2010 Dodge Caliber Rush

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about Fiat bringing "small-car expertise" to Chrysler, the implication being that the hicks in Auburn Hills only know how to make trucks and muscle cars. I dispute that notion. Anyone remember the K-car? Even if you don't, you probably owned one. The problem with the Caliber has nothing to do with know-how and everything to do with money. When it came time for Dodge to replace the ancient Neon (which some might recall was our Automobile of the Year way back in 1994), it was on a Daimler-imposed starvation diet.

All of this goes to say that there's nothing wrong with the Caliber that an infusion of cash couldn't fix. The interior, for instance, is decently laid out, but has spectacularly cheap materials. The "leather" on these seats feels like what you find on a school bus bench, and there isn't any soft-touch plastic to be found. The 2.4-liter isn't terrible (it's not great either), but there's not much insulation to keep out its droning. The most egregious area though, is its suspension. Somehow, it manages to ride harshly and float.

We can hope now that Fiat will soon come to the rescue with a respectable portfolio of small cars, but it's a shame Chrysler's last solo small car wasn't a more valiant effort (get it?).

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

I have a friend who spends 100 days a year in rental cars. He not only reads about cars like you and me, he drives them all. He agreed with me that, hands down, this car was the worst production car, foreign or domestic, that he could name.Cheap plastic interior, groaning CVT, lethargic engine, handling out of an 80s Buick. But you will average about 20 mpg, so that's good. Mr. Marchionne must have scratched his head after driving one of these.
They should call it hush instead, that thing repeatedly finishes last in MT Comparo's all the time.
Do you still bang your right knee on the round piece of plastic under the steering wheel? I sat in a 2006, I had to fight to get in this thing, I bought a Magnum instead, yes that was a mistake.

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