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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Pull Backs, Part 3: Kinsmart Dodge Caliber R/T and 2003 Toyota Corolla



Oh, here's something REALLY exiting!... ok maybe not, but what are the odds that you'd run across these two as a diecast replica?  Not so often.  Here from Kinsmart, the Dodge Caliber R/T AWD and 2003 Toyota Corolla XLE

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Dodge Caliber:  FAIL!

Introduced in 2007, the Caliber replaced the Neon sedan as Dodge's new compact car (and strangely also the Chrysler PT Cruiser).  The 5-door hatchback gained styling cues from the Dodge Magnum and Avenger Concept car, and while that looked good on paper, the effect was less-so thanks to Daimler-Chrysler downgrade of the Chrysler brand at the time.  The interior was practical with a cooled glove box and rear speakers in the hatch that flip down for tailgating, though the cheap plastic look of the interior was uninspiring at the most.  Also due to the small window openings you see more of the interior than the outside!  The engine on this R/T AWD is the 2.4L World I-4 (shared with BMW and Hyundai) that produced 173 hp. and 165 Ib-ft. torque through a power-sapping CVT transmission that at least features an auto-stick function to hold gears, like a manual transmission.  The platform also is shared with the Jeep Compass, Patriot, Chrysler Sebring/200, and Dodge Avenger; all are unimpressed by those in the motoring world.  In 2010 the Caliber, Compass, and Patriot gets a new interior design to relieve the cheap-feeling look, though it was still plasticky.  In 2013, the Dart replaced the Caliber as the new entry for Dodge, and that's a good thing!

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The Kinsmart version is nicely done, especially in this blue color!  The headlights are nicely done (typical for Kinsmart), the Dodge grille, the 5-sp wheels, the taillights, and the rear badges and Dodge plate.  The rear muffler and exhaust are chrome, and the rest of the base is pretty average on detailing.  The interior is correct, if uninspiring with correct dash details, odd-looking shifter, and intimidating luggage to cover the motor system in the rear.  Granted it's not the best model on everyone's radar, but at least Kinsmart gave this Caliber a kick with attractive color and the sportier R/T package.




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2003-2008 Corolla: Revolution for Toyota and the compact class

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Introduced in 2003, the ninth-generation Corolla was a big step from the previous generation with a larger size (especially in the height of the vehicle), a more sportier look with the addition of the S (featuring a body kit and rear spoiler) and later the XRS model with the 170 hp. I-4 from the Celica GT-S and six-speed manual.  Also added was the separate Matrix 5-door hatchback model.  With a youthful image and the popularity of the Toyota model, this was by-far the most popular Corolla short of the rear-wheel drive GT-S of the 1980's.

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The headlights and taillights are larger, the interior is bigger with simplified controls on the dash and a sporty 3-spoke wheel offered on all models.  Engine is the 1.8L I-4 making 130 hp. through the front wheels by a 5-speed manual with a slick shifter or a 4-speed automatic.  Suspension is front strut and rear twist-beam that range from too much roll (LE, XLE) to average (S) to almost there (XRS).  From my experience the Corolla is not super-exciting, but pretty nice at the time.  The 5-speed is smooth, the XRS is really cool, and I like the practicality of the Matrix.  It was also a durable little car as well!  Unfortunately the 2006 Civic stepped up the plate even higher with it's futuristic styling, something the Corolla could not beat.  The 2009 version was just evolutionary, Matrix loosing the sporty look of the previous model, and the XRS now uses the Camry's 2.4L I-4.  Unlike the previous generation, the 2009 Corolla and Matrix left the press unimpressed with the new look.  The 2014 Corolla tries to returns the sporty look, yet still retains the bland features of the previous model.

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The Kinsmart version is, well, bland.  They decided to forgo the S model for the average XLE trim that, in gold, looks more like grandma's car!  The headlights are the best feature of the exterior (again the S package would look so much better), the interior is accurate, though the four-spoke wheel is a bit dated, with the typical luggage in the rear seat to hide the motor system.  The shape of the shifter suggest 5-speed manual.  The base is not thrilling either, detailing-wise.  Verdict: If this was a S or XRS my opinion would change and I would appreciate this casting much more, but in this state it looks nice yet bland!

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