I’ve had some truly bad rental cars over the years. In the early 90s, I had an almost new Chrysler LeBaron that began shedding interior parts as soon as I drove off the Budget lot. I’ve rented anemic Chargers, ill handling Chevy HHRs and once had an early Hyundai Sonata whose transmission had a mind of its own. In over 25 years of renting cars, there has only been one that walked away from, demanding another ride, and that’s a Dodge Caliber.
It’s not the styling, so don’t think I’m some anti-Mopar brand snob. Despite appearing roomy on the outside, the inside of the Caliber is cramped, with poor passenger accommodations and limited luggage space. Interior materials look like they were sourced by WalMart for one of their price roll-backs; in fact, the Caliber was worse than the early Hyundais for interior materials and fit and finish. I’d certainly rate it as the low point of Chrysler over the past decade.
That’s about to change; Left Lanes News reports that Chrysler will kill the Caliber in 2012, in favor of a sedan built on the Alfa Romeo Giuletta platform. It’s too early to speculate on things like design, powertrain or models, but it’s safe to assume the new model will handle a whole lot better than the outgoing Caliber. Interior materials couldn’t possibly be worse, so look for a big improvement in passenger comfort, too.