Dodge adds engines, equipment to Dart lineup
BY ANDY MIKONIS For Sun-Times Media December 14, 2012 12:54PM
2013 DODGE DART LIMITED
ENGINE: 160-horsepower 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVETRAIN: front-wheel drive
FUEL ECONOMY: 27 city/37 highway
BASE PRICE: $19,995, plus $795 destination
AS TESTED: $24,875, including destination
Updated: January 7, 2013 1:44PM
After the initial rollout of the all-new 2013 Dodge Dart, some additional engines and equipment joined the Dart lineup late last year.
My tester was a Dart Limited with the notable powertrain options of the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and the dual dry clutch automatic transmission. Based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart has a sporty look for a four-door sedan. The front end is especially stylish with an aggressive air. The taillight treatment appears inspired by the Dodge Charger.
At first I thought the body looked thick in its rear haunches, though I came to appreciate the way it matched up to the body line that angles up the side. It also results in some added trunk volume. Attractive 17-inch alloy wheels and dual exhaust tips round out the sporty image.
Built in Belvidere, the body feels solid with quality construction and a satisfying thunk when closing the door. Dodge points out that the seam between the roof and the side of the car is finished rather than covered by a rubber molding, which is indeed impressive for a car at this price point.
The interior felt roomy considering the conservative outer dimensions; the Environmental Protection Agency classifies the Dart as midsize. Dodge also provided a handy chart illustrating that the Dart has an edge in interior volume over its six major competitors.
Interior design is attractive as well as functional. The instrument panel has a nicely crafted row of stitching across the top. Seats done in premium cloth were comfortable. Design touches like the shape of the dome lights echoing the air vents add interest. A hidden storage compartment under the passenger seat cushion was a rewarding discovery, and easy-to-fold rear seat backs increase carrying capacity. There is also a smaller pass-through for the stray longer item.
Out on the road the Dart makes the most of its European roots with sharp steering and crisp handling. Suspension tuning levels out average bumps well. Larger ones will get it out of sorts like most any car of its size. The brake pedal was rock hard, just the way I like it. This will sound like hyperbole, but I drove the Dart to Autobahn Country Club in Joliet to take a few laps in a Lamborghini; when I got back in the Dart I almost put myself through the windshield on the first stop.
While not an Italian track star of the same caliber, the 1.4-liter turbo engine makes the Dart an athletic performer on public roads. With the MultiAir system, active control of the intake valves is achieved through trick electrohydraulic actuators. MultiAir first debuted on the U.S. spec Fiat 500. Torque steer and wheel spin on wet roads was minimal.
Even though the 259 miles I drove the Dart included a 100-mile urban highway round trip, it still averaged below its city rating at 23.9 mpg. I have high hopes for the technologies being employed, but unless you are an early adopter type, I’m not sure I’d pay the freight for it just yet.
Add the technology group and navigation system and suddenly you have a loaded Dart at 50 percent more than the base level Dart’s starting price. Those tech options have some hits and misses, so choose them carefully.
The rear cross path detection was quite adept at picking out pedestrians, bicycles and dogs as well as cars. However, I just hate the cartoony maps of the Garmin navigation system, but to be fair, route guidance is fine. It was hard not to like the Dart at this equipment level, and though I have not spent much time with the base version, my experience bodes well for the rest of the lineup.
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