Dodge gets its first small sedan since the Neon, an underperformer whose tenure ended in 2005. A small four-door returns to the lineup this spring, and Dodge dusted off an old nameplate to christen it. The Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, sold overseas by Chrysler (and Dodge) parent Fiat, and it looks to match the Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus for style points.
A slate of new engines features Fiat's MultiAir technology; among them will be a tiny turbocharged four-cylinder that gets around 40 mpg highway. The Dart also gets a four-wheel-independent suspension, not the segment norm. Trim levels are the SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and R/T.
The Dart eschews the slab-sided styling from the Dodge Avenger and Caliber, choosing Elantra-like curves up front and a much smaller grille than the Dodge norm. The runaround taillights from Dodge's full-size Charger characterize the Dart's rear, but the whole of it wraps atop a curvier shape to the Charger's boxy tail. Xenon headlights are available. Dodge offers more than a dozen interior trim and color combinations, seven wheel options and 150-plus parts from Chrysler's Mopar accessories division.
Inside, the Dart's wraparound dash borrows elements from the Charger, with gauges and a center display under the same hood. Higher trims have a stitched hood and LED wraparound lighting. An optional 7-inch configurable display sits between the gauges; it can show digital or simulated analog speed, as well as vehicle information, radio settings and more. Chrysler's available Uconnect 8.4-inch center touch-screen is the same size as in the Charger.
Longer and wider than most segment rivals, the Dart boasts a lot of interior room — 97.2 cubic feet, beating the Focus, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze and Elantra. Higher trims include dual-zone climate control, heated leather seats and a power driver's seat. A heated steering wheel, something usually reserved for pricier cars, is also optional.
Under the Hood
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder is standard, with a turbo 1.4-liter four-cylinder optional. Both engines make 160 horsepower, but the smaller engine is equipped with Fiat's MultiAir valve system and makes 184 pounds-feet of torque, 39 more pounds-feet than the 2.0-liter. It teams with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while the 2.0-liter gets a conventional six-speed auto. A six-speed manual is also available with either motor. Expect the 1.4-liter to be the fuel economy leader, though figures are pending. The Dart R/T, meanwhile, gets a 2.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder that's good for 184 hp and 171 pounds-feet of torque; it works with a six-speed automatic or manual.
Ten airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. Blind spot and cross-path alert systems are optional.
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