All-new at the top of the Dart lineup
Its swooping lines, bright Charger-esque taillight design, and blacked-out crosshair grille all work to its advantage, making the Dart one of the sexiest designs in the compact class.
The hot hatch and hot sedan segment is continuously evolving. Just a few weeks ago, I spent a few days with the new Volkswagen Jetta GLI and grew to like the versatility coming out of its chassis and powertrain. Dodge has been known to put out some interesting contenders to this class – a friend once owned a Neon SRT-4 and it was an absolute hoot. My experience with the new 2014 Dodge Dart GT was a bit different than that, and ultimately was proof that you don’t need a big turbo to have fun.
The now-defunct Caliber left me with a sour taste in my mouth towards compact Dodges. The 1.4L turbocharged Dart Rallye was a pleasant surprise for me, and I really did enjoy it when we tested it last year. My first glimpse of this Dart GT was at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last winter. Sharing its striking, sexy lines with the plebian Dart sedan, the GT has a few unique exterior tweaks and some gorgeous wheels. Unlike the Ford Focus ST and the Chevrolet Sonic RS though, the hot Dart is naturally aspirated. It comes with the 2.4L TigerShark 4-cylinder, which really should have been the engine it came with at the launch. The 1.4T is great, but the 184 horsepower and the 171 lb-ft of torque on the TigerShark helps the Dart accelerate surprisingly quickly.
Low-end acceleration is great, and contrary to the behaviour of many other compacts, the Dodge Dart GT does have adequate passing power at highway speeds. This compact goes around corners with ease too – I was surprised at how flat it remained even when flung into a few curves at surprisingly high speeds. I couldn’t push it to its limits at the time of testing due to weather limitations. The best part is that on top of all this, fuel economy doesn’t take a significant hit. Without even trying, I managed 8.2L/100km in combined driving over the course of a week.
I have made it no secret that I am a self-proclaimed manual transmission purist, and that I would only pick the optional automatic transmission over its manual counterpart after hell freezes over. Well, the man downstairs better have a good winter coat this year, because on the GT, the optional 6-speed automatic is definitely the transmission to go for. The shifter on my tester’s 6-speed manual was decent enough, but the clutch lacks any feedback whatsoever. Rev-matched downshifts are actually quite difficult to pull off, and for the first time in many years, I came quite close to stalling a car. It came as a surprise really, because I remember the clutch in the 1.4T Dart Rallye we drove last year to be a lot better.
Okay, let’s take care of the elephant in the room. The Dart GT is not exactly a ‘hot sedan’. I mean, it’s a lot hotter than the regular model, but it doesn’t have forced-induction, beefy brakes or a special shifter. Positioned as “Sport” model with the bigger, meaner engine, the GT sits at the top of the Dart lineup. It doesn’t quite pay homage to the SRT-4 or its lesser-known cousin, the Caliber SRT-4, but I continue to hold out hope that our friends over at Chrysler will surprise us with a hotter model soon.
My tester came packed with all the bells and whistles too. Chrysler’s current multimedia system is one of my favourites in the industry. The navigation is done by Garmin and is seamless and straightforward when it comes to entering destinations and selecting route preferences. The Bluetooth and iPod connectivity is great as well. However, reading large iPods does take a significant amount of time. The interior of my GT had some really nice leather seats with red stitching. The front passenger seat cushion lifts and reveals a hidden cubby that can store small items. I do think that with all the neat little tweaks the guys in Detroit made, they could have improved on the steering wheel. Sure, it’s heated and all, but it’s the same wheel as the Grand Caravan. It works perfectly well in that application, but the GT badge on this Dart is deserving of a bit more.
The way I see it, the new 2014 Dodge Dart GT is all about expectations. Its swooping lines, bright Charger-esque taillight design, and blacked-out crosshair grille all work to its advantage, making the Dart one of the sexiest designs in the compact class. For a class in which the new Mazda3, the Ford Focus, and even the new Toyota Corolla reside, that’s no small feat. Those coming in thinking that this car is going to be some turbo-packing track-queen will be disappointed, especially at a sticker of just under $29,000 as-tested. Fans of the regular Dart who want to see a little bit more from an already-great formula can rejoice, because this thing packs a serious amount of punch.
2014 Dodge Dart GT Gallery