Based on its interior volume, the EPA classifies the 2013 Dodge Dart as a mid-size sedan--in the same class as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Chevy Malibu, and Ford Fusion. But Dodge is pricing it to compete with compacts one size smaller, so if you think of it as a compact sedan with some "bracket creep," it's a large car for its class.
Both the front and rear seats are comfortable to sit in, and the cabin is definitely as wide as any competitor. Though the Dart looks low, the driver and passengers actually sit high enough that they don't feel lower than other sedans in traffic. The seating position is still slightly more legs-out than more upright compacts, which may not be to everyone's taste.
Most interior surfaces are covered in soft-touch plastics, with color and texture used as accents--which matches the car's sporty flavor--more than the more traditional wood and chrome. The softer materials match well with the harder plastics in places like the door pockets, though on the lower dash there are a few broad swathes of hard-textured black plastic that echo the bad old days.
The Dart has quite a lot of useful storage pockets, cubbies, and trays in the door and console. And by relocating the air-conditioning hardware, the designers were able to make a glovebox large enough to accept a laptop computer--perhaps a first, and certainly unusual. There's also a storage compartment available in the front passenger seat, though we found the reinforced cloth pull-tab to open it noticeably uncomfortable to sit on.
The Dart has a surprisingly large trunk, although the opening is small and more vertical than horizontal. Questioned about this, the designers noted that the wide-opening rear doors and split folding rear seat-back would allow larger items to be loaded through side doors if they didn't fit through the trunk opening. Which is true, but not necessarily what every owner wants to hear. Dodge has also disappointingly joined the parade of carmakers who omit an external trunk release, although at least the Dart has a dash button to pop the lid in addition to a button on the keyfob.
Under most circumstances, the Dart is relatively peaceful and quiet. But keep your foot down to get the most performance out of either the 1.4 turbo or the base 2.0-liter engine and you'll find both powerplants make themselves known up front. The car also seemed remarkably sensitive to road surfaces, with smooth and freshly-paved asphalt proving almost noiseless but rougher, older surfaces raising noise levels considerably.
Dodge says it's taken great care with the quality of its materials, including the operating mechanisms of its dashboard vents. In the preproduction models we tested, we found only one glaring flaw: a glovebox handle and lock that could have come from the cheapest of Korean cars 20 years ago. The interior designers promised a careful look at the part before production models reach dealers in June 2012.
We were also surprised not to find an auto-up feature on at least the driver's window--a feature that, in 2012, should be standard equipment on every car in our opinion.
The Dart carries a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty on the car, with 5 years or 100,000 miles on the powertrain.