When Chrysler ceased production of the Neon back in 2005, fans of the reputable compact lamented the loss of their stylish and entertaining small car, especially the beloved SRT-4. And let's be honest – the lackluster Caliber was never a replacement. So it perked some interest when the company announced the return of the Dart, a legendary nameplate from the automaker’s glory days.
With Alfa Romeo DNA, the 2013 Dodge Dart is a surprisingly impressive ride. It rolls on the Fiat Compact platform similar to the Alfa Giulietta's, only slightly larger. On a recent drive, the Dart proved to be nimble through slaloms, exhibiting almost no body roll. Steering is direct and responsive, relaying a commendable amount of feedback through the crosshair-adorned helm. Chrysler and Fiat deserve two thumbs up for the chassis, suspension (front independent MacPherson struts, rear independent multilink) and steering tuning. It’s quiet in the tasteful and well-furnished cabin, too.
There are three engine flavors, all of which are inline fours driving the front wheels (rear drive, like the old school, would’ve been sweet): a 2.0-liter, 160 horse Tigershark; a 1.4-liter, 160 horse MultiAir turbo intercooled unit; and a 2.4-liter, MultiAir 2. The 1.4 MultiAir turbo was the tested (and approved) motor. Churning a healthy 184 lb-ft of torque, the Dart excelled in acceleration. Highway merges will put a smile on your face. It’s estimated to achieve 27 city/39 highway miles per gallon, too. (Ah, the beauty of turbos – the best of both worlds!) Unfortunately, the six-speed stick was not evaluated, but the test car’s six-speed dual dry clutch automatic with manual control was smooth enough. Not the quickest shifts in town, but downshifts produce a satisfying “braaap” from the dual pipes. Pure ear candy!
Some interior features worth mentioning include the customizable TFT cluster in the Limited model’s dashboard. You can choose between analog or digital speedometers, and where to place the clock, compass and outdoor temperature in the 7-inch display, among other options. An 8.4-inch Uconnect Touch screen atop the center stack allows further configuration and control, including a standard backup camera (Limited) and optional Garmin navigation system. Voice activation is also cool. And how about that heated steering wheel, a class exclusive in the Limited? Good stuff.
The Dart comes in several trim levels. In ascending order (price and content), they are: SE, SXT, Rallye, Aero, Limited (test car), and GT, which replaced the R/T moniker.
“A lot of people bought Darts after Superstorm Sandy,” said Mike, Sales Consultant at Route 4 Dodge of Paramus. “The car is a real bang for your buck.”
Agreed. It looks nice, too – especially in Pitch Black.
Can’t wait for the SRT-4.