Chrysler Group LLC, on Saturday announced that the company has ended production of the much-maligned Dodge Caliber compact vehicle.

Introduced in the spring of 2006 as a 2007 model year vehicle, Caliber was built to replace the Neon, but it was never a success. Consumer Reports ranked the Caliber SXT at the bottom of its list of small hatchbacks and wagons in the 2011 annual car issue.

The 2012 Dodge Caliber may be a decent commuter car, but test drivers agree that it’s overshadowed by rivals that offer better quality and performance at about the same price.

The problems start under the hood. The Caliber’s engine is underpowered and noisy, a problem that’s exacerbated by an optional continuously variable transmission (CVT) that reviewers don’t like.

When Italy’s Fiat SpA took over the automaker as part of a 2009 bailout brokered by the Obama administration, CEO Sergio Marchionne made replacing the Caliber a top priority. And now, looks like its successor, the all-new Dodge Dart, will be unveiled next month.

The new Dart, a 2013 model, will be the first Chrysler vehicle based on a Fiat architecture, in this case the Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

“The Dart is going to be a huge step forward in performance and in styling,” Jackson added.

“The Caliber was heavier than the dimensions would indicate. It didn’t have great acceleration or handling. The interiors were not good. These are all going to be much improved in the Dart.”

Power will comes from a choice of three engines: a “Tigershark” 16-valve 2.0-liter engine, a 16-valve 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine (similar to what’s found in the Fiat 500), and the “Tigershark” 2.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder.

At the the end … the big question is – will the Dart sell as well as the original Dart? Between 1960 and 1976, Chrysler sold more than 4.3 million Darts. The high water mark was 1970, when nearly 300,000 Darts were sold.


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