2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4, Part Three

Illustration for article titled 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT4, Part Three
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Why you should buy this car:
You'd never be caught dead in a foreign car but you're still drawn to the versatility of a hatchback. Your friends all drive Preludes with ridiculous body kits and faux carbon fiber hoods and you want to give them something to think about at stop lights. You're Mopar through and through but the Charger is too big and the Challenger is too far out of your price range. You like the bold exterior.

Why you shouldn't buy this car:
You've got no problem buying any of the many other cars in this class that provide similar value without all of the compromises that come with the SRT4. You're an adult.

Suitability Parameters:

Speed Merchants: Yes
Fashion Victims: No
Treehuggers: No
Mack Daddies: No
Tuner Crowd: Yes
Hairdressers: No
Penny Pinchers: Yes
Euro Snobs: No
Working Stiffs: No
Technogeeks: No
Poseurs: Yes
Soccer Moms: No
Nascar Dads: Yes
Golfing Grandparents: No


Also Consider:

*Mazda Mazdaspeed3
*Volkswagen GTI
*Subaru WRX
*Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X
*Toyota Matrix XRS
*Honda Civic SI
*Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V


Manufacturer: Dodge
Model tested: Caliber SRT4
Model year: 2008
Base Price: $22,435
Price as Tested: $26,145
Engine type: 2.4 Liter DOHC I4 Turbo
Horsepower: 285 @ 6,400 RPM
Torque: 265 @ 5,600 RPM
Red line: 8,250 RPM
Transmission: Getrag six-speed manual
Curb Weight: 2,966 lbs
LxWxH: 173.8" x 68.8" x 60.4"
Wheelbase: 103.7"
Tires: 225/45R19 BSW All-Season Performance Tires
Drive type: FWD
0 - 60 mph: 6.0 seconds (some claim 5.8 seconds)
1/4-mile: 14.5 seconds
Top speed: 155 MPH Electronically Limited
EPA Fuel economy city/highway: 21/26 MPG
NHTSA crash test rating: *****/*****


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My roommate had the unfortunate privilege of driving a gray Dodge Caliber for two weeks while a garage fixed her '98 Subaru, which is a car of so much higher caliber, it's not even funny.

Her one compliment of the car? Nice radio. Everything else sucked. I rode in it a couple times, and I have to agree.

This is the smallest car Dodge sells, but it feels like a huge, plodding encumbrance. Walk inside, slam the tinny door to hear metal hitting metal. Nice. The headrest is a hard plastic donut. Comfort isn't part of the game. After less than a mile, sharp pain starts running up the back and neck. The ride is punishing.

Every surface, every texture, screams cheap. Cost-cutting. Bean-counters. I know Chrysler has hit hard times, but Kias are nicer looking and feeling. Fisher-price plastic, but with mold lines that cut through flesh if you're not careful. The gloveboxes (there are two), the middle armrest. Nothing opens or closes or slides smoothly, always roughly, resisting, with effort. Knocking against any plastic surface in the car makes you laugh a little.

It feels like a not-well-made toy. It insults whomever drives or rides in it. It's just awful. It's a sad disaster of a vehicle. And she's glad it's gone. So am I.