Dodge Dart

2016 Dodge Dart

The Dodge Dart boasts distinctive styling, a spacious interior with abundant features and strong safety ratings in a compact sedan. The Dart has established a solid reputation, competing against such long-standing models as the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, and Toyota Corolla. The Dart offers a choice of three engines.

The Dart, a front-wheel-drive sport compact, joined the Dodge lineup for the 2013 model year. For 2016, a new Sport Appearance Hood is optional for Dart GT and Dart SXT models with either a Rallye or Blacktop package. Otherwise, the Dart carries over largely unchanged. The Dart name dates from the 1960s.

We have found the Dart drives well and delivers on the promise of sporty handling. The base engine lacks any spirit and does not live up to the sportiness of the rest of the car, however. The Dart Aero model offers excellent fuel economy when cruising on the highway, but gas-mileage figures for the rest of the lineup are not compelling. Drivers get a good seating position in the Dart, but road noise and tire noise are prevalent.

The standard engine for the Dodge Dart is a 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy for the base Dart SE with the 2.0-liter engine and manual gearbox is EPA-rated at 25/36 mpg City/Highway, 29 mpg Combined; with the automatic its 24/34 mpg, or 27 mpg Combined.

A better choice is the 160-horsepower, turbocharged 1.4-liter engine that comes with Dart Aero models, matched to either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a dual-clutch automatic transmission. While horsepower is the same as the 2.0-liter, the turbocharged engine offers more torque, which propels the car more briskly from standing starts. The Dart Aero manages an EPA-estimate of 28/41 mpg City/Highway, that highway figure being particularly impressive.

Most powerful is the Dart SXT, GT and Limited sedans get a 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter engine. The Dart Limited with automatic transmission is EPA-rated at 23/35 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined.

The Dart earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSAs top score. The Dart also earned Top Safety Pick status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That combination of crash-test scores makes it one of the highest-rated cars for safety in this class, topped only by the Honda Civic.


2015 Dodge Dart

A fixture at the entry end of the Dodge lineup from 1960 through 1976, the Dart was discontinued in 1977. Decades later, for the 2013 model year, it was resuscitated, affixed to an all-new line of compact sedans.

Following up on powertrain and features changes introduced for the 2014 model year are two major changes for 2015. First, the 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine that powers SXT, Limited and GT models is newly available as a Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV), in 14 states. In addition, the 2015 Dart SE includes a Convenience Group at a discounted price, adding air conditioning, power locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, underbody aero treatment and active grille shutters. Also for 2015, the Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen radio is updated to include Android smartphone compatibility, and a CD player is now a standalone option. The Blacktop appearance package, introduced during the 2014 model year, continues into 2015.

Although the modern-day Dart occupies the same position in the Dodge passenger car hierarchy as the original, similarities end there. The first car to incorporate engineering elements from corporate parent Fiat, the revival Dart is a contemporary front-drive compact facing a considerably stronger competitive environment. So far, it seems to be a compelling alternative to the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, and Volkswagen Jetta.

Dart styling is crisp, if not exactly head-turning. The structure is solid, engineering credentials look good, and the number of equipment and trim choices is exceptional.

Like other compacts, the Dart targets young adults. The Dart makes a good case for itself with young parents, thanks to an exceptionally roomy interior by compact sedan standards, and a respectable complement of standard safety features.

Even though fundamental elements of its unibody foundations were adapted from the Italian Alfa Romeo Giulietta hatchback, they were stretched to accommodate the sedan body style: longer wheelbase, longer overall, wider track, wider body. The dimensional expansions were accompanied by structural enhancements; 68 percent of the bodyshell is said to be high-strength steel, yielding a chassis that feels exceptionally solid.

Just as important, the Dart presents one of the broadest range of choices in its class: five trim levels, nine exterior colors, seven wheel designs from 16 to 18 inches, three different four-cylinder engines (160-horsepower 2.0 liter, 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo, 184-horsepower 2.4-liter), and three transmissions (6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual clutch automatic).

Though some of the engines incorporate the innovative Multi-Air induction technology pioneered by Fiat, Chryslers corporate parent, all three engines are assembled in Michigan. Final vehicle assembly is at Chryslers factory in Belvidere, Illinois.

Most important, the Dart stacks up well in todays two most critical considerations: MPG and MSRP. EPA fuel-economy estimates range up to 41 mpg on the highway (for the Aero model). Suggested retail pricing opens at $16,495.

Demerits: just one. For all the emphasis on the weight-saving benefits of high-strength steel, the Darts are a little pudgy by compact standards.


2013 Dodge Dart

If you're old enough to remember the Carter administration, the name may be familiar but that means you're beyond the target demographics for the Dart revival. A fixture at the entry end of the Dodge lineup from 1960 through 1976, the Dart was discontinued in 1977 and its badge went into mothballs, forgotten, but obviously not gone. Now it's been resuscitated, and affixed to this all-new line of compact sedans.

So the name is the same, and the new 2013 Dodge Dart occupies the same position in the Dodge passenger car hierarchy as the original. But the similarities end right there. The first car to incorporate engineering elements from corporate parent Fiat, the revival Dart is a contemporary front-drive compact facing a considerably stronger competitive environment than its 20th century namesake. Does it have the chops to be a compelling alternative to the Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte, Nissan Sentra, Mazda 3, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, and VW Jetta?

The answer is a definite maybe. Its styling is crisp, if not exactly head-turning, the structure is solid, the engineering credentials look good, and the number of equipment and trim choices exceptional.

Like other cars in the compact class, the Dart is aimed at young adults, primarily in their early to mid-20s, many of them married, many of them with young kids. The Dart makes a good case for itself with young parental types, thanks to an exceptionally roomy interior by compact sedan standards, and a respectable complement of standard safety features.

Basics. The Dodge Dart is as all-new as all-new gets in today's car business. Although fundamental elements of its unitbody foundations were adapted from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the snappy Italian hatchback, they've been stretched to accommodate the sedan body style: longer wheelbase, longer overall, wider track, wider body. The dimensional expansions are accompanied by structural enhancements; 68 percent of the bodyshell is composed of high-strength steel, according to the Dart development team, yielding a chassis that feels exceptionally solid.

Just as important, the Dart presents one of the broadest range of choices in its class: five trim levels, contemporary safety features, a dozen exterior colors, 14 interior trim variations, six different wheel designs ranging from 16 to 18 inches, four different grille treatments, three different four-cylinder engines (160-horsepower 2.0 liter, 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo, 184-horsepower 2.4-liter, limited to the R/T model), three different transmissions (6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual clutch automatic).

The Dart has a strong made-in-America story. Though some of the engines incorporate the innovative Multi-Air induction technology pioneered by Fiat, Chrysler's corporate parent, all three engines are assembled at Chrysler's Dundee, Michigan plant, and final vehicle assembly is at Chrysler's factory in Belvidere, Illinois.

Most important, the Dart stacks up well in today's two most critical considerations: MPG and MSRP. EPA fuel economy estimates range up to 41 mpg on the highway (for the yet-to-be-seen Aero model). Suggested retail pricing for the five trim levels opens at $15,995 and climbs to $19,995 for the Limited model. The sporty R/T version carries a $22,495 base price.

Demerits: just one. For all the emphasis on the weight-saving benefits of high-strength steel, the Darts are a little pudgy by compact standards. Listed curb weights start at 3186 pounds for a Dart 2.0-liter with manual gearbox and go as high as 3348 pounds for a model equipped with the 2.4-liter engine and automatic transmission.

It might also be noted that the wide array of models and trim packages could pose an assembly quality challenge for the Belvidere factory. But the cars presented at the Dart's press preview measured up well in this regard.


 

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