A real game-changer in one of the most competitive segments
When Chrysler named its new compact sedan the Dart, the company presented itself with quite a challenge. In the 1960s, the Dart was a legendary V8 muscle car, so this 2013 Dodge Dart Limited I drove had a quite a bit to live up to. The name itself generated lots of attention and hype, but with great power comes great responsibility. Does the new Dart deliver?
We first saw the resurrected Dart nameplate at the 2012 North American International Autoshow in Detroit. I still remember when I first saw the Dart concept in person; the memory still stands out to me. Although it wasn’t a muscle car, it was incredibly handsome both from the outside and on the inside. It was a car people would actually buy. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh man, this thing looks promising, please don’t screw it up Chrysler”. Fast forward a year and the 2013 Dodge Dart is on the road. Entering a segment already crowded by over 20 compact cars by marques from all over the world could potentially be a death wish, especially by a company that hasn’t had the best luck recently in terms of making good cars (remember the Caliber?). However, it shows just how much confidence Chrysler has in the Dart. Succeeding would still be a very tall order.
At first glance, the Dart appears to be a scaled down version of the Charger, and that’s because it uses many of the same styling cues. An aggressive front end incorporates xenon-projector headlights, fog lights, and the iconic crosshair grille. The rear end incorporates the Charger-esque LED tail lights that span the entire rear. The 17” chrome aluminum wheels give it a classy look. Honestly, it’s hard to find handsome, aggressive styling in the compact-car segment. Many manufacturers opt for conservative looks and that’s why the Dart looks so much better than the majority of its rivals. Let’s not forget, the Dart is essentially an Alfa Romeo Giulietta.
My Limited-spec tester was equipped with a naturally aspirated 2.0L inline-4 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This is the entry level engine and it produces 160hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. The other option is a “Tigershark” 1.4L inline-4 “MultiAir Intercooled Turbo” producing the same 160hp, but sporting 184 lb-ft of torque, some 36 more than this 2.0. Having experienced the turbo version a few months prior, I can say that the 36 extra torques does indeed make a huge difference. The Tigershark 1.4 has much better acceleration and pull, thanks to the turbocharger providing extra torque over a wider RPM band.
The 2.0 in my limited is probably one of the slowest cars in its class, if not the slowest. 10 seconds in the naturally-aspirated 2.0 compared to 8 seconds in the turbo. I’d suggest you avoid the naturally-aspirated inline-4 at all cost, it really is that slow. I’d highly recommend opting for the 1.4 MultiAir turbo. Even though it suffers from some turbo lag, it’s still much better than the 2.0. Dodge’s fuel economy estimates are 7.4L/100km city and 5.3L/100km highway. I think these numbers would be pretty hard to replicate in real-world driving but with smooth highway driving, you can easily get in the 6’s. Over 500 km of mixed driving, I achieved an average of 7.8L/100km.
In normal driving even with some enthusiasm, the Dart Limited feels fairly composed on the road. Not too much roll while cornering but still comfortable in day to day driving. However, if you push it a bit, you can feel the Dart losing some of its composure as it wallows about a bit. I wasn’t able to go to a track or anything but the loss of confidence from pushing it suggests that its chassis is nowhere near as well developed or stable as something like a Golf. Obviously I knew this going into the test, so I wasn’t disappointed. I’d place the 2.0 Limited somewhere mid-class in regards to overall driving pleasure.
Sitting in the 2013 Dodge Dart, you’ll feel a welcoming environment. A driver-focused dashboard incorporates a huge 7.4” UConnect interface screen that faces the driver, as do the stereo and climate controls. The entertainment interface is very easy to use and the incorporation of a Garmin-based navigation system is certainly appreciated. The tan leather seats feel comfortable to sit in both front and back, also thanks to the ample amount of legroom.
I would like to see a restyled steering wheel to be honest, the steering wheel that currently resides in all the Dodge models look too “Caravan-esque” for the sportier models. The gauge cluster uses analogue gauges on the sides and a digital LCD screen in the middle that can display a speedometer, trip meter, range, mileage, etc, according to your input. My Limited-spec tester was equipped with a push-to-start ignition as well as a remote-starter system. Nice touch there, especially in this car class. There are plenty of storage compartments scattered around the interior, even some under the seat cushions. All in all, the Dart Limited offers an abundance of features for an as-tested price under $25,000. The interior of the Dart feels less “plasticky” than some of its rivals and is generally a very nice place to be.
This new Dodge Dart is a solid competitor. The 2.0-litre engine is a bit of a disappointment, so I hope you go with the 1.4-litre turbo. The Dart looks good, really good. It drives pretty well day-to-day and offers lots of features as well as a great interior. It’s hard to think of a reason why someone would want a Corolla when they could have the Dart. Moving from the Caliber, Chrysler’s compact segment had no direction to go except up, and the Dart definitely is a game changer.
2013 Dodge Dart Limited Gallery