The “Meh” Car
“Meh” is one of my favorites of the newest crop of coined words in the constantly evolving stew that is our language. It both looks and sounds like its slang meaning: not too impressive, that which can almost be ignored; etc.
I dropped off our Fiat 500 Sport today at the dealership for their 2nd attempt to repair to my satisfaction the gouge that appeared somehow shortly before we arrived to take delivery. The first effort to repair a rectangular panel on the roof just behind the glass sunroof failed to match the deep metallic red paint color, as I predicted. To my surprise, the dealership wanted to try again, and this time I suggested they have the panel painted gloss black, so all it has to match is the gloss black glass sunroof in front of it. I am about to go pick up the car, so stay tuned for that one!
I was given a Dodge Caliber loaner car for the day. The Caliber is a front wheel drive inline 4 with an automatic and the usual accoutrements of any modern car. It is also devoid of any interest, perhaps by design.
It works perfectly well as a car, if your interest lies in a vehicle with 4 seats that goes and stops and corners without ever making much of any impression on you. This one, in silver, looks OK, although the angular folded paper school of design seems to have had an intramural battle with the curvy side of the design studio with no clear winner, although I would say the origami fans are ahead.
The seating position is OK, and an extra set of windows behind the rear doors gives it pretty good sight lines when changing lanes to the right. And, um… what else is there to say?
There are several design “features” in the interior that are irritating because they would be so easy to fix and no cost. The parking brake lever is so thin that it feels cheap and likely to snap in half at any second. The cruise controls are in a pod that looks to be an afterthought, jutting out from under the lower right area of the steering wheel. It would make sense if it were a J.C. Whitney after-market add-on. The arm rest is so low it serves no function at all, since if you arm is actually resting on it you probably cannot reach the wheel. All sorts of small details that are not that important, except that they provide the idea that the designers did not think the entire design was that important, and that is a deal breaker right there.
I always try to imagine who a vehicle is designed to please. In this case, I think someone who needs a car that does not cost too much, will not intimidate the driver or anyone else, can carry four people with a modicum of comfort, and will be reliable. Perhaps a realtor who does not want too fancy a car which might intimidate or turn off buyers being driven to a tour of a house, or a secret agent that does not want to be noticed, or perhaps someone engaged in the lucrative but hazardous industry of illegal drug sales.
Compared to our Honda CR-V, which is 6 years old, this design is a total fail, before you add in the advantage of the real time 4 wheel drive of the CR-V. To be sure, the Caliber is cheaper to begin with, and a used rental car might be a lot of car for not very much money.
BUT, for anyone who looks forward to driving and wants some sort of an intellectual and emotional connection with the vehicle and the driving experience… meh.