antilock brakes, an electronic stability system and side curtain airbags are standard. Side-impact airbags for the front seats are optional.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash-tested the SRT4's sibling, the regular Caliber, and the hatchback received a Good overall rating — the highest possible — for its performance in frontal-offset crash tests. It only achieved a score of Marginal in IIHS' side-impact crash test (the car that was tested was not equipped with the optional front-seat side-impact airbags).

Cargo
Most hatchbacks offer plenty of cargo space, and that applies to the SRT4. There's 18.5 cubic feet of cargo room behind the backseat, and all it takes to fold that seat down is a pull of a strap that releases the backrest, which folds forward and nearly flat with the cargo floor. With the seat folded, there's 48 cubic feet of space.

Features
Like the regular Caliber, the SRT4 is available with some interesting features, including the standard Chill Zone beverage cooler located in the dash, optional flip down liftgate speakers and standard front cupholder lighting.

Caliber SRT4 in the Market
There's something to be said for having the right look, and the SRT4 has the kind of aggressiveness that should appeal to performance compact enthusiasts looking for a set of stylish wheels.

That said, buyers in this segment demand performance, too, and while the SRT4 puts up respectable horsepower and acceleration numbers, from the driver's seat it lacks the Mazdaspeed3's steering precision and urgency when pressing the gas pedal. With a base price of $22,435, I suspect buyers will expect more than the SRT4 delivers, especially if they've driven the Mazda.

Send Mike an email 


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Consumer Reviews

(4.0)

Average based on 27 reviews

Write a Review

Great Car For Family

by KLT123 from IL on November 2, 2017

I love this vehicle. It was my fiancé’s first. Then ours together. We are selling it now because we just purchased something else. But it’s sad to part with it! Great smooth drive. And a great size fo... Read Full Review

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4 Trims Available

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Wondering which configuration is right for you?
Our 2009 Dodge Caliber trim comparison will help you decide.
 

Dodge Caliber Articles

2009 Dodge Caliber Safety Ratings

Crash-Test Reports

Service & Repair

Estimated Service & Repair cost: $4,100 per year.

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Warranty Coverage

Bumper-to-Bumper

36mo/36,000mi

Roadside Assistance Coverage

36mo/36,000mi

What you should get in your warranty can be confusing. Make sure you are informed.

Learn More About Warranties

Warranties Explained

Bumper-to-Bumper

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

Powertrain

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

Roadside Assistance

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

Free Scheduled Maintenance

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

Other Years