Many would say that Dodge hasn't been competitive in the compact car segment since the Neon stopped production. Now it's back with the 2013 Dart, and looking to take on the new competition such as the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, and other compacts with a renewed attitude. But does this new compact live up to the legendary nameplate? We find out in our latest video road test.
If you wanted to sum up the exterior of the new Dodge Dart, you could say it looks like the product of a one-night stand between the latest Dodge Charger and a well-kept Dodge Neon, which is a good thing. Overall the design is distinctive and fresh.
Inside the Dart is businesslike but features a flowing, sculpted design.The soft-touch materials on most parts of the dash coordinate nicely with the harder plastic elements and we really like the floating island which features lighting that looks like a racetrack at night.
While the Dart competes in compact car class, the EPA says it is a mid-size car based on the interior volume. Since it's large for its class, both the front and rear seats features feature plenty of legroom, and two adults will fit just fine in the rear seat.
The base powertrain is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 160 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Our tester features the optional 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder puts out the same 160 horsepower as the base 2.0-liter engine, but raises the torque figure to 184 pound-feet.
Both powertrains are available with a six-speed manual, but only the base 2.0-liter engine is available with a six-speed automatic. The 1.4-liter MultiAir engine will be available with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission soon. All Darts feature front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive isn't available.
While the base 2.0-liter engine has enough power to move the Dart in most scenarios, it feels significantly slower than most of the competitors. Our tester's 1.4-liter MultiAir engine is considerably more entertaining to drive than the base 2.0-liter, but you'd better know how to drive like an Italian. You'll want to keep the revs between 3,000 and 6,000 rpm -- that's where the power is.
The Dart hasn't been tested by either the IIHS or the NHTSA, but the 10 standard airbags and all the usual list of electronic safety systems should put it at or near the top of the pack.
With a base price of just under $16,000, the base Dart doesn't have air conditioning, and it features manual crank windows and door locks. Dodge believes the SXT trim priced from $17,995 will be the volume seller with the 1.4-liter MultiAir engine, a nine-speaker premium audio system, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Go all out with an R/T or Limited and you'll be looking at nearly $27,000.
The Dart finally brings some of the passion back to Chrysler's compact-car lineup. We like the aggressive styling along with the myriad of options and configurations. For our money the Dart definitely is worth a look if you are in the market for a compact--or even a mid-size--sedan.
For more information on the Dart be sure to read our full review.