January 17, 2013
The compact sedan segment is one of the most important, yet often unexciting, segments in the automotive world. These sedans are rarely sexy, or fast, or desirable. Instead, they're popular for their ability to start every time and do their best to be as inoffensive and accommodating as vehicularly possible.
But what happens when the Italians get involved?
Such is the case with our newest long-term car, a 2013 Dodge Dart SXT Rallye. Dodge worked with new parent company Fiat to make its new small sedan a little more appealing than your average econobox.
It's (loosely) based off of an Alfa Romeo, looks like it was styled by someone with name-brand sunglasses and does its best to stand out from an otherwise anonymous crowd. It wins on the catwalk, but can it compete in the real world? We added a 2013 Dodge Dart Rallye to our long-term test fleet to find out.
What We Got
While not the cheapest compact sedan currently sold (that honor belongs to the $15,545 2013 Volkswagen Jetta), the Dart starts off at a totally reasonable price of $15,995. For your nearly $16 large you get the chassis from an Alfa Romeo Giulietta, stretched and pumped up for the American market with a base 2.0-liter four-cylinder kicking out 160 horsepower and a six-speed manual transmission. In base trim you also get 16-inch wheels, power windows and a four-speaker stereo with CD player and aux jack.
Our car is not the base model. We've got the midgrade SXT model, which includes 17-inch wheels (in lieu of the 16s), upgraded cloth seats, 60/40-split folding rear seat and upgraded IP. This model starts at $17,995 and feels well worth it. Further, our car is equipped with the Rallye package that adds foglamps, unique exterior/interior trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
We also decided to ditch the standard 2.0-liter base engine in favor of a more modern, punchier, more fuel-efficient engine which in the Dart comes in the form of the turbocharged 1.4-liter MultiAir engine. This engine produces the same 160 hp as the base motor, but twists out 184 pound-feet of torque (a 40 lb-ft increase) and, with the six-speed dry-clutch automatic manual (an $1,100 option) returns 3 mpg more for a final EPA rating of 27/37 and 31 mpg combined. The 1.4 took away 0.6 liter of displacement and increased the cost by $1,300.
Our 2013 Dodge Dart is also equipped with a $495 UConnect system that includes an 8.4-inch touchscreen. We also got a $495 Alpine stereo, satellite radio ($195), sunroof ($895) and the cool "racetrack" rear lights ($225). Finally, we added the $295 Popular Equipment Group, which comes with remote start, a tire pressure monitoring display, front seatback pockets, overhead console, 12-volt aux outlet in the center console and illuminated cupholders and vanity mirrors.
With a total price of $25,385, it's obvious that we strayed a ways from its affordable starting price, but this array of options will let us test nearly every function offered by Dodge.
Why We Got It
The 2013 Dodge Dart represents a fundamental shift in Dodge's small car philosophy: It's designed to be good.
Not only has Dodge focused an extreme amount of time and energy in its latest bid to build a small car for retail sales and not rental fleets, but this car is one of the first products out of the new Chrysler Group to make extensive use of its new Italian ties.
In our first Dodge Dart road test back in June we said that it "may be a little late to the compact sedan party, but it just gave the segment a second wind."
Will that wind fill our sails for the next 12 months and 20,000 miles, or will the 1.4 run out of air when we have to live with it day-in and day-out? Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test page to keep up on our new Dodge Dart.
Current Odometer: 1,184
Best Fuel Economy: 30.0
Worst Fuel Economy: 24.8
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 26.6
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor