Compact Dodge cars haven't had a glowing history, with names like Aries, Caliber, Neon and Shadow best consigned to the forgotten chapters of automotive history. However, the original Dodge Dart was one notable exception. Not only did it provide reasonably dependable (for the 1970s) family transportation, it also elicited quite a following among car enthusiasts.
It's this enthusiasm that Dodge is trying to recapture with its distinctive new Dart. The days of 440-cubic-inch V8s are long gone, but with a front-wheel-drive chassis derived from the lithe Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the four-cylinder Dart promises a different sort of fun. Instead of laying down rubber, it offers sharp steering and commendable road holding whether you're taking a spirited drive on a back road or simply being a little exuberant around town.
More importantly, the new Dodge Dart offers a degree of refinement, quality, feature content and mechanical sophistication that greatly exceeds that of previous small Dodges. When compared to other compact sedans, it's not quite a class leader, but it's certainly competitive.
Current Dodge Dart
The Dodge Dart is an all-new model for 2013. Its basic structure, suspension and steering are derived from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, a sporty hatchback sold in Europe. This isn't just an Italian dressed in an Uncle Sam hat, though. The Dart is not only much bigger than the Alfa, it's also larger than its myriad "compact" car competitors. Only VW's Jetta comes close. This results in more passenger space, but also creates the feeling that you're driving something rather substantial. It certainly doesn't feel like a compact car.
There are five trim levels: SE, SXT, Rallye, Limited and GT. All Darts except the GT come standard with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 160 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. There's a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. Acceleration can be rather slow with this engine, especially with the automatic.
We recommend going with the optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It generates 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque and offers punchier acceleration and better fuel economy. A six-speed manual is again standard, but the optional automatic is a six-speed automated manual gearbox. Unfortunately, this transmission is slow to respond to throttle inputs and prone to picking the wrong gear.
The GT model gets an exclusive 2.4-liter four-cylinder good for 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. GT transmission choices are the same as those for the base 2.0-liter engine.
Although the base SE trim comes with a paltry amount of equipment, the Dodge Dart nevertheless slathers on an abundance of comfort, convenience and luxury items as you move up trim levels and start checking off options boxes. Including things like blind-sport warning systems and dual-zone climate control has become increasingly common in this class, but given this Dodge's not-so-compact size, it all adds up to a car that seems like a step above the rest. Several special trim materials and a broad palette of available colors make the Dart a little more distinctive as well.
In total, we think the new Dodge Dart is an appealing small sedan. Its engine and transmission response are primary detriments, and some drivers have found the front seats to be a little uncomfortable. On the whole, though, the Dart has an agreeable blend of size, fuel economy, driving involvement, comfort and feature content.
Read the most recent 2013 Dodge Dart review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Dodge Dart page.