Full 2014 Dodge Dart Review
What's New for 2014
The big change for the 2014 Dodge Dart is expanded availability of the 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Previously exclusive to the GT, it's now standard on the SXT and Limited trim levels as well. The fuel-economy-themed Aero is the only 2014 Dart equipped with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. Finally, note that Dodge has made the Aero and GT trim levels and not packages, as they were last year.
If you're shopping for an affordable compact sedan, you'll almost certainly run across the 2014 Dodge Dart. One of many capable small cars on the market today, the Dart is notable for its roomy interior, slick audio-entertainment interface and eye-catching style. A few lapses in refinement and usability tempered our praise for last year's car, but things are looking up for the 2014 Dart. Dodge has made its likable, 184-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine standard on most trim levels, and even in a class that puts practicality on a pedestal, a little extra power never hurts.
To be clear, this is an impressive horsepower figure for a compact sedan, and most competitors can't match it. Couple that with the Dodge's pleasant ride quality and capable handling around turns, and there's no denying that the Dart has plenty of positives. On the other hand, we're less enthusiastic about the 2.0-liter engine in the base Dart SE. In spite of the engine's respectable 160-hp rating, acceleration is barely adequate in normal driving. The SE's fuel economy is merely average, too, although it's better than the 2.4's, which is subpar for a small sedan. For excellent fuel economy, you need to choose the fuel economy-themed Aero trim. Unfortunately, the Aero's unresponsive automated manual transmission makes it difficult to drive the car smoothly in typical traffic situations. Finally, there are some design and fit-and-finish issues inside the Dodge Dart. In our testing, drivers of varying sizes have found it difficult to find a good seating position, due to the front seats' odd shape and overly high seat-bottom cushion. And although the Dodge Dart's trunk is decent-sized, day-to-day usability is compromised by the lid's weak hinges and sharp metal protrusions from the top deck.
For these reasons, you'll likely want to check out a few of the Dart's rivals. The 2014 Mazda 3 is one of our favorite small sedans in this price range, as it achieves a stellar balance between ride comfort and sporty handling, and has a high-quality interior to boot. Other excellent choices include the 2014 Ford Focus and Honda Civic, both of which ride exceptionally well and offer nicely furnished interiors.
The 2014 Kia Forte is also worth a look, as it, like the Dart, boasts sharp styling and a very user-friendly touchscreen infotainment interface. In addition, we can easily recommend the base engine offerings on the Ford, Honda and Mazda, as all deliver solid performance and outstanding mpg. Overall, we think the 2014 Dodge Dart is a step behind those competitors in some notable areas. However, if style and performance are priorities for you, Dodge's compact sedan still merits consideration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Dodge Dart is a five-passenger compact sedan available in five trim levels: SE, SXT, Aero, GT and Limited.
The base SE comes sparsely equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, power windows, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable front seats, cloth upholstery, a folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The optional Convenience Group adds underbody aerodynamic enhancements, active grille shutters, body-color door handles, power mirrors and locks, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a USB port.
The SXT gets most of the Convenience Group equipment as standard (the USB port is not included), and then adds 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, upgraded cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, a sliding front armrest and a six-speaker sound system.
The SXT is eligible for several options packages. The Uconnect Touchscreen Group adds an upgraded instrument panel, an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, satellite radio, an upgraded nine-speaker Alpine stereo, a rearview camera and a USB port. The Sun/Sound Group adds the same equipment as the Touchscreen Group along with a power sunroof. The Rallye Appearance Group adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a sportier tune for the suspension, a black grille, dual exhaust tips, an upgraded cloth interior with accent stitching and a leather-wrapped shift knob (on Darts with the automatic transmission).
The fuel economy-themed Aero has all the SXT's standard equipment, along with low-rolling-resistance tires (16-inch), the upgraded instrument panel, 8.4-inch touchscreen, a rearview camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel, USB port and satellite radio.
The Dart GT has all the Aero's standard content (except the low-rolling-resistance tires) and also comes with 18-inch wheels, an even sportier suspension calibration than the Rallye package, different exterior trim, leather upholstery, a six-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control and ambient interior lighting. A version of the Sun/Sound Group with just the sunroof and Alpine audio system is optional on the GT.
The Dart Limited has all the GT's equipment but reverts to 17-inch wheels and the Rallye package's suspension tune. It also comes with a sunroof, a navigation system, perforated leather upholstery and chrome exterior trim. The Alpine stereo is a stand-alone option.
Both the Limited and GT can be equipped with the Technology Group, which adds xenon headlights with automatic high-beam control, keyless ignition, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors, a blind-spot warning system and a rear cross-traffic alert system. The Limited's navigation system is optional on the SXT, Aero and GT.
Powertrains and Performance
Three engines are available for the 2014 Dodge Dart. The base SE model comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 160 hp and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automatic is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a manual-shift Dart with the 2.0 engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds, a slow time for a compact sedan in this price range. The EPA rates the manual version at 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway), while the automatic rates 27 combined (24 city/34 highway).
Standard on the Aero is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 160 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automated manual is optional. In Edmunds testing, a Dart with the turbo engine and manual transmission hit 60 mph in 8.3 seconds, a good time for this class. The automated manual transmission added only 0.3 second to that time. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 32 combined (28/41) with the conventional manual and 32 combined (28/40) with the automated manual.
Standard on the SXT, GT and Limited is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the SXT and GT, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional on these trims and standard on the Limited. EPA estimates for the SXT and Limited are 27 mpg combined (22 city/35 highway) with the manual; the automatic is the same but has a 23 mpg city rating. Ratings for the Dart GT are 27 combined (23/33) for the manual and 26 combined (22/31) for the automatic.
Every 2014 Dodge Dart comes standard with antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front and rear side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is available on most trims. The optional Technology package on the GT and Limited includes rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
In government crash testing, the Dart earned the highest possible rating of five stars for overall crash protection and in the frontal- and side-impact protection categories. It also received five stars in the Overall crash test rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Dart a top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Dart earned an "Acceptable" rating (second-highest on a scale of four). Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Dart Limited came to a stop from 60 mph in 118 feet, putting it among the best in the segment. A Dart Aero equipped with low-rolling-resistance tires, however, stopped from 60 mph in 134 feet, a longer-than-average stopping distance for this class.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Dodge Dart features one of the nicer cabins in its class, and it only gets nicer as you move up the trim level ladder. Whereas competitors just add leather upholstery or some fake metal trim to improve the ambience, the Dart actually slathers on extra padded surfaces, dash stitching and flares of colorful trim.
We highly recommend springing for the available 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment interface, which you can get with or without a navigation system. It features straightforward menus, large on-screen buttons and an accompanying knob that makes whipping through iPod menus a breeze. Processing times are quick, too, and if you need to enter a destination on the move, the voice control works surprisingly well. In Darts without this interface, the standard stereo head unit clumsily plugs into the same spot, reinforcing the notion that you missed out on something better.
There's good space for occupants up front, but the Dart's front seats are oddly shaped and feel like they're mounted too high. As a result, longer-legged drivers may find they can't lower the seat-bottom cushion enough for optimum comfort. In addition, the steering wheel has a limited range of tilt adjustment, so you may find you can't position that low enough either.
Meanwhile, the backseat offers plenty of legroom for adults, though 6-footers may run short on headroom. Trunk capacity is 13.1 cubic feet, an average number in this class. Although the trunk holds a decent amount of gear, the hinges on its lid are unusually weak, making it all too easy to close the trunk accidentally when loading bulky or heavy items. Sharp metal protrusions from the trunk's top deck (you can scrape your hands on them when loading up a lot of luggage) are another annoyance.
The 2014 Dodge Dart has responsive handling and well-weighted steering, and overall, it goes around turns with confidence. Happily, it also offers a comfortable ride, making it a good candidate for road trips. Rivals like the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 feel sportier on back roads with tight turns, but the heavier Dodge Dart has a more substantial feel when cruising the open highway.
That said, the Dart's base 2.0-liter engine doesn't really have enough guts for a car this size. Acceleration is passable with the manual transmission, but the optional six-speed automatic slows the car down significantly.
The Aero model's turbocharged 1.4-liter engine achieves better fuel economy and provides punchier performance, but it gets noisy during hard acceleration. In addition, the automated manual transmission that most buyers choose is slow to respond to gas pedal inputs and often feels like it's in the wrong gear. During our 12-month Dodge Dart long-term test, the transmission's behavior was most bothersome in urban traffic conditions; owners living in less populous areas may find it less of an issue.
Although the 2.4-liter engine has a slightly lower torque rating than the smaller 1.4-liter engine, it feels considerably more lively in real-world driving situations, thanks to its extra helping of horsepower and quick shifts from its conventional six-speed automatic transmission. Not surprisingly, highway merging and passing maneuvers are significantly easier on 2014 Dodge Darts with this engine, so unless you're aiming for maximum mileage, the 2.4-liter engine is the way to go.