More stories related to Geneva Motor Show Chrysler Group’s Dodge brand is ready to shake things up in the entry-level C-segment marketplace with its Caliber hatchback concept.

The vehicle provides a strong hint of what is to come for the Neon replacement in 2006. Chrysler will show the concept to the public at the Geneva auto show next month.

Based on a vehicle platform co-developed with Chrysler’s Japanese partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp., the Caliber is roughly the same length as today’s Neon, although its height is 3.5 ins. (8.9 cm) taller, to accommodate both front- and all-wheel drive.

Dodge Caliber concept

The 5-door hatchback design incorporates several signature Dodge styling cues, including bold fender flares and a cross-hair grille, done in a more car-like manner similar to the Magnum.

Upon close inspection, the Caliber looks like a mix of the Pontiac Vibe, Mazda3 and Chevrolet Malibu Maxx.

Trevor Creed, Chrysler senior vice president-design, says although the Caliber will appeal to all buyers, the focus clearly is on a more youthful audience. Unlike many vehicles in the entry-level market, Creed says Dodge wanted to provide more visual value.

“We really went for jewelry and huge headlamps and huge taillamps,” he says at a media preview of the car. “Most cars in the C-segment, everything is on a shoe-string budget, so you don’t see things like that, but we think that’s where you spend the money.”

While Chrysler is dubbing the Caliber a “concept,” look for something very close in the production model that should make its way to Dodge dealerships in the U.S. and Europe in 2006.

The vehicle will play an important part in expanding Dodge’s reach into the European market.

Caliber’s engine bay is built to accommodate any of the family of 4-cyl. engines to be produced by Chrysler’s Global Engine Mfg. Alliance LLC plant in Dundee, MI. The facility is slated to begin production of 1.8L, 2L and 2.4L engines, developed jointly with Mitsubishi and Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd., this summer. (See related story: Chrysler Details New 4-cyl. Engines)

kekelly@primediabusiness.com