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Bulls-eye for Dodge

The 2013 Dart takes aim at its competitors in compact car market.

It’s been more than 30 years since there was a Dodge Dart, and the return of the alliterative nameplate with an entirely new compact car replacing the poorly performing Dodge Caliber (2007–2012) should concern competitors. The Dart is hoping to hit a bull’s-eye competing against Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruz, and Ford Focus.

Forester

The Dodge Dart hits its mark in the compact car arena. ©Chrysler Group photo

We test drove the Limited, Dart’s luxury version. Its spiffy, upscale, well-designed interior feels much richer that the price tag, even with $4,175 in options. They added features such as blind spot/rear cross detection; leather seats, heated in front; heated steering wheel; air conditioning; U-Connect® information and entertainment system; six-speed transmission; and 17-inch polished aluminum wheels.

Other models are SE, SXT, Rallye (a sporty choice), Aero, and the GT.

Fiat Group architecture keeps the Dart low, long, and wide for a more stable yet agile ride. MacPherson front struts and a bi-link rear suspension provide smooth sailing over minor bumps and control in curves.

Our drive sported a 2.0-liter Tigershark engine, although a 1.4- and 2.4-liter are additional options. While not quick, mashing on the gas pedal got immediate response, and once underway, there is plenty of power for highway action. Except under strong acceleration, the interior remains quiet.

There also are three available transmissions: a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, plus a fuel-efficient six-speed dual dry clutch, rare in vehicles sold in the U.S., but popular in Europe.

The car’s exterior has the classic Dodge crosshair grille sits above a trapezoidal air dam. The rising beltline is matched by an elevated rear that boasts racetrack-style taillights.

Inside, the Dart makes its points, with different colors and designs. Seats are comfortable in front, and there are plenty of knick-knack spaces, including a hidden storage area under the passenger seat cushion.

The spacious glove box and versatile center console with removable rubber liners keep comfort items close at hand. The 8.4-inch media center on the dashboard uses vivid colors and large icons for easy reading and reach. Many functions are customizable for personal tastes. At night, ambient lighting provides a warm relaxing atmosphere.

There’s a small trunk, although pass-through rear seats help.

The Dart has earned top marks in traffic safety crash tests.

Likes: Interior, mileage, quiet, peppy
Dislikes: Cargo/rear seat space
Bottom Line: A very competitive entry into compact car market. Worth a look.

Tom Crosby is a contributor based in Charlotte, N.C.

Nov/Dec 2013 Issue


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