Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 1.4L I4
Power:
160 HP / 184 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,243 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
13.1 CU-FT
MPG:
27 City / 39 HWY
Italian Immigrant Is Pretty Sharp, But A Few Degrees Short Of A Bullseye



The 2013 Dodge Dart is the most visible manifestation of the still-new monogamous relationship between Chrysler and Fiat, the Pentastar's savior from the depths of government-sponsored bankruptcy (or worse). If you'll recall, one of the big problems pundits, management and government officials identified with Chrysler's US lineup was its complete lack of competitive small cars.

Now would be a good time to mention that Dodge had a good thing with the original Neon. Not only did the little subcompact sell in conspicuously high numbers, it was also pretty fun to drive, especially in 150-horsepower ACR Coupe trim. In fact, so entertaining was the little two-door coupe, powered as it was by a dual-overhead-cam version of Chrysler's 2.0-liter four cylinder, that it spawned its very own racing series.

The successful Neon got a redesign in the year 2000, and as has so often been the case, the Pentastar Crew didn't do nearly enough to keep it competitive amidst a sea of Civics and Corollas, save the way-too-quick-for-its-own-good Neon SRT4, that is. The response to lagging market share? The Dodge Caliber, introduced in 2007. Suffice it to say that the Caliber was not the answer small-car buyers were looking for.

Enter the Dart. Is this compact the small-car savior Chrysler envisioned when it paired with Italy's Fiat? Let's take a closer look.
2013 Dodge Dart side view2013 Dodge Dart front view2013 Dodge Dart rear view

The Dart delivers with styling that won't be mistaken for anything else in its segment.

If an automobile is going to compete in the hotly contested compact car market in America, it's got to look good. Fortunately, the Dart delivers with styling that won't be mistaken for anything else in its segment. Up front is Dodge's familiar grille, with cross-shaped elements in either black or body color finish. The overall design manages to be both aggressive and curvaceous, due in part to the angular fascia and details like (optional) dual exhaust outlets, blacked-out trim and a distinct lack of chrome. In profile, the Dart is pretty much the exact opposite of the Caliber it replaces, and that's a good thing in the eyes of most consumers – though some will surely miss the utility available only in a hatchback.

At the rear, Dodge has implemented a unique version of its signature racetrack-shaped taillight array, made up in this case of 152 individual LED bulbs (available on R/T, SXT, Rallye and Limited trims). We like the effect of the racetrack taillamp array at night, and we appreciate its availability on the entry-level Dart.

Wheels can be had in 16-, 17- or 18-inch varieties, in bright silver, satin silver, polished or in a so-called Hyper Black finish on the R/T and Rallye models.

2013 Dodge Dart grille2013 Dodge Dart headlight2013 Dodge Dart wheel2013 Dodge Dart taillight

A few of the Dart's unique styling elements carry over into the interior. First and foremost is the racetrack-mimicking light strip surrounding the gauge cluster and top of the center stack. There are also plenty of piano-black trim pieces, which match the exterior bits seen on the Rallye model, and though the shiny surfaces are more than a little overdone, at least there's an alternative to the painted silver seen on every one of its competitors. Illuminated cup holders are a nice touch, as is the class-exclusive storage compartment hidden beneath the front passenger seat cushion.

Nothing else in the compact sedan class has any infotainment tech that's anywhere near as competent.

Interior plastics and the fabric seating surfaces in our test car were well chosen, though not what we'd consider class leading – the Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze offer generally nicer duds. Most of the touch points have soft coatings applied that make them feel more upscale than past Dodge efforts, and the availability of 14 different cabin and trim combinations means buyers can individualize their Darts to their liking far better than most of its classmates.

Dodge has seen fit to offer its excellent 8.4-inch Uconnect in-dash technology in the Dart, and for that, we're thankful. It's quick, intuitive and powerful, and nothing else in the compact sedan class has any infotainment tech that's anywhere near as competent. Also worth mentioning is the available seven-inch TFT gauge cluster, which offers up a slew of driver-configurable screens that include multiple speedometers, navigation information, economy readouts, vehicle information updates and even a flower that grows or wilts based on your fuel-minded driving habits. Yeah, we could do without that last little bit, too.

2013 Dodge Dart interior2013 Dodge Dart front seats2013 Dodge Dart rear seats2013 Dodge Dart trunk

Roominess is something of a mixed bag. There's 42.2 inches of legroom up front and 35.3 in the back; hip room in the rear seat measures 52.6 inches while shoulder room comes in at 56.1. The trunk measures 13.1 cubic feet. Basically, what we have in these dimensions is a full serving of competitive. Based on the Dart's exterior dimensions, however, we were hoping for more – the Dart, measuring 184 inches stem to stern with a 106.4-inch wheelbase and 72 inches in width, is the longest and widest car in its class. We're neither engineers nor math majors, which might explain why we're left scratching our heads as to where those extra potential cubic feet went off to.

The Dart, without a single passenger, weighs as much as a Honda Civic with four 150-pound occupants.

Even more concerning, however, is the Dart's relative heft. The lightest Dart Dodge sells is still a heifer at nearly 3,200 pounds. The Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra weigh a shade over 2,600 lbs, the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 come in near 2,800 lbs, the Ford Focus is 2,960 lbs and the Chevy Cruze, once considered the porker of the segment, tips the scales at a bit under 3,100 pounds. Put another way, the Dart, without a single passenger, weighs as much as a Honda Civic with four 150-pound occupants.

Three engine options are available (or at least will be available once the delayed R/T model hits dealerships), including a standard 2.0-liter naturally aspirated mill, a 1.4-liter turbocharged and intercooled unit that leads the pack in efficiency and a 2.4-liter with 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque for those looking for the most powerful option. We drove a Dart with the standard 2.0-liter engine mated to a six-speed automatic for a week, then sampled the 1.4-liter turbo with a six-speed manual. Both engines move the Dart with competence through traffic. Horsepower for both the 2.0 and 1.4 engines comes in at 160, but the turbo's 184 lb-ft handily outdoes the base engine's 148.

2013 Dodge Dart engine

Behind the wheel, the Dart's Italian DNA is only somewhat apparent.

If it were our hard-earned bucks on the line, we'd definitely opt for the smaller turbocharged engine, which, while balky at low-rpm takeoffs, is genuinely spritely once the tach swings near 3,000 rpm. What's more, it's the 1.4 liter that earns the highest fuel economy figures, with an estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 39 on the highway. Add the optional Aero pack, which includes active grille shutters and other slippery tweaks, and highway mileage jumps to 41 when mated to the six-speed manual gearbox. Choose the six-speed automatic and you'll get 28 city, 40 highway. Sadly, the turbo mill requires premium gasoline, negating some of the mpg benefits. For reference, Chevy's turbocharged 1.4 earns similar EPA figures on regular-grade fuel, though its 138 horses and 148 lb-ft are way down on the Dodge.

Behind the wheel, the Dart's Italian DNA is only somewhat apparent. Yes, the car is based on a platform originally developed by Fiat for Alfa Romeo, but it's been stretched like silly putty in every direction for the States and the suspension is tuned for American drivers on American roads. As such, it's soft enough to deal with horrid roadway surfaces and quiet enough to take your parents out to dinner. Fortunately, when you decide it's time to have some fun, the chassis is ready to play. Steering feel is quite good, and the fun-to-drive quotient on the street is right up with the Ford Focus and Mazda3, which we consider to be best-in-class in this regard.

2013 Dodge Dart badge2013 Dodge Dart badge2013 Dodge Dart badge

Little things like the engine note and the way the Dart responds to quick steering inputs make for an entertaining car to drive aggressively, but full at-the-limit handling is much messier, with plenty of body roll to go along with the tire squeal. In other words, don't expect the Dart to carry you to any track-day glory as the Neon once did.

Rowing through the six-speed manual gearbox isn't as fun as it should be.

The six-speed automatic that can be had with the base 2.0-liter engine is smooth enough that it mostly went unnoticed. Like most modern cars, the tranny's electronic brain wants to shift to the next highest gear as soon as possible for fuel-economy purposes, but that's a disease inflicting most machinery these days.

Rowing through the six-speed manual gearbox isn't as fun as it should be. The shifter isn't as crisp as competitors from Honda or Mazda, and the throws are longer than we'd like. Complicating matters is a clutch that has a somewhat odd engagement. Our staff is divided on how bothersome the shift-for-yourself Dart experience really is, so we suggest you take one for a test drive before signing on the dotted line. In any case, buyers of the row-your-own model with the turbo engine better get used to rowing, as the little engine falls flat on its face at low rpm. Best to keep the mill spinning in the middle reaches of the tach.

2013 Dodge Dart rear 3/4 view

It has something competitors like the Civic, Corolla and Elantra sometimes seem to lack: character.

Thankfully, Dodge hasn't tuned the soul out of the Dart's 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, which is also found in slightly different guise in the Fiat 500 Abarth. It's not quite as throaty in the Dart, but it probably shouldn't be, and there's still enough anger in the muffled music to bring a smile to our faces.

When all is said and done, the Dart is certainly a solid entry into the compact sedan class. It may not be the most entertaining steer on the planet, but it's quick on its feet and rides with aplomb – attributes that will serve its intended buyer very well. When slogging through the daily commute, the Dart can play people-mover just as well as anything else in its price range, and when the dial is turned up a few notches, it has something competitors like the Civic, Corolla and Elantra sometimes seem to lack: character. Perhaps there's a little Italian know-how left in the Dart after all.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 217 Comments
      micha423
      • 2 Years Ago
      The EPA Classifies the Dodge Dart as a Standard Mid-Size Sedan based upon Total Passenger Volume. As you would imagine, a larger car would mean a heavier vehicle, but the Dart still achieves Compact Car-level Fuel Economy. Furthermore, I was surprised at how the 2013 Dodge Dart compares to the other 2013 Compact Cars from a content standpoint... '13 Starting MSRP: Dart-$15,995 (Focus-$16,200,Cruze-$17,130,Elantra-$16,695,Corolla-$16,230) Top EPA Highway MPG: Dart-41 (Focus-40,Cruze-42,Civic-41,Elantra-40..also a lie,Corolla-34) Content Comparison: Dart STANDARD Projector Headlamps (N/A on Focus,Cruze,Civic,Elantra or Corolla) Dart STANDARD LED Tailamps (N/A on Focus,Cruze,Civic,Elantra or Corolla) Dart STANDARD 10 Air Bags (Focus-6,Civic-6,Elantra-6,Corolla-6) Dart STANDARD 4-Wheel Disc Brakes (N/A on Corolla,Focus-Avail,Cruze-Avail,Civic-Avail.) Dart 97.2 cu. ft. Passenger Volume (Focus-90.7,Cruze-94.6,Civic-94.6,Elantra-95.6,Corolla-92.1) Dart Avail. Dual Exhaust (N/A on Focus,Cruze,Civic,Elantra or Corolla) Dart Avail. 18-inch Wheels (N/A on Civic or Elantra) Dart Avail. 7-inch Instrument Display Screen (N/A on Focus,Cruze,Civic,Elantra or Corolla) Dart Avail. 8.4-inch Media Center (Focus-8",Cruze-7",Civic
      Street King
      • 2 Years Ago
      Something you didn't know...the Dart is actually one inch longer than a BMW 3-series.
      Xedicon
      • 2 Years Ago
      The one big problem with this review is that it's very, very unclear unclear about pricing (the review never actually mentions the tested car is a optioned out Limited). Many comments seem to be assuming the price starts at 25k which is not the case. It starts at basically 16k and goes up to 25k which is the most fully loaded optioned out Dart possible. When you look at the pricing for other C segment cars (the Dart is really closer to a mid-size but whatever) Dart pricing is pretty much right in line with what you would expect.
      DBrown
      • 2 Years Ago
      Whoever did the photos for this story did a very nice job.
      dohc73
      • 2 Years Ago
      I haven't seen not one of these on the road yet in the NYC-metro area. I haven't even seen one during my trip to throughout Florida last month from Orlando down to Miami over to Fort Myers, not once. Why? And why did Avis rent me a Jetta? Now Jetta's are rental cars?? And OMG what a POS the Jetta was with poor MPG's. ;)
      jasdroe
      • 2 Years Ago
      The Neon was a compact, not a subcompact.
      Ducman69
      • 2 Years Ago
      It is heavy, but its not a tank either though. The Dodge Dart Aero, which is almost fully loaded and boasts 42mpg, has a listed curb weight of 3,186 lbs. Options add weight, which we see with the Focus ST for example that has a similar curb weight of 3,150 lbs, which isn't far off from the GTI's 3,113 lbs listed weight.
        Ducman69
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ducman69
        And to compare it to the Honda Civic EX-L for example, which weighs 2,773 lbs: The Dart has about an inch more headroom, a bit more front leg room, a little under two inches more front shoulder room, over four inches more front hip room, an inch more rear head room, an inch more rear leg room, three inches more rear shoulder room, and over an inch more rear hip room. Heck the vehicle itself is nearly seven inches longer and a full three inches wider. Its not a little sub-compact, so we shouldn't expect it to weigh as little as one either IMO.
          Ducman69
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Ducman69
          Gordon, but the point was that while it has subcompact fuel economy it is nearly a full size sedan. Of course smaller vehicles will be lighter, even if they are built and equiped identically.
        beanrew
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ducman69
        Son of a porker, this "compact" is 100 pounds less than my 1997 lexus, with 200 HP. I'd take a Mazda 3 or a Civic Si over this any day of the week.
        Gordon Chen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ducman69
        The dodge dart is the heaviest C-class car though. That's definitely hard to deny.
      Joseph Middleton
      • 1 Year Ago
      Ok I am getting rid of my Impala SS and considering going back down to a 4-banger because i am sick of paying for the gas on my current car. Ok, my question is, what is the deal with Dart, is it a god car to consider? My second question is to the current owners of this Dodge Dart. Is this car good as people are saying and what are the pros and cons.?
      Jordan Geisler
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why didn't it get tested with the DDCT? That's what I have in my Dart and I tend to like it, although it doesn't help the lack of low-end power. Definitely more character than the base automatic though! There's a "driveability" update coming soon for the Dart with the 1.4L turbo, maybe that will include re-tuning to provide more off the line grunt?
      Jason Kellner
      • 2 Years Ago
      I test-drove one last week. I'd put it on my short list for my next car along with the Mazda 3 and Subaru Impreza (I'm currently driving a Subaru). The Dart drove nice, had good steering feedback and was relatively quiet. The 1.4 engine was noisy though, and the sales guy tried to tell me it was the exhaust note; I call B.S., it was just a noisy engine. The manual transmission isn't perfect -- the clutch has a looong travel, is very soft and it's hard to feel the engage point. But mated to that little turbo, it does have some torque. The interior doesn't feel like it was skimped, it's actually kind of nice. Headroom in the back is not so good. I'm only 5'9" and my head was touching the roof.
      anonymous guy
      • 2 Years Ago
      I still haven't seen one on the road.
        fefifofum
        • 2 Years Ago
        @anonymous guy
        I've seen a couple of them, they look decent in person.
        Gordon Chen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @anonymous guy
        Me neither. I think it has to do with the high price. Its competitors are much cheaper (also give you less, too)
      CadiVetteFerrari
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hideous. I'd take the much better looking Elantra.
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