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Spyshot: Caliber and Nitro almost ready

These are the two cars to kick off Dodge’s UK invasion: a C-segment hatchback, and a mid-sized SUV pitched at the Freelander.

Chrysler Group’s entry level brand hits the UK in July 2006, with the five-door hatchback. As these spy shots reveal, the production Caliber remains faithful to this year’s concept car.

It retains the coupe-like glasshouse (with a third window obscured by disguise), pumped up bodywork and Dodge’s big ‘crosshair’ grille. Like the Neon saloon it effectively replaces, the Caliber is big for its class: it’s longer and taller than a Golf, to maximise space for five in the versatile cabin.

DaimlerChrysler co-developed the underpinnings with Mitsubishi. Four-cylinder engines are mounted across the nose, with front-wheel drive in Europe. Part-time all-wheel drive will be offered in the USA.

The standard line up consists of 140bhp 1.8, 150bhp 2.0 and 170bhp 2.4-litre petrol engines, plus a 134bhp turbodiesel bought in from VW. Aside from the six-speed manual gearbox, a continuously variable transmission will be offered, with a claimed 8% economy benefit over a traditional slusher.

A hot SRT-4 version follows towards the end of 2006, likely running a turbocharged four with more than 200bhp.

Also confirmed for sale in 2007 is the Nitro SUV. The 4x4 is spun off the next Jeep Cherokee’s platform, with an independent front suspension and a multi-link rear axle designed to improve refinement and handling over today’s Jeep. The Nitro eclipses the Cherokee in both length and wheelbase, with decent room for five, but will undercut it with a starting price around £16k.

Under the chunky bonnet, expect a 210bhp 3.7-litre V6, as well as the 134bhp four-cylinder turbodiesel.

Caliber

Chassis: Platform is front- and four-wheel drive, and will underpin the Jeep Compass
Design: With five doors, five seats and a size advantage over a Golf, the Caliber has mini-MPV versatility.

Nitro

Big SUV previews the next Cherokee platform, with a new suspension for a more car-like driving feel

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