Posted Dec 24th 2011 12:01PM
According to The Detroit News, the Dodge Caliber has finally stumbled out of production.
When the Caliber first rolled onto the scene for the 2007 model year, we didn't quite know what to make of it. Replacing the long-serving Neon, the Caliber sported polarizing styling, available all-wheel drive and a taller-than-average ride height. To some, it looked like an aggressively styled tonic to the frankly outdated and somewhat cutesy Neon, while others remained suspect of the car's quasi-SUV aesthetic and intrinsic goodness.
It didn't take long for the reviewers to pile on, however. Pundits argued that the Dodge delivered a lackluster driving experience thanks to an unsorted chassis co-developed with Mitsubishi, an unlovable Jatco-sourced CVT and a coarse interior that was later freshened but never truly fixed. In the end, the doubters appear to have won out, as the Belvidere, Illinois-built compact garnered little critical or popular praise. While the Caliber opened to reasonably strong sales traffic, yearly totals quickly collapsed despite steep discounting and the introduction of a powerful SRT-4 performance variant.
As part of its arrangement with new parent company Fiat, Chrysler has developed the Alfa-Romeo-based Dart as the Caliber's replacement, and expectations are running high ahead of its Detroit Auto Show debut next month. The Dart will need to be excellent, as it faces a veritable murderers' row of competitors, ranging from strong new models like the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra to well-sorted mainstays like the Mazda3 – not to mention perennial sales darlings including the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic.